My boyfriend goes into the kitchen, and there are dishes in the sink. I’m sitting on the couch, aware that this is one of his only pet peeves. The instantaneous trigger reaction begins, and my whole body begins to pump adrenaline. Then I take a breath, then another deeper one, and remind myself that this is now. This is my boyfriend, the most gentle, loving man I have ever known. The trigger reaction, locked deep within my molecules, comes from living with a man whose reaction to dishes in the sink very likely could have been screaming anger, dishes being thrown and broken or even physical violence – all of this inflicted on my mother. I lived with that man for the first eleven years of my life.
“It’s none of my business.”
“That’s a family matter.”
“They will work it out eventually.”
Those are just some of the statements I continue to hear about domestic violence. Addressing domestic violence with care and empathy is important, and intervening safely is critical. But oftentimes, it can be hard to know what to do or how to do it.
Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos shares about his personal experience with domestic violence and discusses ways we can help others experiencing abuse.
This post was written in partnership with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Greater Than AIDS initiative
According to recent studies, one in three women experiences intimate partner violence (IPV). For women with HIV, it is one in two.
While IPV is a major issue for many women in the U.S., there is less discussion about the concerning connection with HIV. Women with an abusive partner are more likely to have forced and/or risky sex and may be less able to negotiate the use of protection, putting them at increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The depression that often accompanies abuse can make it harder for women living with HIV to keep up with medications or stay connected to care. For some, sharing one’s status may increase abuse or bring on violence.
In most cases, deciding to tell someone that you have HIV is a personal choice. However, in the case of sexual relationships, it is a legal requirement in many states. There is no one best way to tell someone. Similarly, there is no sure way to know how those you tell will react.
The Well Project, a leading organization supporting women living with HIV, has some advice for disclosing safely:
- Share your status with your partner before becoming intimate. If a person feels they were put at risk or lied to, the risk of violence may be greater.
- Choose a public place with many people around. Find a spot that is private enough to have a conversation, but public enough to get help if you need it.
- Consider having a friend with you.
- Bring your partner to meet with your health care provider.
To bring more awareness to this issue, The Hotline, the Well Project and several other organizations have partnered with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Greater Than AIDS initiative to launch Empowered: Women, HIV and Intimate Partner Violence. For this campaign, Tonya Lewis Lee, lawyer and women’s health advocate, moderated a conversation with five women living with HIV, all of whom have experienced abuse from a partner.
Their conversation explores issues like understanding risk, getting help, finding love again and strategies for staying healthy. Campaign materials such as posters, flyers and a discussion guide are available for download here.
We hope that this campaign brings wider awareness to this issue and lets women living with HIV in abusive relationships know that they are not alone, and that help is out there.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, we can help. Call The Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central.
Today I am proud to announce that I have joined the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense, a new coalition founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions. This coalition brings together women leaders from across industries who share a commitment to combating gun violence and domestic abuse. In its work, the coalition will focus on advocating for action on commonsense laws that protect women and families from gun violence, and address the lethal links between access to guns and domestic violence. Our goals are to:
- Prevent stalkers and abusers from having easy access to guns;
- Close the background check loopholes in our federal laws that let felons and domestic abusers legally buy and own firearms; and,
- Strengthen existing laws and ensure lawmakers and stakeholders have the resources and training they need to prevent and address gun violence against women.
Firearms have always been part of the story of domestic violence and what abusive partners can do to their intimate partners. Women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered by a gun than women in other high-income countries, and abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm. In 36 states, more than half of intimate partner-related homicides of women in each state involved a gun.
Our advocates hear shocking stories every day. What becomes clear from these stories is that firearms violence is not just about homicides. It is a tool that abusive partners use to control and torture their intimate partners. In our 2014 survey on the use of firearms in domestic violence situations, 67% of respondents believed their partner was capable of killing them, which creates enough fear to keep victims from leaving. Of the respondents whose partners had access to guns, more than 1 in 5 said their partners had threatened to use a firearm to hurt the victims, their children, pets or other family members.
