National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Counseling for Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic violence is an extremely traumatizing experience and the emotional scars associated with this abuse can often outlast the physical impact.

Domestic violence survivors are at a high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or  stress-related mental health conditions. Survivors can have upsetting memories or flashbacks, fear or a sense of danger that they cannot overcome. They may feel numb or disconnected from the rest of the world (National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health). Learning to cope with residual emotional pain and fears is essential to healing.

Breaking the isolation of domestic violence by seeking counseling and support from friends and family can help survivors to move forward. Counseling sessions provide a safe and confidential environment for survivors to express their feelings, thoughts and fears. Counselors are nonjudgmental third-party advisors who listen and can help survivors work through the things that they are experiencing.

Speaking with a trauma specialist can help survivors to deal with their remaining anxiety and find ways to relieve that stress. These specialists can help to process traumatic memories or experiences so that it is possible to move on. They can also aid survivors in learning to regulate their strong emotions like fear and anger.

Group counseling can also be beneficial. Attending a group session can allow survivors to connect with others who have been through similar situations. Connecting with these people can reduce the feeling of isolation often created by abusers. Other survivors can also offer advice on how they got through tough situations.

Overcoming a traumatic experience can be scary. It’s important that if you do decide to seek counseling, that you find a well-trained professional or group that you are comfortable with.  Often domestic violence programs offer individual counseling to survivors in their communities.  If that’s not a possibility, ask potential counselors about their experiences and strategies for supporting victims of domestic violence.

Please note: if you are still in an abusive relationship, please keep in mind that we don’t recommend attending couple’s counseling with your abuser. Here’s why.

(Photo by Joe Houghton)

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Chad Johnson Arrested for Domestic Violence – A Lesson in Consequences

This week news broke that Chad Johnson, aka Ochocinco, was arrested for domestic violence charges on Saturday after allegedly headbutting his wife Evelyn Lozada in an argument.

The fallout from Saturday’s events have been significant. Not only was Johnson released from his contract with the Miami Dolphins, his firing was even filmed and aired for all of America to see on the HBO’s show, “Hard Knocks.” Lozada and Johnson had already filmed their own reality TV show called “Ev and Ocho” but following Saturday’s arrest, VH1 announced their decision to not air the show. Johnson has already lost endorsement deals as a result, and is likely to lose more in the coming months.

Lozada has since filled for divorce and issued a public statement, expressing her disappointment that Johnson had not accepted responsibility for his actions.

Johnson also released a statement, saying:

I would like to apologize to everyone for the recent events that have occurred. I would like to wish Evelyn well and will never say anything bad about her because I truly love her to death. I will continue to be positive and train hard for another opportunity in the NFL. To all the fans and supporters I have disappointed, you have my sincerest apologies. I will stay positive and get through this tough period in my life.  

This high profile situation reminds us that anyone, no matter age, race or financial status, can experience domestic violence. It can happen in any relationship. It causes us to reflect on the issue and explore how we understand domestic violence in our communities.

The consequences of Johnson’s behaviors have been heavily discussed in articles about the arrest. Within the span of a week, he lost his wife, his job, his reputation and more. This was a major reminder of what an abuser has to lose when he or she acts violently towards a partner. Abuse is always about power and control. Through Johnson exerting power over one person, he lost control over most other aspects of his life.

For Lozada, we wish healing and support. If you or someone you know experiences abuse, please remember that you can always call The Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

(Photo by Daniel X. O’Neil)

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Teen Mom Recap: Why Doesn’t April Just Leave?

photo credit: mtv.comSome people might watch this past episode of Teen Mom and wonder what is wrong with April. How can she not know if she is going to leave Butch or not? In our society, this is a pretty typical response to survivors who stay in relationships, and it actually shifts the blame to the victim for the abuse, and away from the person who was actually violent. If she would just leave, this wouldn’t happen, right? In this situation, whether April stays in the relationship or not, she doesn’t deserve to be attacked and hurt.

There are a few things going on that many people who make that judgment about survivors don’t take into account. Leaving an abusive relationship is an extremely dangerous time. Abusive partners often escalate their violent behavior when they feel their sense of power and control in the relationship is lessening.

There may be other reasons why leaving doesn’t seem possible at the moment, like not having financial resources to find a new home. Ending a relationship is a complex, emotional process in the best of circumstances. Even though Butch has been abusive and unsafe, April may still care about him and what to see him get help.

There may come a day when she knows for sure that walking away is the right decision for her, but it’s ok if it takes some time for her to figure out what she wants to do.

This excerpt from Advocacy Beyond Leaving by Jill Davies explains this process:

Victims are not masochists bent on suffering, nor are they living in a fantasy world. Victims do what we all do – deal with what life hands us. For some, remaining or leaving is a formal decision, a weighing of pros and cons. For others it is informal, simply coping with the current situation because it seems tolerable or there are no better options or alternatives. Most victims cope with the bad and hope for the better, living with the status quo, making the decisions they must, and doing what they can do to make things better along the way. Leaving is not a simple decision, nor one easily made.

Not knowing if you want to stay in or end an abusive relationship is perfectly natural. However, it’s very important to think about how you can stay as safe as possible while you’re trying to decide.

Think about what happens in your relationship: What can you do to be safe? Who can you talk to and ask for help from? What are the red flags that your partner will become more violent or dangerous? When do you know you have to leave or call the police in order to stay safe?

There are some risks that are often indications of potentially dangerous and lethal situations.  Some of the red flags that you may be in an extremely dangerous situation are:

  • If physical violence has gotten worse or happens more frequently in the last few months
  • If your partner has ever used a weapon or threatened you with a weapon
  • If your partner is violently jealous of you and who you talk to

(Campbell, et al, 2009, www.dangerassessment.org)

Remember, you can always talk to a Hotline advocate for support.