a day in the life of an advocate

A Day in the Life

It was summer in Austin, Texas and the temperature was hovering close to three-digits. Mary, an advocate at The Hotline who has been with the organization for five years, was sitting in her cubicle. The air conditioner was blowing but she could still feel the heat blaring in from the full-length windows to her left.

She had been at work for the past seven hours and was counting down the minutes until the end of her shift. By then, she’d answered close to 30 calls from people seeking support, information and aid. She was tired and emotionally drained.

She looked at the print of a landscape that she has pinned to her gray cubicle wall and put her head in her hand. She imagined that the white noise (created by a discretely hidden machine across the room) was the sound of the river pictured in her landscape.

Her phone rang and she was pulled back into reality. She took a deep breath. She answered.

The caller was an adult woman in her mid-thirties. She lived somewhere on the upper east coast in a home that she bought and paid for herself. She had a good job and was proud of her life. She described herself as being strong in her faith.

The caller explained that she had been dating her boyfriend for several months. “Well, kind of dating,” she said.

Mary asked what she meant by “kind of.”

The caller told Mary that she would describe their relationship as dating, but that her partner often minimized the relationship. He told her that she wasn’t his girlfriend and that they weren’t together. The caller told Mary that even though her partner said these things, he asked her to spend the night on a regular basis, got jealous when she talked to other men and called her all the time. She was confused.

Mary asked the caller why she thought that her partner was saying these things to her when he was clearly acting in a way that contradicted them.

The caller explained that she refused to sleep with her partner and that had angered him. She said that she felt uncomfortable, like she was violating her faith, engaging in sexual relations with a man that she was not committed to. She didn’t know if she should sleep with him because they are dating – if doing so would change his attitude – or if she should continue to abstain.

Mary told her that her feelings were completely justified and that she shouldn’t do anything that she was uncomfortable with. She explained that what the caller was describing sounded a lot like controlling behavior. She told the caller that her partner might be minimizing the relationship in order to convince her to sleep with him. She then took time to explain the dynamics of relationships – abusive relationships in particular –  and talk with the caller about other things that were happening in the relationship.

After spending 15 minutes on the phone with Mary, the caller sounded more confident and comfortable in her relationship. She told Mary that she understood that her partner was attempting to manipulate her by making their relationship seem less than it was. She understood that that manipulation was a sign that her relationship was unhealthy.

She thanked Mary for speaking with her and then ended the call.

Most calls that Mary takes aren’t straightforward or easy. She deals with pain and anger and sadness on a daily basis. She fights shrinking domestic violence program budgets and long waitlists at shelters every day as she tries to find aid for callers. After all of the adversity that she faces, hearing a caller tell Mary that “she is awesome” is something that she will hold on to.

5 replies
  1. Marilyn says:

    If more women would call early on, as in the event above, when the woman questions the actions of someone who makes her uncomfortable, a lot more women might be saved from continuing on in manipulative relationships that end up in violence against the woman. The caller in the above story was very smart to check things out early and has hopefully saved herself much danger, harm, and misery.

    How can we impress upon women who do end up being beaten or otherwise abused, that if they put a stop to the abuse early on, either by calling police the first time they are ever hit, or simply exiting the relationship before the abuser gets a chance to get his hooks in emotionally, they will be saved from the terror of abuse?

    I truly believe, based upon personal experience and the experiences I’ve seen with other women, that the quickest way to stop an abuser cold is to call police THE FIRST TIME THE VIOLENCE OCCURS! That way, the abuser gets the unequivocal message that the woman simply will NOT put up with the abuse. Either that, or get out of the relationship and never, ever go back. The second option is not always very practical, however, since abusers are almost always full of apologies and statements such as, “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I’ll never do it again.” The abuser will also often resort to giving the victim gifts and pampering her to regain her trust. That’s why calling the police the first time sends the unmistakable message that apologies and flowers will not work on the victim, but that the abuser can be certain he will end up in jail if he ever does it again. This has a much more powerful deterrent effect on the abuser. The minute an abuser thinks he can reel a woman back in with manipulation, when she doesn’t call police, the violence will only escalate as time goes on.