Knowing these numbers, and with other instances of gun violence continually in the headlines, the time for action is now. We need everyone in the community – including employers – to be aware of this deadly issue and understand how they have a role to play, whether they are a business or faith leader, someone who provides housing in the community, someone who provides financial assistance, or someone who is a good friend or work colleague willing to support the survivor as she tries to deal with the violence.
If there were a rash of burglaries or muggings in our communities, we’d be advocating for police and the courts to take action. Firearms violence in intimate partner relationships is another crime that we shouldn’t accept as something that just happens.
We can change this. We can help victims become survivors. We can’t afford to do nothing. We need to act now.
Learn how you can get involved at Americans for Responsible Solutions.
Katie Ray-Jones is the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect.
One of the defining moments in my career happened just a few short months ago. I was speaking to a group of young women in college about healthy relationships and how to recognize the signs of dating abuse. The conversation became a little personal, and I began talking about a past relationship. While the relationship was not abusive, my partner exhibited unhealthy relationship behaviors. By telling my story, I opened the door for the women in the room to share their own to stories and support each other.
After the event, one of the women approached me and thanked me for being honest about my relationship. What stood out for me wasn’t the fact that she thanked me. It was that she said that I looked like I had the “perfect” life and wouldn’t be the “type” of person who would be in an unhealthy relationship. That single moment showed me the power of sharing our stories.
By openly talking about domestic violence and dating abuse, we can dispel the myth that there is a “type” of person who experiences abuse. Domestic violence does not discriminate. It affects all types of people – no matter their race, gender, age, education or income. There is not one “type” of domestic violence victim or survivor. Every situation is unique.
Also, when we speak out, we are acknowledging that domestic violence is a widespread issue that affects every community. Seeing a story play out every once in a while in the media can make it seem like domestic violence doesn’t happen that often. Well, it does. Domestic violence affects more than 12 million people each year in the U.S. With so many people in our country affected by abuse, we can begin to see the real and urgent need to expand resources, education and prevention efforts.
Finally, sharing our stories helps other victims and survivors feel less alone. Talking more openly about our experiences, when we feel safe doing so, might encourage others to come forward and find support. After all, abuse is never the victim’s fault, and no one ever deserves to be abused. The only person to blame is the person who chooses to be abusive. When we as a society understand this, we will go a long way in helping to erase the shame and blame that can keep victims and survivors from seeking help.
Today, and every day, I am committed to speaking out about healthy relationships, domestic violence and my own experiences. I hope you will join me and share how you #SeeDV with your friends, family, classmates and coworkers. By doing so, we can work together to create a society that doesn’t stay silent about domestic violence or ask why a victim would stay in an abusive relationship. We can shift the conversation and eventually create a world where domestic violence doesn’t exist.
Cameka Crawford is the chief communications officer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline and its youth-focused program, loveisrespect. For more than a decade, she has been committed advancing the communications and marketing efforts for corporate and nonprofit organizations.
This is our final How I See DV (#SeeDV) post to wrap up our 2013 Domestic Violence Awareness Month campaign. We are so grateful to everyone who participated and supported our efforts in October.
Today’s How I See DV perspective is written by Cora Harrington, the founder and chief editor of The Lingerie Addict. The Lingerie Addict is a fashion blog dedicated to lingerie, and has been featured on the websites for CNN, Vogue Italia, Forbes, and Time. Cora is a former domestic violence advocate, sexual assault crisis line worker, and family advocate for victims of violent crime. She currently lives and works in Seattle, WA.
In the last few decades, issues affecting health, and, in particular, women’s health, have taken center stage. From Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to American Heart Month in February, people are talking more and more about ways to get healthy and stay healthy. That’s a wonderful thing, and I’m glad these conversations are happening. But there’s still one issue that is all too often ignored in the discussion about health…and that’s domestic violence.
While anyone of any gender can be affected by intimate partner violence, 85% of domestic violence victims are women, and 1 out of 3 women in the United States will experience domestic in her lifetime. For African American women and Native American women, those percentages are shockingly higher; almost 50% of Native American women have been beaten, raped, or stalked by their partners, and intimate partner homicide is one of the leading causes of death for African American women aged 15 to 35.
