recommended books

Life After Abuse: Helpful Books to Check Out

Moving on from an abusive relationship can be an incredibly hard process. If you find yourself struggling to cope and heal, consider a trip to a bookstore or the library to pick up one of these books.

1)  After abuse ends, feelings of inadequacy and shame can last. In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, author Brené Brown explores these difficult emotions and places importance on accepting imperfection and vulnerability. She guides readers through a process of beginning to “engage with the world from a place of worthiness” and learning to love yourself just as you are.

2) Author Pema Chödrön echoes Brown’s advice in her own book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Through an explanation of basic Buddhist beliefs, she instructs readers on how to cope with the difficulty of the past and present. Her text is filled with positive affirmations while she discusses communication, reversing habitual patterns, using pain to cultivate courage, and more.

3) If you’ve recently left a relationship and you have children, their wellbeing will undoubtedly be one of the most important concerns through your own healing process. In When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse, Lundy Bancroft offers advice for how to talk with your kids about the abuse, help them deal with the separation, and rebuild your life together.

4) Figuring out where to begin again after a relationship ends can leave survivors feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence by Meg Kennedy Dugan and Roger R. Hock discusses this complicated and frightening time. The book acts as a manual for rebuilding your life after abuse, by focusing on strategies for recovery, learning how to establish healthy relationships in the future, and more.

5) One of the essential ways to begin coping with abuse is to start to understand the dynamics of the abuse: why it happened, why your abuser didn’t change, and why it wasn’t your fault. In Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, Lundy Bancroft addresses all of that and more, painting a clear picture to help survivors (or those still in an abusive relationship) understand what they’ve gone through.

6) Even long after abuse, experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be common. Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence: A Workbook for Women by Mari McCaig and Edward S. Kubany is full of trauma recovery techniques called ‘cognitive trauma therapy’ to help cope with the aftermath of abuse. The book contains exercises for breaking down negative thoughts, dispelling feelings of helplessness, and beginning a happier, healthier life.

If you’re struggling with abuse or have left an abusive relationship, what books have you read? Which were most helpful?

online dating

Reboot Your Love Life with Online Dating

If you’re considering dating after domestic violence, one venue for meeting a partner is a bit more 21st century than bumping into someone at the bar. It’s the same place where you’ve started managing bank accounts, reading the news, and selling your old stuff: the internet.

Some people shy away from the idea of online dating, but in today’s tech-driven world, it’s no longer as awkward as you may have thought. It can be a comfortable way to get to know someone before meeting him or her in person.

If you’re considering turning to a dating website to meet new people, it’s important to remember a few safety tips as well as red flags to look out for.

Read the warning signs 

In the wake of Manti Te’o’s online girlfriend hoax, the term “catfishing” has become synonymous with someone making up an online identity to trick people into a relationship. The potential to be duped shouldn’t deter anyone from online dating — but if you’re just beginning to meet people online, trusting your instinct is important.

There are some warning signs that might indicate that the person you’re speaking with is less than genuine, has questionable intentions or is already involved/married. Some of these signs could be:

  • Not posting any pictures of themselves online, or posting only a dark picture that is difficult to see
  • Contacting you only irregularly/off and on
  • Asking for your phone number but refusing to give you theirs
  • Showing reluctance to meet up in person, even after lots of online correspondence
  • Telling a lot of different stories or facts that don’t quite “add up”

Set boundaries online and date safely

If you’re suspicious of a photo, try doing a “reverse image search” on Google Images to see if these photos are coming up elsewhere on the Internet. To do a reverse image search, click and drag a photo into the search box on Google Images. Learn more on this type of search.

Create a separate e-mail account with a free service like Gmail to use just for your online dating activity. If an address is required to register for a site, consider getting a post office box instead of using your home address.

Install a free “privacy checker” on your computer and check privacy standards of the dating website that you are using.

Pay attention to your own online presence. Double check the privacy settings on social networking sites you use to see how much info about yourself is available to the public. Just as you may be looking up a potential date, it’s possible that they will be doing the same.

Be honest when filling out your profile, but avoid giving out personal information (phone number, address, full name). If you’re chatting/e-mailing with a potential date, don’t give out too much personal info in your messages — a good rule of thumb is to stay on a first name basis until the first date.