    The other tragedy with abuse, besides the physical danger, is how the abuser is able to kill the self esteem of his victim with name-calling, put downs, etc. The victim ends up believing she is nothing, accepting blame from the abuser, and is then even more drawn into the cycle of abuse than ever. I also believe that when abusers are allowed to continue on, they then threaten the victim that if she ever does call police, he will kill her or leave her, or take her children, or whatever.

    I hope that any woman reading this will NEVER, EVER believe the claims of the abuser that he will never do it to her again if only she doesn’t call the police. That’s exactly when he will do it again.

    It is my considered observation and belief that the only way to truly stop the abuser is to stop the abuse right away. Don’t wait for the next time!

    • HotlineAdmin_SG says:

      Hi Marilyn,

      Thank you so much for sharing with our blog community. At the hotline, we know that abusive relationships are very complex situations. Often, calling the police is not the safest thing to do and may increase the danger the victim may face. Unfortunately there is nothing a person can do to stop their partner from hitting them. Abuse is a choice that a batterer makes in order to maintain the power and control in the relationship. There is also a lot more that happens in an abusive relationship before the abuse escalates into physical violence. At the HOTLINE we can definitely help people as we address all of these issues.

      If you would like more information about what happens in an abusive relationship please feel free to contact the HOTLINE at 1800-799-7233. An advocate is available 24/7 to offer support and guidance and the hotline is completely confidential.

      HotlineAdvocate_SG

  2. Cindy says:

    I am a victim of domestic violence and at the hands of my now, ex husband. My story is a sad one that left me no choice but to leave my home state for my own safety. My husband of 7 years found it necessary to rape me over and over when I said “no” due to medical issues that made me uncompfortable to have relation’s with him for many years and yet he did not care and wanted it all the time. He got me hooked on crack cocaine to get me to let him do what he wanted. I was left for dead in the summer last year and I found out he had an affair while I was lost in the woods for 24 hours. Shameful and now I am lost in Florida, no hope for recovery, no funds to find help, No job and absolutely nobody I can talk to to help me overcome this torture and dispare. I believe in God and my father is in heaven keeping me here in this world. I am here for a reason maybe to speak my mind and help those that are dealing with the same issues. I will be the squeaky wheel like my dad alway’s said….” The Squeaky Wheel get’s the grease”.
    I left my home state of Michigan, home city of Westland, and my family is still there. I have a wonderful aunt and uncle here in florida that is letting me stay here to start again, but I need help to begin again. I am peniless and in need of medication and medical attention but without any money this is not going to happen. Please help.

    • HotlineAdmin_VW says:

      Dear Cindy, I am saddened by your story–past and present. I know it must have taken great guts and strength to get to your family. You must be very disappointed to not have found the help you need now. Please don’t wait any longer. Call us here at The Hotline, 1-800-799-7233. Your problems are not unusual for many victims of DV, there is help, maybe not this weekend, but we can point you in better directions to find it soon. You deseve another chance or two. Let us help.

  3. Lizetta says:

    Cindy i am keeping you in great prayer. Wow, you are one courageous bold faithfilled woman and I am so proud of you. I hope you give the hotline a call and grab hold of your second chance at life, a life that is filled with greatness, worth, purpose, value, hope, joy, strength and so much more. A life where God your father can show you exactly what he has purposed for you. A life that not only gives to you but will also breathe life into others. How awesome you are for telling your story in hopes that others can be saved and helped. You are so amazing. Please please please keep hanging in there, this world needs you and it needs you to come through this triumphant. Please call the hotline if you haven’t already. I hope by the time you see this, your life has already taken a dramatic turn for the good. You are cared about and loved and I pray God shows that to you everyday. Listen, I am a survior….so I know! You will make it, you have already come this far…a few more steps…..you can do it!

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