More women require medical attention for domestic violence than for rape, muggings, and accidents combined, and domestic violence during pregnancy is the #1 cause of maternal mortality (maternal deaths) in America. Imagine. If we had these kinds of numbers for any other disease – heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes – people would be protesting in the streets demanding an immediate solution. But since the issue is intimate partner violence (a “personal matter” or a “domestic dispute”), the response, all too often, is just more silence.
I’m not a medical professional or a first responder, so I don’t see domestic violence on the “front lines,” so to speak. Nor am I a Domestic Violence Advocate (though I used to be). So if you’re someone like me reading this, who has a job that has nothing to do with intimate partner violence or sexual assault or the healthcare field, how is thinking of domestic violence as a public health issue possibly relevant to you?
Because a public health perspective helps to give a framework for both understanding DV and for talking with and being supportive of survivors of DV.
Sometimes, when a victim of domestic violence attempts to confide in a friend, that friend is less than supportive. Often, victims of domestic violence are asked why they don’t “just leave,” and have to cope with people implying that enjoy or even like the violence because they’re still in the relationship. However, those kinds of statements would be unthinkable for any other health issue.
No one would ask a cancer patient if she liked having cancer because she needed time to explore treatment options, make a treatment plan, or because she chose to reject one treatment in favor of another. No one would tell a PTSD survivor that he enjoyed having PTSD because he took awhile to find a therapist, tried multiple therapists, or even stopped and started therapy more than once. No one would tell a stroke survivor that she must have enjoyed having a stroke because she was concerned about her physical limitations or because she had financial worries. So why are these assumptions okay for survivors of domestic violence, many of whom have been physically and verbally battered into physical and emotional injuries? They’re not.
I’m not saying survivors of domestic violence are sick or unwell. Nor am I encouraging others to adopt a patronizing attitude towards them. I just think it’s worth thinking of other ways to frame this problem…and its solutions. After all, you probably know someone who’s dealing with domestic violence right now.
We know that today is November 1, but really, shouldn’t every month be Domestic Violence Awareness Month? We have two more #SeeDV posts, including today’s thought-provoking piece from Tasha Amezcua and Ursula Campos-Johnson of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.
Julio was scared to call the police. Last time he called, they refused to take the report. His partner Jim’s violent tactics were escalating. Jim made Julio feel isolated and ashamed of being gay, often reminding him of how his family kicked him out. Julio couldn’t reach out to his friends for help because all of his friends were Jim’s friends, too. Jim told Julio he would kill him if he tried to leave. Julio called a few domestic violence shelters. Most turned him away because he was a man. Finally, after many calls he was accepted to a shelter that had very little experience sheltering LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV).
Once in shelter Julio began attending mandatory group counseling for shelter residents. The group’s theme was “women supporting women,” so he felt out of place. When he finally spoke up in group about the violence he experienced, the residents mocked him. He tried to make friends in the shelter, but was greeted with homophobic remarks by staff and fellow residents. Julio looked to his caseworker for support, but all she could offer was that he should practice empathy, since he and the residents have similar experiences. Despite the homophobia of the residents and staff, Julio continued to attend group because he really needed the support and the shelter, and it was nearly impossible for him, a young gay man, to find another DV shelter that would accept him.
The anti-violence movement, and society at large, often make assumptions about the identities of IPV survivors. The assumption is that women are victims of IPV and men are abusive partners. For Julio and many LGBTQ IPV survivors, these personal biases result in institutional barriers that can lead to a survivor disengaging with services, if they are even able to receive services in the first place. Without full access to safe IPV services, including shelters and counseling, an LGBTQ identified survivor may feel as unsafe in the shelter as in their abusive relationship. In accessing services like shelters, many LGBTQ survivors of IPV experience secondary trauma, by service providers, shelter staff, and other shelter residents, either through overt homophobia and transphobia, or through more subtle barriers to critical services, like women-only support groups or heteronormative intakes.
