Update on NFL Commitment to The Hotline

Our CEO, Katie Ray-Jones, has released the following update on the status of the NFL commitment to the Hotline:

“We are in lock step with the NFL as we work through final details of our multi-million dollar, multi-year agreement. We are working together to fulfill this commitment, and look forward to partnering with Commissioner Goodell and his staff to work toward our ultimate goal of answering every call. Because of the NFL’s commitment to providing much-needed support to The Hotline and the people we serve, we have been able to hire additional staff to answer more calls for help and prepare the organization so no call goes unanswered.”


We #SeeDV Going Unrecognized: Heather Heiman & Casey Swegman


Radhika came to the U.S. as a refugee when she was 3 years old. At age 18 her family began exerting tremendous pressure on her to get married. Radhika refused, telling her parents that she wanted to attend college before getting married. In response, her father told her she had no choice and that a wedding was planned that summer to a cousin overseas. Alarmed that she might be facing a marriage she did not want to a husband she did not choose, which would likely force her to end her education, Radhika confided in her school counselor about her situation. Her counselor, unsure of how to help, told Radhika that this was a private matter best handled within her family. Feeling dismissed by the one person she hoped would understand, Radika decided not to ask anyone else for help.

Meanwhile, Sarah was facing a similar situation. Born and raised in the U.S., Sarah had just graduated college and was planning to start her career when her parents informed her that they had found a husband for her and that she would be moving to another state to live with him and his family after the wedding. Sarah’s older sister had tried to avoid a marriage two years earlier; however, their parents took away her cell phone and confined her to their home until she agreed. Wanting to avoid the same fate, Sarah reached out to local domestic violence agencies for support, but since she had not experienced any physical abuse or threats, they told her they were unable to help. Having been turned away by the only agencies in her area, Sarah felt hopeless and that no one understood the risk she truly faced.

These are case scenarios that we often see at Tahirih’s Forced Marriage Initiative. Individuals at risk of forced marriage face serious obstacles to getting help; those they reach out to may view forced marriage as a cultural issue or private matter best handled by individual families, or as a problem that only affects certain communities. However, a 2011 National Survey on Forced Marriage conducted by the Tahirih Justice Center found that agencies across the U.S. had encountered up to 3000 cases of forced marriage over a two year period, impacting individuals from widely varying backgrounds and faiths.

In addition, many front line responders, including counselors, advocates, teachers, shelter workers, and law enforcement, are also unaware of what to do or feel they can’t help in forced marriage cases. Less than 1 in 5 respondents to Tahirih’s survey reported feeling equipped to help victims, and we see frustration on both sides – agencies struggling to help and individuals unable to get desperately needed services.

In order to adequately reach and provide assistance to individuals at risk of forced marriage we must all recognize that violence is present in every community and that it can take many forms. Forced marriage is not a cultural or religious issue – the motivations behind forced marriage are complex and vary depending on each individual’s particular situation. Whatever the rationale, a survivor of forced marriage may face severe and sustained harms – including rape, forced labor, domestic violence, and deprivation of the right to education – and needs access to services, shelter, and support.

We need to be ready to truly hear someone when they tell us they are at risk of a forced marriage, and more importantly, we need to be ready to respond. At the Tahirih Justice Center, we are raising awareness about this hidden issue, collaborating with advocates, and coordinating a national response to the problem of forced marriage in the United States. We hope that you’ll join us.

heimanswegman-200This post was co-authored by Heather Heiman, Forced Marriage Initiative Project Manager and Senior Public Policy Attorney, and Casey Swegman, Forced Marriage Initiative Project Associate

Heather Heiman graduated from DePaul University College of Law, where she received a JD and certificate in international and comparative Law. Heather joined the Tahirih Justice Center’s Washington, DC area office in 2009. Heather bridges Tahirih’s legal and public policy departments, and is the principal Tahirih attorney providing direct legal services to forced marriage clients. She also provides technical assistance on a national level, coordinates Tahirih’s National Network to Prevent Forced Marriage and facilitates the Forced Marriage Working Group.

