The Hotline Believes Abuse is Never Acceptable

dvinthenewsYou’ve probably been hearing about Ray Rice, the 27-year-old running back for the Baltimore Ravens. Rice has recently been charged with aggravated assault (a felony) against his fiancée, Janay Palmer.

Here at the hotline, we’ve been watching Rice’s case unfold. No matter what happens with this individual case, we wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate that violence within a relationship is NEVER acceptable. We know that abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, economic status, sexual orientation, or religion. And it’s not okay. It is never okay.

We’ll continue to monitor this case and share our comments as it continues. Remember, if you are experiencing abuse or know someone who is, our advocates are available by phone 24/7 at  1-800-799-7233, or by chat through our website Monday through Friday, 9am-7pm CST. Please get in touch with us. We’re here to help.


Hotline President Katie Ray-Jones Testifies in Washington

Katie-in-DCToday the hotline’s president and acting CEO, Katie Ray-Jones, testified in front of the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington, DC. In her testimony, she asked for full funding of domestic violence programs in order to fill crucial needs for victims across the nation. We wanted to share a few key points of her submitted testimony here on the hotline blog:

  • Every day, [the hotline’s] highly trained advocates answer nearly 700 calls, texts or chats from those affected by domestic and dating violence. We know that many victims are one call, text or chat away from serious, if not deadly, violence.
  • Ninety-five percent of those contacting us disclosed verbal and emotional abuse, while 70 percent reported physical abuse.
  • Over 20,000 victims disclosed instances of economic abuse, in which their partner forcibly took control or manipulated their finances in order to wield power over them.
  • Over 5,000 victims disclosed instances of child abuse.
  • Nearly 5,000 victims were struggling with issues related to immigration.
  • The downtrend in the economy has impacted both victims and the local programs that serve them. A third of the victim callers surveyed had experienced a change in their financial situation in the previous year; 98% of those experienced an intensification of abuse during that same period.
  • The current economic climate has created a severe budget crisis for programs that provide safety and support for victims across the country. A 2013 survey of rape crisis centers by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence found that over one-third of programs have a waiting list for services such as counseling and support groups, while over half had to lay off staff.
  • Victims of domestic violence have fewer places to turn, also. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s 2013 Domestic Violence Counts annual census, in just one day last year, while more than 66,000 victims of domestic violence received services, over 9,640 requests for services went unmet, due to a lack of funding and resources.
  • We work in partnership with local, state, territorial and tribal programs. If any of us closes or reduces services because of funding shortfalls, everyone is impacted.
  • We ask today for increased funding for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act programs.

You can view her full testimony in front of the subcommittee below:


How to Maximize Online Privacy

behindthescreens-privacyThis is the second post in our Behind the Screens series. Read the first post, What is Digital Abuse?, here

Online privacy is a bit of an oxymoron. According to Ed Gibson, former head of cybersecurity at Microsoft and director of security at PWC Global, data that is posted on the internet should be regarded as permanent after 20 minutes, even if the originator has deleted the file. Nevertheless, 86% of internet users have tried to use the internet in ways to minimize the visibility of their digital footprints.

Despite a majority of internet users’ attempts at maintaining some privacy, social networking companies like Facebook are regularly tweaking their privacy policies, slowly making themselves (and as a result, their users) more public. Location-based apps can glean information from your mobile phone, and advertisers can use swaths of search history and site cookies to better target potential customers.

It’s all a little scary, right?

If you’re in an abusive relationship, or if you’ve left one, you are likely even more concerned than the average person about maintaining privacy online. For most of us it may not be possible to opt out of using the internet altogether, but there are a few things you can do to maximize your online privacy:

  • Check your privacy settings regularly on all social media sites that you use, and update them as needed. Lifehacker maintains an up-to-date article about new Facebook privacy changes.
  • Try to create “uncrackable” passwords and change them regularly. Don’t share your passwords with anyone you don’t know or trust completely. Remember, you can exercise your “digital rights.”
  • Read the privacy policies of any app or site that you sign up for. Many people do not do this, but it will help you get a lot of clarity into how the company or site is collecting and using your information.
  • Avoid oversharing personal information online. Don’t post your address, phone number, email, full birth date, or any other identifying information on any social networking site. Sites like Facebook request a lot of personal information now (including place of work, hometown, etc), but it is absolutely not imperative to post yours.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit based in California, provides a wealth of information about protecting your privacy in many areas of your life, including online. They offer some additional tips on staying safe and secure on the net, and be sure to check out a few of their other articles, too:

Using the Internet Safely
Online Privacy FAQ

If you have questions about how you can make online safety part of your overall safety plan, our advocates are here to help you. Give us a call at 1-800-799-7233, 24/7, or chat with us here on the website from 7am-2am CST. Our support services are always free, anonymous, and confidential.


What is Digital Abuse?

behindthescreens-harassmentThis is the first post in a series we’re planning called Behind the Screens, which will explore issues related to online behaviors and digital abuse.

The prevalence of digital abuse has been gaining traction in the media lately, and our advocates frequently field questions from callers and chatters about it. Still, many people don’t know what constitutes digital abuse and are not able to recognize the signs. It is especially common among young people who are typically using technology in almost every aspect of their lives, but anyone can be a victim of digital abuse.

Digital abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. In most cases, this type of abuse is emotional and/or verbal and though it is perpetuated online, it has a strong impact on a victim’s real life. According to advocates at loveisrespect, your partner may be digitally abusing you if he or she:

  • Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites
  • Sends negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online
  • Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on you
  • Puts you down in their status updates
  • Sends unwanted, explicit pictures and demands you send some in return
  • Pressures you to send explicit video
  • Steals or insists to be given your passwords
  • Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished
  • Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls
  • Tags you unkindly in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.