The stakes for LGBTQ IPV survivors are high. It’s often difficult to imagine the deadly reality of IPV in LGBTQ communities when we’ve been socialized to believe that all the victims are ciswomen (cis or cisgender is a term used to describe people who, for the most part, feel that their gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. Cis is often used as a prefix, i.e. ciswoman) and all the abusive partners are men. So, here are the facts: IPV occurs within same sex relationships at the same rate as in heterosexual relationships, with a 25% to 33% prevalence rate. People of color, transgender, gender non-conforming people, and young people are disproportionately affected by IPV in LGBTQ relationships. The 2012 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence found that people of color made up the majority (62.1%) of IPV survivors. Transgender survivors were two (2.0) times as likely to face threats/intimidation within violent relationships, and nearly two (1.8) times more likely to experience harassment within violent relationships. The 2012 report also found that youth and young adults were close to two times (1.8) as likely to face anti-LGBTQ bias in IPV tactics as compared to non-youth.
LGBTQ people are dying as a result of IPV at a higher rate than ever before. 2012 saw the highest recorded number of LGBTQ IPV homicides: 21 in 2012, 2 more than in 2011, and 15 more than in 2010. Nearly half of LGBTQ IPV murder victims last year were gay men.
Key to reaching and providing effective support services to all survivors of violence is understanding that IPV survivors can be queer, transgender or gender non-conforming, straight or gay men, lesbian or bisexual women, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual transgender people. The people who harm are as diverse in gender and sexual orientation as the survivors we serve.
At the New York City Anti Violence Project (AVP), we collaborate with many IPV/DV service providers who historically serve heterosexual cisgender women. Making the transition to all gender and sexual orientation inclusive can seem like a daunting task. To offer support, AVP coordinates the New York State LGBTQ Domestic Violence Network, in which AVP staff and other network members support each other toward a shared commitment to “work towards the inclusion of LGBTQ survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence, specifically regarding LGBTQ shelter access and inclusion.”
Expanding accessibility to services for LGBTQ survivors is only possible because of the legacy of the battered women’s movement, feminism, and the hard work of domestic violence service providers. This is where we came from. This legacy opened shelters, insisted on visibility, and increased safety for many women survivors. Now it’s time to broaden access to ALL survivors of intimate partner violence, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This is a call to action for all of us, but especially service providers, to shift our understanding of who can and does experience intimate partner violence. With the reauthorization of an LGBTQ inclusive VAWA, it is time that all DV service providers realize the deep impact IPV has on all people, including LGBTQ survivors and victims. Only when we can expand our understanding of who can be a victim or a survivor can we begin to expand our services, including shelter, to all survivors of intimate partner violence.
Please note that the National Domestic Violence Hotline works hard to find a solution for all of our callers. Please call us if you need support or help at 1-800-799-7233.
About Our Contributors
Ursula Campos-Johnson is a New York City native, mixed race Latina, and survivor of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Ursula has worked with LGBTQ survivors of violence for over five years. Ursula is dedicated to promoting social justice within and outside of systems for many marginalized communities, especially Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, HIV-affected (LGBTQH) survivors of IPV, and youth impacted by violence. Ursula has done this through program development, direct services, and training and education. As an Intimate Partner Violence Counselor Advocate at the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), Ursula has created a unique support group model for LGBTQH survivors and victims of IPV and has lead an initiative at AVP to create a culturally competent IPV assessment model, inclusive of intersecting identities and free of assumptions around a binary understanding of gender identity. Ursula has provided workshops and trainings on intimate partner violence, sexual violence, hate violence and gender-based violence and their intersection with other forms of oppression, including poverty, sexism, heteronormativity, heteropatriarchy, and racism for service providers and community members. Ursula has presented at the Columbia School of Social Work, Columbia School of Nursing, CPS, the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter and has provided trainings to youth service providers at The Door, and Ali Forney Center. Ursula is currently an MSW candidate at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.