Casey Swegman graduated from Georgetown University with a master’s degree in conflict resolution and certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. Casey joined the Tahirih Justice Center’s Washington, DC area office in June 2013. Casey provides targeted referrals and direct social service to individuals in the VA/DC/MD area, as well as technical assistance on a national level. She also works closely with the FMI Project Manager to build a national coalition, conduct outreach and education, and improve public understanding and response to forced marriage in the United States.

Tahirih Justice Center is a national, non-profit organization that protects courageous immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of violence through advocacy in communities, courts, and Congress. Tahirih’s Forced Marriage Initiative offers assistance to anyone who is facing a forced marriage regardless of age, race, class, gender, immigration status, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion. They partner with survivors and other advocates to end to forced marriage in the United States through direct services, education, outreach, and public policy advocacy. To get involved please visit


FVPSA Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

While we’re raising awareness on the important issue of domestic violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re also celebrating the 30th anniversary of a vital piece of legislation: The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA).

FVPSA’s passage in 1984 marked the first time in U.S. history that federal resources were specifically dedicated to domestic violence shelters and programs. The Hotline, first established by the Violence Against Women Act (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary!), is now made possible in part by FVPSA funding.

To commemorate these 30 years, the Hotline team collaborated with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, the Family & Youth Services Bureau, and other key organizations to create a short video about FVPSA and what it has done for victims and survivors of domestic violence. To learn more about FVPSA and domestic violence, visit




I #SeeDV as Where Good and Evil Still Exist: Abe Clabby

DVAM-clabbyI’ve been told that some men are monsters, and I’ve heard that there’s a monster in every man. In most of my life, I can hardly say either is true. The people I’ve known all my life all have some way they can be looked at and not seem that different from most of us. Aggressive people have weaknesses they’re covering. Manipulative people have deep insecurities they’re rushing to protect. The fiercest tantrums come from kids who just want to be loved.

The rules are different when you know an abuser.

Whatever you think is wrong in society is wrong in a person who does this. Selfishness, inconsideration, demands for instant gratification, all are found in the life of a domestic abuser. When life and marriage offer some give and take, an abusive partner takes everything they can and gives their captive hell. They can focus an untold amount of energy on staying in someone’s head, telling them they’re weak, crazy, and unloveable. No chains can shackle a woman like motherhood and joblessness, to keep a person powerless to pay her way out. No cage can trap someone like the threat of someone’s anger, when there’s no telling what they’ll do to keep that control.

And somehow, they manage to add a trait so dangerous it sounds fictitious: malice. I’ve heard women tell me that their ex, or even their husband, has literally told them, “I want to make your life miserable.” They have destroyed a woman’s electronics upon entering a room, and left haunting messages to let her know that he’s still following her. They have cut people off from every friend and all the family they ever had, damning them to isolation, or even spreading the fiercest rumors imagination can concoct to get her greatest supporters “on his side.” One sentence above all I have heard used word for word so many dozens of times: when a victim tells me he told her “you’ll never see your kids again.”

The engine behind this cruel machine is the want for power and control. Everyone has a voice in their mind saying, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” But as we grow older, the voices of reason and compassion learn to talk over it. In an abuser, their self-righteous voice remains a never-ending roar.

Of course, there are some women abusers as ruthless as the men. The screaming fits may be a higher pitch, but they can still grab a knife, drain the bank account, file the restraining order against the victim, and split the family like any man could. Even then, they can hide that side of them from everyone else who thinks they’re “close” to them, as two-faced as an abusive man.

There’s a strange continuum from the most emotionally or verbally abusive victims to the most physical. Daily accusations of infidelity would be bad enough without the injury to insult by cyber-stalking them, and scrutinizing or threatening everyone close to their victim. Words alone can poison the soul with fear and doubt and shame. But to haunt a woman with the threat of pain is monstrous. A single push, or throw, or strike of the hand changes the way a woman sees him for years after, if he ever crosses that line.

But to many, one kind of abuse seems to be no worse than the other. Both kinds of pain can leave a person scarred and afraid they cannot trust, or left expecting that a relationship like that is as good as they will ever get.