Remember that your online profile isn’t the right place to divulge personal info about your past relationships. There will be plenty of time after your first date to share more personal information.

If you have children, think about keeping them and your dating life separate for their own safety. While you may choose to list that you have children on your profile, avoid posting photos of them.

If you’re skeptical about something an online admirer is telling you, ask a friend. An outside perspective can be very helpful if something doesn’t feel right.

Consider talking on the phone before an in-person date. Give out your cell number instead of home or work phone numbers, or use a public phone.

If you do decide to meet someone “offline” and in person, there are safe dating tips to keep in mind such as meeting in a public place and having backup in the form of a friend to call.

Find a reputable site that works for you

Online dating allows you to be selective from the get-go. Many dating websites cost money to use, but this often means the people you’ll find on the site are as committed to finding a date as you are. Here are some that we know to be widely used:

HowAboutWe: It boasts over 1,000,000 users and has been transforming traditional first dates for users. To get started, just post a date idea beginning with the words “How about we…”

AARP Dating: They’ve partnered with HowAboutWe to make their own site for the older generation, which makes online dating all about getting offline. The site even offers clever first date ideas: “How about we go to a museum and take turns pretending to be a tour guide — we’ll just make it all up.”

Match: The most well known dating site, which claims that it’s responsible for more dates, relationships and marriages than any other dating site. It’s more geared toward middle-aged and older daters than sites like OkCupid. Match emphasizes safe online and offline dating.

Single Parent Match, Christian Mingle and JDate are just a few examples of the many “niche” sites geared toward people with specific interests or beliefs who are looking to date a specific type of person.

Thinking what you want in a potential partner can be a good first step when you’re beginning online dating. This will help you write your profile accordingly and look for potential “matches.” Remember to practice safe dating both on and offline, and most importantly: Have fun!

moving on after abuse

Finding Closure After Abuse

Moving on after any breakup is challenging, but healing after an abusive relationship can be especially difficult. Sure, all breakups have their aftermath of sadness and loss, but for someone transitioning from victim to survivor, the fallout may include continued harassment or attacks. The resulting ongoing mental trauma and emotional stress can make a survivor question — was leaving really worth it?

We’re here to say YES. Yes, leaving is worth it. Why is moving on after abuse so difficult? Because abuse is rooted in power and control, and an abuser holds that power by minimizing their partner’s self-esteem and breaking their spirit. If you’re leaving an abusive relationship, rebuilding your life can be a hard process, but with time and space, finding closure and peace is possible. A violence-free life is waiting, and you are so very worth it.

How do you start to move on? Here are some tips for moving past the experience of abuse into a safer, happier reality.

1. Cut Off Contact With Your Ex

During the healing process, you may feel the need to offer forgiveness, help your abuser through the break up, or show your abuser how you’re better off. However, it’s difficult to really get closure without severing all ties with your ex.

Try different methods to avoid contacting your former partner. Delete their phone number and change yours. If you’re picking up the phone to call, put the phone in a different room and walk away.

Resist the urge to look them up on social media. Unfriend or block them, and if pictures or news keep popping up, it could be helpful to remove mutual friends as well.

Try writing a letter with all the things you want to say to your abuser and don’t send it — or, if you’re in counseling, send it to your therapist instead.

2. Surround Yourself With Support

After an abusive relationship, allow yourself to get help and support from others. Spend time with friends and family who care about you. Tell them what you need from them, whether that’s someone to talk to about what you went through, or someone to keep you from answering phone calls from your ex, stop you from texting back, etc.

If your abuser isolated you from friends and family, you may find that you no longer have that support network — but there are always people who want to help. Consider finding a counselor to talk with one-on-one, or join a support group. If you call NDVH, one of our advocates can connect you to services in your area.

3. Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself is such an important part of the healing process, and that begins with understanding that the abuse that happened wasn’t your fault.

Find things that make you happy. Rediscovering what hobbies you enjoy can be a learning process, but that’s half of the fun. Join clubs or try activities like a group fitness class to meet new people.

If you have children, find ways to make time for yourself. Some gyms offer free childcare while you work out, and different domestic violence centers provide childcare while you’re attending support groups.