Tasha Amezcua, the Intimate Partner Violence & Sexual Violence Community Organizer in AVP’s Community Organizing and Public Advocacy department, supports coordination of statewide and local community organizing, public advocacy and policy programming related to LGBTQ intimate partner violence and sexual violence. Tasha develops and coordinates intimate partner violence and sexual violence programming and survivor-informed campaigns, conducts outreach to LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities in New York City, and develops the leadership of LGBTQ and HIV-affected community members and survivors to participate within organizing and advocacy campaigns. Tasha works to maintain and grow the work of the New York State LGBTQ Domestic Violence (DV) Network and provides technical assistance, training, and recruitment to the DV Network and serves as a liaison between AVP and the DV Network. She attended Columbia University, majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies, with a concentration in Queer Theories. Tasha, a femme-identified queer Chicana survivor of violence, is originally from Santa Ana, CA, but has called New York City her home away from home since 2003.
Today’s How I See DV perspective comes from Barbara Van Dahlen, named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Dr. Van Dahlen is the founder and president of Give an Hour. A licensed clinical psychologist who has been practicing in the Washington, D.C., area for over 20 years, she received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland in 1991. We’re excited to have her share her voice during our DVAM campaign.
Please help us understand what post traumatic stress is and how it differs from post traumatic stress disorder?
When a human being is traumatized, whether it’s due to combat, physical violence, natural disaster or something else, there are certain reactions that we expect people to have. Many of those are the symptoms that are now captured in the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress.
So if I’m in a car accident, we would expect that for quite some time I might be more jumpy, hyper-vigilant when pulling out of my driveway, I might have flashbacks of what happened, I might have bad dreams, I might get depressed… so all of these reactions are what we expect for the situation that I’m in following my accident. It only becomes a disorder if it doesn’t get resolved, if I don’t heal, if I don’t receive the support I need to address all of my understandable reactions and symptoms associated with this trauma.
What are some misconceptions around post-traumatic stress in the military and domestic violence?
Most people assume that PTS looks the same for everyone – many think of the Rambo version of PTS. That’s not the typical reaction at all. People who have experienced trauma, whether its due to combat or another event, can experience trauma differently from other folks who may have experienced the exact same event.
You might have two people who were in the same firefight — one person might become withdrawn and depressed, the other might become very anxious, agitated. A third person in the same fight might show no indication of stress – no interference with their functioning. People assume that PTS looks similar and in fact, the manifestation of PTS really varies. In addition it exists on a continuum. What it looks like today is not what it necessarily looked like six months ago and not what it will look like in six months.
Another misconception is that most soldiers/service members come home with PTS. That is not true either. Depending on the studies you look at — 18%, 20%, high is 35% depending on what we are assessing or measuring. Not everyone comes back with PTS.
Even if someone has PTS that doesn’t mean that they’re an ineffective partner, parent, employee, student. Many people function with the aftermath of trauma. There are some people with severe and possibly disabling PTS – but that’s not the case all of the time.
Also, domestic violence is not a symptom of PTS. That’s really important. PTS, especially when it’s very severe, might, in some people, make them more likely to be violent towards a partner if they’re already agitated and aggressive, if they’re not sleeping or if there’s substance abuse. PTS can be one unfortunate risk factor that may make violence more likely.
It depends on who the person is with PTS. We all carry around our predispositions, our tendencies, our personalities, our view of the world. And that will be compounded or affected by PTS. If someone was already a fairly controlling person, or tended to be hot-tempered but wasn’t ever violent before… if they become distressed and aggressive as a result of trauma, they may be more likely to engage in domestic violence.
Returning servicemen and women may experience PTS and exhibit violent behaviors when they didn’t before they left for duty. What do couples in this situation need to know?
PTS for both the person experiencing it and their partner can be very unnerving and scary because the person who has PTS may not know when a trigger may elicit a reaction, anxiety or aggression. So both partners need to come to understand what PTS is going to look like in themselves or their loved one. It doesn’t mean that the person cant be a good partner. It’s like being diagnosed with diabetes — if you don’t recognize what that means, if you don’t take it seriously, you can get yourself in serious trouble.