Domestic violence is proof to me that the word “evil” isn’t just in stories. Whatever else there may be to a person, when they turn abusive, it ravages the people closest to them too much to overlook.

But while there is evil in anyone’s heart, there will be good to care for its victims. People’s friends, family, and countless thousands of domestic violence workers rise up to take care of the wounded hearts. They hold hands with them and share their strength, promising them a life outside of the pain. They share what they have to give back what an abuser has taken.

And there is the good in the heart of every victim. The good that endures. The good that defies. The good that escapes.

And from where I stand, I see the good in their hearts that inspires.

This post was written by Abe Clabby, an advocate at the Hotline. Abe is a Graduate student at St. Edward’s University. He is majoring in Counseling, and serves other members of the helping professions in the Austin area.


How I #SeeDV: Nicole Warner


Domestic violence is an intimate version of the power plays we see played out in the rest of our daily lives, from Boston to the Middle East, from politics to the grocery store. No matter if it’s in a romantic relationship, in one neighborhood or on a world-wide scale, we’re talking about variations on a theme–violence.

Violence wants us to believe there is some kind of difference between intimate partner violence, where a man slaps his partner, and a loud mouth in the bar who picks a fight. It is still physical violence.

Violence wants us to believe that there is a difference between a Ponzi scheme and that “check” your Grandma got in the mail (the one that’s actually a big scam). The only real difference between a $100 Million Ponzi scheme and that fake check your Grandma got in the mail for $500 is the amount. It is still financial abuse.

Violence wants us to believe the market crash and its ripple effects are improving rapidly as long as we pinch our pennies and watch our gas mileage—as if our single-income pocketbooks could ever redeem the global misconduct of others. Violence wants us to get lost in the details, in the pennies; violence doesn’t want us to be looking at the dollars, the pounds. Violence doesn’t want us to see the big picture.

Violence wants us to get lost in its confusion, in the cognitive dissonance.

Violence wants us to believe there is a difference between a person navigating the toxic, constantly shifting labyrinth of a volatile relationship and that manipulative, intimidating colleague you have who makes you feel like you’re going off the deep end. Do you see how these are two corners of the same big picture? This picture is of psychological abuse.

Violence wants to divide us and conquer us. Keep us busy with the finger-pointing and the blaming and scapegoating. Keep us questioning, trying to decide if violence is different if it’s large- or small-scale, near to us or far from us, if it happened to a family member or “someone else.” Violence wants us to think more-than/less-than, better-than/worse-than. Violence doesn’t want us to see the huge writing on the wall, look it straight in its beady little eyes and call it out for what it is:

Toxic, destructive, and deadly for far too many.

But violence doesn’t get what it wants when we refuse to give in. As we learn to listen to what is said and to what is not said, we tune in to the big picture. We begin to see if someone is walking the walk or just talking the talk. We become more aware and speak up more often. Every time we stand up for what is right, violence loses. Every time we reach out and help our neighbor whose wife talks down to him, we build him up so he can make his own decisions. When we use our religions to serve others, to be assistive in times of need, to share our joys, we pay respect to our neighbors, to our religious communities, to ourselves. We create a different kind of ripple effect.

Our ripple effect now includes technology that allows us to film, to write, to publish, to connect, to network, to support, to learn, to heal. We gather knowledge and courage and get to the root of the issues when we make our voices heard.

Every time we make heard that violence knows no race, no religion, no country’s borders, we spread courage and this has an incredible effect on others. Courageous behavior is what destroys violence at its roots.

Courage also knows no race, no religion, no sex or gender, no country’s borders. Courage knows only how to grow.



In praise of toll-free numbers for victims of Domestic Violence
and those who choose not to look away.

I am a victim of crime, yet my scars are unseen.
I am a victim of crime, and with a phone call you helped me save myself.

My name is your name
and I look just like you.
You are my neighbor, my colleague,
my customer, my boss.
I am the cashier, the mom, the teacher,
the corporate executive degraded in private.

