Celebrate Earth Day with HopeLine from Verizon

Are you looking for a way to reuse and recycle this Earth Day AND help victims of domestic violence? Look no further: the hotline has partnered with HopeLine from Verizon, a program
that accepts no-longer-used wireless phones and accessories and turns them into lifelines for victims. Through HopeLine, Verizon has donated hundreds of thousands of phones and awarded millions of dollars in cash grants to partner agencies.

HopeLine phones are refurbished phones that are equipped with 3,000 anytime minutes of airtime and texting capabilities. Any wireless phone, regardless of manufacturer or service provider, can be accepted. The refurbished phones come with Verizon Wireless Nationwide Coverage, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, 3-Way Calling, Caller ID, Basic Voice Mail and texting. HopeLine phones are available to survivors affiliated with participating domestic violence agencies.

For many victims and survivors of domestic violence, access to a wireless phone and voice mailbox can help them rebuild their lives and provide a safe way to communicate with friends, family, agency and shelter support staff, and current or prospective employers. If you would like to start a phone drive in your community on behalf of the hotline, just fill out your information and we will be in touch with you.

This Earth Day, join with Verizon and the hotline to reuse, recycle, and provide much needed support to victims of domestic violence!



“Help! My Ex is Harassing Me Online”

behindthescreens-harassmentThis is a post in our Behind the Screens series. Read the previous posts here and here

Breakups are a difficult time for any couple, but they can be an especially difficult and potentially dangerous time for survivors of abusive relationships. Even if you’re able to safely leave the relationship, the abusive partner can still cause harm from afar in a variety of ways. Technology and social media create new spaces where abuse can take place. This is called digital abuse, and it is just as unacceptable as any other form of abuse.

Even if your ex-partner did not exhibit abusive behaviors during the relationship, there’s still a possibility that feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, loneliness, or loss of control could lead them to become abusive online. They could hack into your email accounts or send unwanted emails, post unwanted messages or pictures on social media sites, or create fake profiles to harass you and people you know. If your ex is harassing you online, here are some ways to handle it:

  • Clearly tell your ex to stop harassing you, if you feel safe doing so. It’s important to let your ex know that what they are doing is abusive, preferably in a way that lets you keep a record of your request either by saving the text or email you send, or taking a screenshot of a message you send online. After you have told your ex to stop the harassment, do not respond to any future communications.
  • Save everything. You might wish to delete the unwanted messages immediately, but try to keep a record of any communications your ex sends. Save emails and chat logs, take screenshots of status updates, direct messages, comments, pictures, or websites.
  • Take steps to increase your online privacy. Check to make sure that the settings on any social media site you belong to are set to maximum privacy. Change your passwords, block or unfriend your ex, and don’t provide details of your social plans or whereabouts online – this includes avoiding “checking in” to places on Facebook or using apps like Foursquare.
  • If your ex is harassing you via email, create a separate email account with an uncrackable password to use only with people you trust. This way, you can communicate with friends and family via the new email address and you won’t have to see your ex’s emails everyday. Again, save any abusive emails that your ex sends to you, but do not respond to them.
  • Let people in your support system know that your ex is harassing you, if you feel comfortable doing so. Make them aware of your safety plan so they aren’t tagging you when they check in to places or otherwise mentioning your location online. It’s important not to go through this alone and for others to be aware of your ex’s behavior. If your ex tries to contact people you know, ask them not to respond and to keep records of those communications as well.
  • If you believe your life is being threatened and/or if the harassment continues or escalates, you might consider taking legal action. All states have laws against cyberstalking, and it could help to speak with a legal advocate about protective orders or other legal measures. If you choose to pursue legal recourse, a record of your ex’s abusive communications would be useful.

If you are experiencing digital abuse from an ex or current partner, a good resource is WHO@ (Working to Halt Online Abuse), a volunteer organization established to fight online harassment through education of the public and empowerment of victims. WomensLaw.org also has information about cyberstalking and online safety.

You can always call the hotline anytime day or night at 1-800-799-7233 to speak with an advocate about options and support. Remember, everyone has the right to live free from abuse, online and off.


Pressure and Persuasion: A Closer Look at Sexual Coercion

consentSome things are beyond our control — like when it starts pouring rain on the day you’ve forgotten an umbrella, or when you’re forced to wear that awful bright pink bridesmaid dress at your friend’s wedding. While you may not be able to choose the weather or a better sense of style for your friend, there are certain things in life that you can always make decisions about.

One aspect of your life that you have complete control over is how far you want to take it with your romantic partner — whether that’s your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, or anyone you’re involved with. You should never feel forced into anything that you’re not comfortable with or don’t feel like doing.

Have you ever felt pressured by your partner to have sex? Have you ever felt guilted into it, or felt like you weren’t able to say no? Abuse is often centered on power and control in all aspects of the relationship, so it’s not uncommon that an abusive partner will try to force intimacy.

This is often referred to as sexual coercion, which lies on the continuum of sexually aggressive behavior. It can vary from being egged on and persuaded, to being forced to have contact. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt, or shame. You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For example, your partner:

  • Makes you feel like you owe them: ex. Because you’re in a relationship, because you’ve had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift
  • Gives you compliments that sound extreme or insincere as an attempt to get you to agree to something
  • Gives you drugs and alcohol to “loosen up” your inhibitions
  • Plays on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me,” “If I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”
  • Reacts negatively with sadness, anger or resentment if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something
  • Continues to pressure you after you say no
  • Makes you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
  • Tries to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a man”

Even if your partner isn’t forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, being made to feel obligated is coercion in itself. Dating someone, being in a relationship, or being married never means that you owe your partner intimacy of any kind.

A coercive partner may feel that consent is ongoing. However, consenting to something once doesn’t make it a “given” each time. Consenting to one action doesn’t mean you have given your consent for other actions. In a relationship where sexual coercion is occurring, there is a lack of consent, and the coercive partner doesn’t respect the boundaries or wishes of the other.

To learn more about sexual coercion, an important read is our article on healthy consent, or check out The Consensual Project. No one should be made to feel pressured into a sexual act. If your partner acts in any of the ways mentioned, it could be helpful to speak to someone about it. Our advocates are available to talk confidentially, 24/7, at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) — give us a call.


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

SAAMThere is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year. (via RAINN.org, U.S. Department of Justice. National Crime Victimization Survey. 2008-2012.)

Nearly 1 in 10 women in the United States (9.4%) has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime. (via NoMore.org)

1 in 6 men has experienced sexual abuse before age 18. (via 1in6.org)

The statistics are sobering, but as with all forms of abuse, they only tell us part of the story. There are countless instances of sexual assault and abuse that go unreported. It’s important to remember that while sexual assault happens disproportionately to females, anyone can be a victim.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), during which activists from all over the nation seek to raise awareness about sexual violence and educate individuals and communities about how to end it. This effort requires many voices – including yours! There are several ways you can get involved, and here are just a few:

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault and you need someone to talk to, contact the hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or chat online Monday through Friday, 9am-7pm CST. All contact is free, anonymous, and confidential.

Other resources:

National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE

National Sexual Assault Online Hotline at online.rainn.org