If the spouse/ partner reacts angrily to the PTS, because they’re hurt and miss the person they love and they’re angry that the person is having trouble sleeping, doesn’t seem to be the same, etc., it’s like throwing gasoline on the fire. The partner’s reaction can exacerbate a difficult and potentially volatile situation. It’s the same for the person experiencing PTS. I’ve heard soliders say that they learned to be aware of what triggered them and their reactions. They can also learn how to be more careful with their spouses – learn to be understanding of the feeling their spouses may have that are in reaction to the PTS. Couples can learn together – to decrease the risk of violence. But they have to work on it.
It’s important to take PTS seriously because under the wrong combination of circumstances, that can really lead to a very dangerous and very upsetting situation … especially if you add alcohol to one or both of the partners. A fight or anger that would normally dissipate with them going off to their own corners, may turn into something far more violent than it ever would have before.
And just because we can understand how/why the violence occurred, that doesn’t mean that we can – or ever should – tolerate it.
What are some behaviors that a person who experienced trauma might exhibit?
There are many ways a person might show that they are processing trauma, especially if they are a victim of domestic violence. Their self-esteem may deteriorate. You can see that both in what they say – they say negative comments about themselves, negative perceptions of themselves – and also how they take care of themselves or don’t. Their self-care will start to be affected, falter, fail. They’re not dressing the way they used to, with care. They’re not working out, they’re not eating healthy. Or maybe there’s substance abuse. So anything that is a self-care clue that somebody is suffering, we can often see those in people we care about and notice them.
We all go through ups and downs in our lives, but if you see people who don’t seem like themselves for extended periods of time, several days or weeks, it may be a reaction to trauma.
What are some myths around mental health and domestic violence?
One myth about mental health is that someone with mental illness is having mental illness makes you more likely to be violent. In fact, having a mental illness makes you more likely to be the victim of violence.
People with severe mental health issues, maybe schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are more likely to be the victim of domestic violence because they are often less able to take care of themselves, they are more vulnerable, their thinking is not always as clear.
In addition, mental health issues place a person at risk in other ways. Someone who is severely depressed may be less likely to step out of or seek help to get out of a domestic abuse situation. They may get more entrenched, and feel like “I’m worthless” because low self-esteem is part of the depression, so they see abuse as confirmation of how they feel. Or if someone has severe depression and is prone to being abusive, they might be more likely to become violent because of their mental health issue.
Those conditions — depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse — they don’t create domestic violence, or victims. They’re just risk factors on both sides .
About Our Contributor
Concerned about the mental health implications of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr. Van Dahlen founded Give an Hour in 2005 to enlist mental health professionals to provide free services to U.S. troops, veterans, their loved ones, and their communities. Currently, the network has nearly 7,000 providers, who have collectively given over $9.4 million worth of services.
Dr. Van Dahlen, a featured speaker at the October 2012 TEDxMidAtlantic “Be Fearless” event, has joined numerous panels, conferences, and hearings on issues facing veterans and has participated in discussions at the Pentagon, Veterans Administration, White House, and Congress. She has become a notable expert on the psychological impact of war on troops and families and a thought leader in mobilizing civilian constituencies in support of active duty service members, veterans, and their families. Working with other nonprofit leaders, Dr. Van Dahlen developed the Community Blueprint Network, a national initiative and online tool to assist communities in more effectively and strategically supporting veterans and military families.
Dr. Van Dahlen and Give an Hour have received numerous awards, including selection as one of the five winners of the White House’s Joining Forces Community Challenge, sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.
Today’s How I See DV perspective is by writer Alex Iwashyna who blogs at LateEnough.com. Late Enough is a humor blog, except when it’s serious. Alex is a freelance writer, poet and media consultant who writes about about her life intermixed with important ramblings on her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, her kids outsmarting her, and dancing like everyone is watching. We are very excited that she lent her voice — and support — to our campaign.