Did you see him call me stupid?
Did you see him complain yet again?
Did you hear me cry myself to sleep?

Your name is my name
and you look just like me.
I am your neighbor, your colleague,
your customer, your boss.
You are the cashier, the mom, the teacher,
the corporate executive degraded in private.

You are a victim of crime, yet your scars are unseen.
You are a victim of crime, and with a phone call I helped you save yourself.
Copyright 2014 Nicole Warner

warner-125Nicole Warner is a professional classical singer with an active performing career, having sung solo on 3 continents. In her other life she’s a private instructor for voice and German as a Foreign Language. This year marks her 6th year as a survivor of domestic violence and the 2nd year she’s been human to a handsome orange tabby named Connor. Find out more about Nicole and read her survival story at


#SeeDV This October

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and the 30th anniversary of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act – two vital pieces of legislation that led to an increase of resources and support for victims and survivors of domestic violence.

In the last month, we’ve watched as the conversation about domestic violence in this country made a huge shift. Media outlets are talking about it, people on Twitter are talking about it, the NFL is talking about it, government leaders are talking about it.

But there is still work to be done. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it’s more important than ever for your voice to be heard. That’s why this year, we’re asking again:

How do you #seeDV?

We’re asking because domestic violence should be talked about.

We’re asking because it shouldn’t be something shameful or hidden.

We’re asking for every person living with abuse, for every survivor, for every family, for every community affected.

Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing different perspectives and stories from people around the country on how they see DV. Some are survivors. Some are activists. They all “see” domestic violence as something we can end together. But we have to speak up.

So let’s start talking. How do you #seeDV?

Want to get involved? Click here.



National Domestic Violence Hotline Hosts NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for Informational Visit

AUSTIN, TEXAS – National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell visited the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) to learn more about domestic violence and to see first-hand victims’ advocates at work. Hotline management and staff members introduced Commissioner Goodell to advocates and led him on a tour of the call center that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On September 18, The Hotline announced that it had received a commitment from the NFL to provide significant resources to the organization that will help advocates answer every call, chat and text from domestic violence victims, survivors, their loved ones and even abusers for the next five years.

“We invited Commissioner Goodell and members of his staff to learn how our organization operates and to listen to some of the stories that our advocates hear every day from men and women affected by abuse. We appreciate him taking the time to help us highlight the extent of this national problem,” said Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

As a direct result of the NFL’s multi-million dollar, multi-year commitment, The Hotline has transitioned 21 of its part time employees to full time status. Jones says she expects to hire even more advocates within the next few weeks to handle an additional 750 calls, chats and texts per day. The NFL’s support will also enable loveisrespect to service 24-hour-a-day text, chat and call services to young people affected by dating abuse. Loveisrespect is a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle that engages, educates and empowers young people to prevent and end abusive relationships.

Since the National Domestic Violence Hotline was first formed in 1996, the organization has never been able to answer every call for help because of a lack of resources. Last year, approximately 77,000 calls went unanswered. With greater awareness of abuse by the recent domestic violence incidents involving professional football players, more people are recognizing the signs of abuse in their own relationships and reaching out for help.

“Our call volume has remained at much higher levels than normal. Callers are reaching out to us to better understand abuse and many are seeking help that is long overdue. As awareness grows, so does the demand for our services and so does the need for more resources to serve those affected by abuse,” said Jones. “While the NFL commitment is significant and it will help us reach our goal of answering every call, we will still rely on the generosity of all of our partners and individual donors to meet the ever-increasing need for education, public awareness and additional victims’ services.”

Of those who reach out to The Hotline for help, 95% are experiencing emotional and verbal abuse including degradation, insults, humiliation, isolation, stalking, and threats of violence against themselves and their children and loved ones. Often, the abuser threatens suicide. More than 70% are experiencing severe physical violence and say they’ve been slapped, choked, punched, pistol whipped and beaten. This physical abuse has resulted in bruises, cuts, miscarriages, broken bones. Nearly 10% of those reaching out to The Hotline for help have experienced sexual violence. They’ve been raped, exploited, sexually coerced, even forced to get pregnant in order to keep them tied to their abuser.