Digital abuse, like other forms of abuse, is an attempt to control a partner’s actions. As part of maintaining a healthy relationship, we recommend that partners create a digital contract that outlines what is and is not acceptable behavior online. Additionally, it’s important to know and exercise your “digital rights”:

  • You have the right to turn off your phone and spend time with friends and family without your partner getting angry
  • You have the right to say no to sexting, or sending pictures or information digitally to your partner that you are not comfortable with
  • You have the right to keep your logins and passwords private
  • You have the right to control your own privacy settings on social networking sites
  • You have the right to feel safe and respected in your relationship, online or off

Exercising these rights and feeling safe are important aspects of every healthy relationship. If you have questions about digital abuse, call the hotline 24/7 or chat with an advocate here on the website Monday through Friday from 9am-7pm CST.


Tax Relief for Survivors

tax-optionsTax season is no one’s favorite time of the year – and an abusive relationship (whether you’re in one, planning on leaving, or have recently left) complicates it even further.

Fortunately, there are a few economic resources that can be powerful tools in changing your circumstances for the better. Filing tax returns and seeking income tax credit refunds can help you pull together funds that may be needed to leave an abusive relationship or begin financial independence after leaving.

This may seem like a difficult process, but it’s doable! If you’re not familiar with filing taxes, check out the Get Help section at the bottom of this post for resources.

When and why should you file a tax return?

  • When you have a certain amount of income – either your own or, if married, the income of a spouse
  • To receive tax benefits (i.e. refund or tax credits)
  • To establish a separate tax “existence” from a spouse or ex
  • To help save up money (ex. if you’re planning on leaving)

Concerns about tax refunds

What are your rights?

  • To see and understand the entire return before signing a joint return
  • To refuse to sign a joint return (married people don’t have to file together)
  • To request an automatic 4-month extension of time to file
  • To get copies of prior year returns from the IRS

Three Federal Tax Credits You May be Eligible For:

1) Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

  • This is a wage supplement for low- and moderate-income workers.
  • You must have some earned income.
  • You must be a citizen, legal resident, or be married to one.
  • You must have a valid SSN.
  • Can claim this if you file as “Married Filing Jointly,” “Single,” “Head of Household,” but NOT “Married Filing Separately”
  • To claim children with this, the child must be related, adopted or a foster child. The child must live with you for over half the year. The child must be under 19 (24 if a student, and no age limit if disabled)
  • EITC is not counted as income in most public benefit programs including: TANF, SSI, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Medicaid, CHIP, and federally assisted housing. Receipt of the credit will not affect your eligibility for such benefits. Read more about keeping your benefits.

2) Child Tax Credit

  • This is intended to help offset some costs of raising children.
  • You can claim up to $1,000 per child. The child must be claimed as a dependent, and the age limit is 17.
  • Married survivors can file jointly or separately.
  • If you don’t owe enough taxes to use all of the Child Tax Credit, you may be eligible for a refund.

3) Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

  • This can help you meet your child and dependent care expenses.
  • The care has to be employment-related (If money was spent on childcare while a parent was working or looking for work)
  • The percentage of eligible expenses you can claim is based on adjusted gross income.

Three Types of Relief You May Be Eligible For:

1) Innocent Spouse Relief
If you’re faced with tax debt or burden because of something your spouse did wrong on a jointly filed tax return, you could be eligible for this. There are different categories and different procedures for filing.

2) Relief By Separation
This involves separating the understatement of tax (plus interest and penalties) on your joint return between you and your (former or current) spouse

3) Equitable Relief
You may still be relieved of responsibility for tax/interest/penalties through this type of relief if you are not eligible for the other types.

Get Help

Further Resources

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so we encourage you to consult the resources in this post and take advantage of the programs designed to help with your situation. While our advocates at the hotline are not able to give legal or tax advice, we can talk to you about what’s going on, discuss possible courses of action, and refer you to the best resources for legal help. Feel free to give us a call anytime, 24/7, at 1-800-799-7233.


Help the Hotline Amplify Austin!

We are very excited to announce that the National Domestic Violence Hotline is participating in Amplify Austin 20amplifyATX14, presented by I Live Here, I Give Here!

Amplify Austin is a 24-hour online “festival of giving” that provides an easy and fun way for the entire community to help hundreds of nonprofits that are meeting critical needs. This year’s campaign will take place on Thursday, March 20th starting at 6pm and will end on March 21st at 6pm. The goal is to raise $4 million for area-wide nonprofits.

Did you know that the hotline is headquartered in Austin, TX? We love our fair city and are thrilled to join more than 400 nonprofits in Central Texas for the second annual Amplify Austin campaign. Every dollar we raise will go toward increasing our capacity to serve victims of domestic violence in Central Texas and across the nation.

Know the Numbers

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men over the age of 18 in the U.S. have experienced intimate partner violence
  • 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. has been a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner
  • Since its inception, the hotline has answered more than three million calls, a number that highlights the increasing need for these important life saving services
  • Austin and Central Texas are consistently among our highest call volume locations, and have the highest engagement levels on our social media channels

Help Us Amplify Austin

If you live in the Central Texas area (or even if you don’t), check out our Amplify Austin profile and consider making a gift to support the hotline – you can even schedule it in advance (set it and forget it!)

If you’re unable to donate at this time, you can still help by spreading the word about Amplify Austin and the hotline’s involvement. Share our Amplify Austin profile with your networks and encourage friends and family to do the same. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

We strongly believe in the work we do, and we appreciate all of your support for the domestic violence victims we serve.