Praise yourself for accomplishments, little or big, and counter any negative self-talk with positive mantras or affirmations. Becoming aware of what you think and say about yourself can help shift negative thoughts.

4. Remember That You Will Get Better With Time

The old saying that “time heals all wounds” can be incredibly frustrating, but there is truth in it. Recovery does take time and space. Give yourself as much time as you need to heal.

Recovery looks different for everyone, and each person has to find what works for them. Have you left an abusive relationship? What have you found to be helpful in recovering? What would you recommend to others who are coping with moving on after abuse?

donating safely online

Tips for Donating Safely Online

We care very much about our online community. It was recently brought to our attention that there are sources on the internet who are using our name to solicit donations. While this is very unfortunate, there are limited actions we can take against these scammers or to ensure that others don’t use our name falsely.

In order to protect yourself, here are some tips for safely donating online:

  • Is the site legitimate? Whenever we fundraise online, the URL will start with “https://donate.ncfv” (double-check that you see this in the address bar). Please know that if you do donate with us online that our site is secure and that we will always protect your private information.
  • Our website is, NOT,,, etc. Please pay attention to what website you’re visiting.
  • Don’t share overly personal information. While a true donation form for us might ask you for your credit card information (including expiration date and security number), we will NEVER ask for your social security number, date of birth, bank account information or debit pin number.
  • If you make a donation to us, “NDVH-TCFV 512-794-1133” will show up on your credit card statement as proof.
  • If you’re giving money to a company or product claiming to be affiliated with us, feel free to check out their connection to us by contacting our Development/Database Specialist, Michael, at

Don’t fear online donations! Donating online can be quick and convenient. By following these tips, you can give safely and make a difference for victims of abuse. Thank you for your ongoing support of our mission to end domestic violence.

unleash the power of age

This May, Unleash the Power of Age

We know that victims in abusive relationships leave at all different stages in their lives, and that recovery is possible, no matter the survivor’s age or how long they experienced abuse.

This month, we’re celebrating life lived to the fullest, especially after escaping abuse. Fittingly, May is Older Americans Month, a time for honoring people with full years of life and achievements. This year’s OAM slogan is “Unleash the Power of Age,” which is perfectly suited to our message that ANYONE can find a happy life, and even love, after leaving.

Want to get in on this month’s mission?

  • Meet someone new. In partnership with the popular dating site “HowAboutWe,” AARP now has its own online dating site, AARP Dating, which makes catching a movie or getting a coffee with someone fun and easy. There are other great dating sites out there such as Silver Singles and Over Fifties — and we heard Martha Stewart just joined!
  • Plan a community activity like a volunteer day or a speaker series to get together with others your age and meet new people.
  • Take a minute to appreciate these “champions of aging” who have all fought for the rights and well-being of older Americans.

Let us know how you’re “unleashing the power of age” this month. Follow conversations about Older Americans Month on Twitter using the hashtags #UnleashAge and #OAM2013.

life after abuse

Dating After Domestic Violence

Dating after domestic violence can be nerve-wracking and complicated. If you’ve experienced domestic violence, you might have more trouble connecting with potential romantic partners, you might have a hard time trusting people or you might find that your perception of what is healthy/unhealthy in a relationship was warped by your abuser.

If you’re considering beginning a new relationship after experiencing domestic violence, here are some things that you should consider.

Move on Before You Start Something New

Domestic violence can leave behind physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime. Before you start a new relationship, make sure that you have begun to cope with the things that you experienced in your past abusive relationship. Seek counseling to help you work through your emotional pain and connect with your local domestic violence program to get support. Sever ties with your ex if possible (this is a bit more complicated when you have children with them) and if not possible, develop a system for safe interaction. Before you begin a new relationship, make sure that you are over your old one.

Educate Yourself

Learning about what domestic violence is and what the red flag warning signs for abuse are can help you find a healthy relationship. Make a list of healthy relationship characteristics and respectful partner traits and look for a relationship that matches with those standards.