About the National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a non-profit organization established in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Operating around the clock, confidential and free of cost, the Hotline provides victims and survivors with life-saving tools and immediate support. Callers to the hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can expect highly trained advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in more than 200 languages. Visitors to can find information about domestic violence, safety planning, local resources, and ways to support the organization.

The Hotline relies on the generous support of individuals, private gifts from corporations and foundations and federal grants. It is funded in part by Grant Number 90EV0407/03 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/ Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, a division of the Family and Youth Services Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Administration for Children and Families or the U.S. Department of HHS.


Quick Look: Police Reports and Protective Orders

police-and-POVictims of domestic violence often feel isolated and aren’t sure where to turn for help. At the Hotline, we’re here to help you find resources and discuss your options if you are in an abusive relationship. For some victims, those options include taking legal action against their abusive partners. Often these actions include filing police reports or obtaining a protection order.

Keep in mind that proceeding with a police report or a protection order is a personal choice, and you should only take these steps if you feel safe doing so. But first it’s important to understand what these documents are and what they can do for you.

Police Reports

A police report is one way to document the abuse and can be the first step toward filing criminal charges. You will be asked detailed questions about the incident and about any witnesses and the perpetrator.

How do I file a police report?
It’s best to file as soon as possible after an incident. Typically, you will need to go to the police station to file a report, or an officer can be dispatched to you. You may be able to file the report by phone by calling your area’s non-emergency number. In some cities you can file the report online. If it’s been a while since the incident happened, you’ll need to bring as much evidence as possible (ex. Journal/log, photos, witnesses, etc.). Provide as much information as you can as clearly as possible, and be sure to express if you feel threatened or have any fears about your partner. Anyone can file a police report, regardless of age (but if you are under 18, the police might contact your parent/guardian).

Why would I file a police report?
It is a way to document abuse and create an official record for the abusive partner, which may be used as evidence in a criminal or civil case.

What happens when I file a police report?
Once you file the report, you become a witness in the state’s case against the perpetrator. The case will be assigned to a detective in your precinct, who will begin an investigation. The detective will likely contact you to ask additional questions and discuss the case. Once the detective has completed the investigation, he/she will submit a report to the County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

While you do not control whether the case is prosecuted, most prosecutors will not go forward without your consent. Prosecutors usually consider many factors in determining whether to prosecute without a victim’s consent, including whether there is enough evidence to support a conviction without the victim’s testimony. If you have any questions or concerns throughout the process, you have the right to contact the case detective and/or the prosecuting attorney’s office.

Protective Order

A protective order is an official legal order issued by a state court that requires the abusive person to stop the violence and abuse and maintain a certain distance from the victim. Depending on where you live, it can also be called a restraining order, protection order, an injunction, or an order of protection.

How do I get a protective order?
Different states have different processes, but as a general rule, appropriate forms have to be filled out and submitted to the county court house. A court date will be scheduled and both parties will be notified. If you are under 18, you will likely need parental consent.

Why would I get a protective order?
A protective order is legal protection against the abusive partner and can be enforced by police. Special provisions can be requested such as custody of children, continued financial support, getting the abuser to leave the residence, etc. Some states also require the abusive partner to surrender their firearms.

It’s important to note that while a protective order may help keep an abusive partner away from you, it does not work in every case. Some abusive partners continue to contact and abuse their partners despite the presence of a protective order. Some may become even more dangerous after an order is filed because it threatens their power and control over the relationship. While you cannot predict someone’s behavior, you know your situation best, and it’s a good idea to consider how your partner might react based on what you know about them before obtaining a protection order.

What happens when I get a protective order?
When the abuser does something that the court has ordered them not to do, or doesn’t do something the court has ordered them to do, they may have violated the order. You can ask the police or the court (or both, depending on the violation) to enforce the order. If you are not able to contact the police when the violation occurs, they should take a report if you call them soon afterwards. In some cases, violating a protective order might result in a misdemeanor or felony criminal conviction and punishment. These types of violations can also later be addressed by a civil court, and it is often a good idea to bring them to the court’s attention.

Things to consider before obtaining a protective order:

  • PROS: You will have legal documentation of protection; the abuse may stop; provisions can be made for children, finances, etc.; can still be enforced if you move or leave your home state
  • CONS: You will have to see the abusive partner in court; abuse may not decrease/abusive partner may not obey the order; some orders are not always enforced

Please note that police reports and protective orders are just parts of an overall safety plan and do not guarantee your safety from an abusive partner. Remember, you are the most knowledgeable person about your own situation, and you must use your own judgment about what is best for you. If you are considering taking legal steps against an abusive partner, we strongly recommend that you get in touch with a legal advocate, and we can help you find one in your area. Please call us at 1-800-799-7233 or chat online from 7am-2am CST.

Resources and additional information:

  • VINE (Victim Information & Notification Everyday): This service provides information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day
  • Full Faith and Credit: Refers to Section 2265 of VAWA and requires that a valid protection order issued in one state be treated another state as if it were one of its own. It enables the victim to travel safely without having to establish jurisdiction or secure a new protective order.
  • WomensLaw provides legal information and support to victims of domestic violence and assault.
  • Legal Services Corporation provides legal assistance to low-income individuals and families throughout the nation.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Receives Long-term Commitment of Resources from National Football League

AUSTIN, TEXAS – The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) is pleased to announce that the National Football League (NFL) has committed to providing significant resources to the organization that will allow the organization to answer virtually every call, chat and text from domestic violence victims, survivors, their loved ones and even abusers for the next five years.

“We have never had the funding needed to meet the demand for our services from those seeking help with domestic violence and dating abuse. Last year, because of this lack of resources, more than 77,000 calls went unanswered. Recent domestic violence incidents involving NFL players pushed the capacity of our organization to unprecedented levels,” said Katie Ray-Jones, president and chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “Because of this long-term commitment by the NFL to provide The Hotline with much-needed resources, our services will finally be accessible to all those who need us when they bravely take the first step to find safety and live a life free of abuse.”

Immediately following the release of video last week showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in an elevator, the Hotline’s call volume increased by 84% and has remained higher than normal with spikes happening after each new report about domestic violence charges against NFL players. As the controversies continue, the Hotline has been unable to answer nearly 50 percent of the calls, chats and texts.

“Our decision to enter into a long-term partnership with the NFL will help us immediately increase our ability to hire additional advocates, improve our infrastructure and provide more education about domestic violence that affects one in four women and one in seven men in their lifetimes,” said Maury Lane, chair of the board of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “It is important that we answer their calls.”

Of those who reach out to the Hotline for help, 95% are experiencing emotional and verbal abuse including degradation, insults, humiliation, isolation, stalking, and threats of violence against themselves and their children and loved ones. Often, the abuser threatens suicide. More than 70% are experiencing severe physical violence and say they’ve been slapped, choked, punched, pistol whipped and beaten. This physical abuse has resulted in bruises, cuts, miscarriages, broken bones. Nearly 10% of those reaching out to the Hotline for help have experienced sexual violence. They’ve been raped, exploited, sexually coerced, even forced to get pregnant in order to keep them tied to their abuser.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a non-profit organization established in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Operating around the clock, confidential and free of cost, the Hotline provides victims and survivors with life-saving tools and immediate support. Callers to the hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can expect highly trained advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in more than 200 languages. Visitors to can find information about domestic violence, safety planning, local resources, and ways to support the organization.

The Hotline relies on the generous support of individuals, private gifts from corporations and foundations and federal grants. It is funded in part by Grant Number 90EV0407/03 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/ Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, a division of the Family and Youth Services Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Administration for Children and Families or the U.S. Department of HHS.



Helping a Parent in an Abusive Relationship

how-to-helpWhen abuse is happening in a relationship, it can affect whole families, including children who are witnesses to the abuse and violence.