Trust Your Instincts

If you begin dating and start to notice things about your partner that make you uncomfortable, if you start seeing red flag behaviors in your relationship or if your partner begins doing some of the same unhealthy things that your ex used to do, take heed. Don’t minimize questionable behaviors or write them off as personality traits. If you feel like something isn’t right, then trust your instincts. If you feel safe talking to your new partner about what you’ve noticed, then do that. See how they react to being confronted — that will show you a lot about who they are. If you want to talk to someone about the things that you’ve noticed, you can always call us to get feedback.

Practice Safe Dating

Regardless of whether you’ve been in an abusive relationship before or not, practicing safe dating is important when beginning a relationship. Making sure that you meet your partner at the location of your first few dates, rather than letting them drive you, spending time together in public at first and making sure that someone you trust knows your whereabouts are all ways to stay safe when dating. This will also help you to know that you can trust your partner as the relationship becomes more serious.

Take Things Slow

This may go hand in hand with practicing safe dating, but it’s worth saying again. Take your time in getting to know your partner and letting them know you. Develop a trusting partnership where both of you are comfortable expressing your needs, wants and thoughts. Make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial and that both of you are happy. Treat your partner with respect and demand that they do the same for you. Don’t rush into a relationship. Take your time.

If you are considering dating after domestic violence, feel free to give us a call. Our advocates can talk with you about what you’re feeling and about any concerns that you have: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).


Social Media Shaming: When Sexual Assault Goes “Viral”

“I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember…I just want this to go away.”

That was one of the last things 15-year-old Audrie Potts posted on her Facebook before taking her own life after a photo of her assault was circulated to nearly the entire high school. It’s a familiar feeling for the many girls whose names have been made into headlines throughout the past months.

Seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off of life support following an attempt to take her own life after a photo of her assault was distributed all over cell phones and social media sites.

In Torrington, Connecticut, two male 18-year-olds were arrested and accused of the statutory rape of two 13-year-old girls. What followed was an attack on the young girls over Twitter and social media and a trending “#FreeEdgar” hashtag in support of the perpetrators.

In Steubenville, Ohio, Jane Doe didn’t know she had been sexually assaulted until she found out about it through videos uploaded to YouTube and images posted on Instagram. When the case went public, backlash on social media against her, the victim, was relentless.

Lately we’ve seen social media channels become venues for public shaming and sharing information without ones consent to large numbers of people. “Viral” shaming adds a new dimension to an already horrific situation — continued emotional abuse from not just the perpetrator, but any outsider who decides to “share” or chime in. In this way, even after an assault a perpetrator can still exert control over their victim, making them feel powerless. It can feel impossible to know how to make it end, and it can feel like there’s nowhere to turn for safety and privacy.

What can you do as an online “bystander”?

While there are tips for “how to stop compromising pictures of you being published online,” these pictures and videos can get posted anyways without your knowledge or consent. The person who holds responsibility is the one who posts the content.

Responsibility also falls on bystanders — people who see the image being taken, see the assault in action, view the image online, distribute it, or even just pass it by. If you witness an assault, what do you do? If you’re sent a picture, do you pass it on? Do you join in on the actions or victim shaming just to be a part of the joke?

Begin to hold yourself and those around you accountable for what’s being said and posted. If you see something, report it. On Facebook, use the report link that appears near the content to send a message to have it removed. Twitter also has different forms for reporting a violation. YouTube has a “Safety Center” for requesting videos to be flagged or removed.

If you know someone who is involved in a situation of online abuse, ask how you can help. Offer to document the abuse (by taking screen shots or tracking where it’s showing up online). It can be helpful to be a third party keeping track of what’s being said and shared, especially if charges will be pressed.

As a Victim

Different states have specific laws, but no matter where you are, taking some type of legal action is always an option. Document the content, because it can be used as evidence. Contact the bar association in your state to find an attorney who specializes in Internet privacy and rights. The organization Without My Consent discusses different courses of action.

No matter what you decide to do, safety plan for your emotional well being as content is circulating. Know that you can ask for help and do ask for help, because it’s too much to take on alone, especially when it can feel like you’re up against the entire world.

Do you have a trusted coworker, friend or counselor you can talk to? Building a support system is important — and there’s always someone to turn to. You shouldn’t go through this whole process alone.

RAINN has many resources, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE, and they offer free, confidential advice 24.7.