Watching your parent deal with an abusive relationship is extremely tough and can cause a range of emotions, like resentment, guilt, fear, grief, and anger. It can be especially difficult if you are still living at home or have younger siblings still living at home. Having feelings of love and attachment to our parents is very normal, even if one of them is abusive in some way. If you feel like something isn’t right in your family, but you also have those feelings at the same time, the situation can become confusing, complicated, or overwhelming.

We are often contacted by people of all ages whose parents are in abusive relationships. Like anyone who witnesses the abuse of someone they love, these callers and chatters want to know how to help the abused parent. They are understandably focused on making the situation “right” and ending the abuse. While every situation is unique and there is no “one size fits all” approach, we try to emphasize a few things:

It’s not your fault!
Above all, you need to know that the abuse is never your fault, and it’s never the victim’s fault. The choice to be abusive is the abusive person’s; only they are responsible for their behavior, and only they can change it. It is also not your responsibility to “rescue” your parent(s). It’s normal to spend a lot of time and energy looking for a way to fix something that’s causing so much pain, but you don’t deserve to be under this kind of pressure.

Why does a person become abusive? That’s a really tough question to answer, because every person is different. What we do know is that abuse is about power and control; an abusive person wants all the power and control in their relationships. Their abuse might be directed toward just one person, or their whole family. No matter what, no one deserves to live with abuse.

Leaving can be very difficult for a victim, for a lot of reasons
Leaving might seem like the best decision, but often a victim has many reasons for staying in an abusive relationship. Since an abusive person will do anything to maintain his or her power and control in the relationship, we know that leaving can also be a dangerous time for a victim. Leaving could be something your parent might want to plan for and work towards, but in the meantime it’s important to focus on staying as safe as you can and taking good care of yourself.

What can you do to help?

It’s really great that you want to help your parent, but something to remember is that we all have boundaries and that those boundaries should be respected. If your parent is being abused by their partner, their boundaries are not being respected by that person. Even though you may have the best intentions in helping your parent, it’s important to be respectful of them not wanting to talk about it at that moment. If that happens, you can work on the following suggestions:

Offer loving support
It’s hard to know what to do in situations like this, but what many victims need most is support without someone telling them what they “should” do. You can be a source of support for your parent if they are experiencing abuse. Finding ways to spend time alone with your parent – like watching a movie at home together, going to lunch, or doing an activity together – can give you the opportunity to talk safely and let them know you love them. You can remind your parent that you are concerned about them, and that they don’t deserve to be treated badly. If you don’t live with your parent(s), you could send your mom or dad funny or loving texts or emails, or call them to say you are thinking of them and you love them. It may not seem like much to you, but letting your parent know that you care about them can be incredibly validating and supportive for them. (Communicating directly about the abuse, especially through text or email, may not be safe.)

If you feel comfortable doing so, you might give your parent the number to a local resource or encourage them to contact the Hotline. Remember, though, that your parent has to take these steps for him or herself only if/when they feel safe and ready.

Encourage self-care, and practice it yourself
By self-care we mean taking care of yourself in any way that feels good to you, supports your well-being, and brings you comfort. People who experience abuse often don’t do self-care because they are made to feel like they don’t deserve love or care. It’s normal to lose sight of ourselves when we’re dealing with very stressful and scary situations. But self-care is just one healthy way to cope. Remind your parent that self-care is important for everyone – and try to practice it yourself.

Why is taking care of yourself so important? Because by doing what you can for your own well-being, you can enable yourself to continue being a source of support for your parent or siblings. Being able to create a safe mental space to help you stay grounded when things get tough not only helps you, but also the people around you.

Create a safety plan together
A safety plan is a personalized plan that includes ways to remain safe while in an abusive relationship, planning to leave, or after a person leaves. Safety planning can involve how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action and more. Whenever you can, sit down with your parent and your siblings, away from the abusive parent, and make a plan together about how you all can stay safe. If you need help brainstorming or finding resources in your area for your safety plan, you can always call the Hotline or our friends at loveisrespect.

If you are living with an abusive parent and they ever become abusive toward you, you have the right to seek help. If you are under 18, you can call the Child Abuse Hotline to speak directly to a hotline counselor.

We understand that this is such a difficult thing to experience and that you know your situation best. These tips are very general, and you should never follow any advice that makes you feel unsafe. Looking for support, help, or information is a huge step and shows incredible strength. Remember, you do not have to go through this alone. Our advocates at the Hotline are here for you 24/7 if you need to talk to someone; just call 1-800-799-7233. You can also chat online here on the website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time. Just be sure to call or chat from devices that your abusive parent doesn’t have access to.


Ray Rice, the NFL, and What We Know About Domestic Violence

no-excuseThe recent events and media coverage surrounding Ray Rice and the NFL have created a powerful swell of conversation about domestic violence. Many people are speaking outsharing personal stories, and calling for less victim-blaming and more accountability for abusers and their public enablers. While we are outraged by the stories we hear daily at the Hotline, we are heartened by the support of so many people who recognize that there is no excuse for abuse.

Often, a lack of understanding about the dynamics of abuse leads to misguided comments and notions about why victims stay with their abusive partners, or how domestic violence isn’t that pervasive of an issue (because it’s so often hidden from the public). At the Hotline, there are a few things we know for sure about domestic violence:

Domestic violence happens everyday, in every community. Studies show that domestic violence affects roughly 12 million people in the United States. However, abuse is often not reported, in many cases due to a victim’s fear or not knowing where to turn. Maybe you know someone – a friend, a family member, a coworker – who is experiencing abuse at home with their partner. Maybe you’re experiencing it yourself. Whatever the case, please know that help is out there.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or religion.

Domestic violence isn’t just physical abuse. The media tends to focus on physical abuse, but domestic violence includes emotional, verbal, sexual, and/or financial abuse.

Domestic violence is complex. Each person’s situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to domestic violence. There are many reasons victims stay in abusive relationships. What they need – what they deserve – are resources and support to help them find their own paths to safety.

Domestic violence is not the victim’s fault. The choice to be abusive lies solely with the abusive partner.

We believe that ALL people deserve to feel safe and respected in their relationships. If you or someone you know needs help, we are here to support you. Contacts to the Hotline are anonymous and confidential. Call us 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or chat here on our website Monday through Friday, 9am-7pm CT.

$20 covers the total cost of one phone call to the Hotline, and one phone call can be life-changing. If you would like to show your support for domestic violence victims and survivors with a donation, please fill out our secure online donation form. Thank you!


Campus Safety Awareness Month

campus-safetyIt’s that time of year again: college campuses are welcoming students for the start of a new semester. Incoming first years are buying books, moving into dorms, and brimming with excitement about what lies ahead. Of course, knowing that one in five college women is sexually assaulted or raped on campus and one in three teens experiences dating violence, we all want to make sure they stay safe.

September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month, which aims to call attention to issues of campus safety and help young adults learn how to stay safe and help keep others safe, too. Throughout the month, our friends at loveisrespect are focusing on bystander awareness and discussing how active bystanders can help prevent assault and violence.

According to loveisrespect, being an active bystander means:

The Clery Center is providing professional development trainings each week in September on topics ranging from dating violence and sexual assault to fire safety. Sign up with them to receive email updates and learn more about how your school can keep students safe!

We believe that everyone deserves safe and healthy relationships, on campus or off. If you have a child who is attending college this fall, there are a few things you can do to help them stay safe and cultivate healthy relationships while away at school:

Keep the lines of communication open. Your child might be gaining more independence, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need you anymore. Regular check-ins by phone, email, or Skype can keep you up to date on what’s happening in their lives and let them know that you’re still there for them.

Familiarize yourselves with relevant laws, university policies, and available resources. The Clery Act and Title IX are important to know. Not sure what a school’s sexual assault policies are? Here are 18 questions to ask. Not Alone, the White House’s official website on campus sexual assault, also lists pertinent resources and information about campus sexual assault.

Talk to them about healthy relationships. This should be an ongoing conversation, but it’s always good to go over the basics.

Talk to them about consent. What it is, what it looks like.

Reiterate digital safety. Technology plays a big role in the lives of college students, so staying safe online is still a good topic to discuss.