In the wake of these all-too-similar stories, it’s easy to feel helpless. We can honor the victims of these and other tragedies by taking social responsibility seriously — holding ourselves and others accountable for what’s said or posted, and starting productive dialogues.

Social media is what we make of it, and we have the ability to make it a powerful tool for change and positivity.

Further Reading:

“Revenge Porn: The Fight Against The Net’s Nastiest Corner” by Adam Steinbaugh

“Criminalizing ‘Revenge Porn’” by Tracy Clark-Flory

mental health awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental illness affects 1 in 4 or nearly 60 million Americans every year.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to discuss mental health and to work to end the shame and stigma that often comes with these illnesses.

When people think about mental illness in relation to domestic violence, it’s generally believed that individuals living with mental illnesses are the ones committing the acts of violence. However, the connection more commonly runs the other way, with large percentages of those who suffer from mental illnesses becoming, or having been, the victims of domestic violence.

Mental health issues can arise as a result of intimate partner violence. On average, more than half of women seen in mental health settings are being or have been abused by an intimate partner. Recent studies of women who experienced abuse found that up to 84% suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 77% suffered from depression, and 75% suffered from anxiety.

Domestic violence victims with mental health issues also face many barriers, such as discrimination and stigmatization by the police, the legal system, health facilities and more.

Join us in taking time this month to educate yourself about mental illness and the stigma that often accompanies it. It is our hope that changing attitudes surrounding mental illness will allow those that suffer to be able to get the help and support they deserve.

What Can You Do?

Find your local National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) affiliate and NAMI state organization here.

Pay attention to your own mental health. If you feel like you may be suffering from a mental health condition, talk to someone you know and trust. Consult your health care provider or call 1-800-622-HELP to find treatment services nearby.

Help change the stigma associated with mental illness by learning more and showing compassion for those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Look for small ways to incorporate mental health awareness into your everyday life, whether this is listening actively to someone sharing how they’re feeling with you, or avoiding terminology that diminishes mental health problems (like “crazy”).

Further Resources and Reading

“Domestic Violence and Mental Illness: ‘I Have Honestly Never Felt So Alone in My Life’” by Faridah Newman

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

leaving safely

Leaving Safely – Part 2

In addition to packing and planning, there are a few other measures you can take to safeguard against potential problems that may arise when you’re leaving. As we see on today’s Dr. Phil episode, “Saving Julie: The Final Decision,” getting out of an abusive relationship is a dangerous, difficult time, and it is important to plan and have a support system in place.

Digital Safety

Don’t disclose any personal information online about your plans. If you’re making plans for leaving and communicating about it via a computer or cell phone, access a computer from the library or a friend’s house, or remember to clear your browser history. Make sure to tell friends to not post anything about your whereabouts online.

Don’t answer threatening or excessive texts or calls while you leave and after you’ve left. Let them go to voicemail. This also could be used to document the abuse — for example, 50 missed calls? Take a screen shot of that.

Cell phones can be tracked via GPS. Try a “throw away phone” or perhaps plan to get a new one and leave your old phone behind.

What about protective orders? 

A protective order is legal documentation to keep your abuser away from you, and can often contain provisions related to custody, finance, and more. However, these will require you to see your abuser in court, and are not always highly enforced. In this episode we see Danny describing how he broke a protective order and attacked his ex-girlfriend and a man she was with.

While protective orders may be able to put a stop to physical abuse, psychological abuse is still possible — so a protective order should never replace a safety plan.

Our advocates can speak to you about how a protective order works, as well as direct you to legal advocates that can provide you with specific information about this based on where you’re living. Different states have different processes for a protective order. Check out Women’s Law for more info.

If you already have a protective order, it should be kept on you at all times — as well as given to your children and anyone they might be with — especially when you’re leaving your abuser.

After You Leave

Consider making a “false trail.” For example, call motels far away from where you plan on being. Do this after you leave, otherwise it could tip off the abuser that you’re planning on leaving, which could be dangerous.

Remember that leaving will likely be difficult, and it’s important to have support and a plan in place. If you feel like leaving might be an option, give us a call at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) to discuss options.

Our advocates at The Hotline are here for you to help create a safety plan for leaving as well as after you’ve left, and to make sure you have ongoing emotional support afterwards.