Celebrities seem to have it all — fame, fortune, the ability to get a book published that is poorly written and yet makes the best-seller list – not to mention the chefs, personal trainers and trips to exotic locales.
They are paid to look and act certain ways at certain times so I don’t mind the commentary on their dresses and hair and ability to act or sing. But I draw the line at holding celebrities to higher standards when it comes to domestic violence. I don’t think being famous gives people magical powers to escape abusive relationships quicker because, while they may have the financial means to leave, abuse is not a basic socio-economic problem. The women and men in these relationships are human beings who are going to respond like abused partners.
Take Rihanna and Chris Brown’s relationship. Almost everyone supported Rihanna when she left Chris Brown after the abuse went public, but when she forgave him and went back to spending time with him, people were mean and angry and ignorant. Ignorant because it takes seven times ON AVERAGE for a woman to leave her abusive partner. Maybe she could’ve been an anomaly and left the first time around, but she’s not. That doesn’t make her a bad role model. That makes her not yet even average. And the public’s reaction to this — the vitriol, the hate — makes it even harder for people to leave again. We set people up to not want to admit the abuse is happening again, to not be willing to seek help. Being kind, thoughtful and understanding is not condoning abusive behavior. Plus, what does an I told you so attitude even achieve?
Another very common reaction to abuse is to normalize it. “He’s just trying to make me better.” “I egged him on.” We rationalize because the truth that someone I love is also hurting me can be difficult to process or understand. “Real Housewife” Melissa Gorga recently wrote a book about her marriage, Love Italian Style. I have only read excerpts, but I noticed warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.
Men, I know you think your woman isn’t the type who wants to be taken. But trust me, she is. Every girl wants to get her hair pulled once in a while. If your wife says “no,” turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated. (an excerpt from her book, which is a quote of her husband ignoring consent. More quotes can be found on Jezebel)
In the book, she also shares how she is not allowed to go on overnight trips, get a job or say no to sex more than once a day. Most of the public response to her book is how terrible and gross and awful they are as a couple and she is for writing this as an advice book. But, setting her husband aside, Melissa Gorga is just human. She may have more reach than the average person but that does not make her immune to a very human reaction to unhealthy behaviors: normalizing it so she can survive. Instead of demonizing her, we can react by saying, “If your relationship looks like this, know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are places to find help.”
These same relationships are happening every day to people we know. Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience abuse over their lifetime. While I would never want anyone to go through domestic violence, seeing complex relationships play out in celebrities’ lives could help us comprehend our own experiences or to be more understanding of our friends and neighbors in similar situations. Will those we care about read how disgusted we are with people being abused or see someone they can turn to and trust to not be judged?
About Our Contributor
Alex Iwashyna holds a medical degree and a political philosophy degree and became a writer, poet and stay-at-home mom with them. She uses her unique perspective on her blog, LateEnough.com, to write funny, serious, and always true stories about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion, and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity. While Alex believes Domestic Violence Awareness Month is every month, she’s grateful to be participating in How I #SeeDV this October.
Every day, our hotline advocates take calls from all over the country. They speak to victims, survivors, individuals identifying as abusive, concerned friends and family members and others. They talk to people wondering how to leave, and others wondering how to rebuild their lives after they already have.
This past month, our advocates answered the hotline’s 3 millionth call — a milestone that represents those who have been positively impacted by our advocates but also the increasing need for lifesaving services. Help us recognize this moment by pledging 3 minutes of your time to talk to someone you know about healthy relationships and the resources available at the hotline.
This month for DVAM, we turned to our advocates and asked them to tell us how they #SeeDV. Here are some of their responses:
October is coming to an end but it’s not too late to get involved. This past week we continued to have an outpouring of responses and participation — check it out below, and don’t forget to tell us how you #SeeDV.
We’re approaching the final week of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the participation and support continues to be amazing. From re-tweeting our own content, to creating your own images and messages tagged with the #SeeDV hashtag, you’ve all shared powerful words throughout the month.
We’re approaching the final week of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the participation and support continues to be amazing. From re-tweeting our own content, to creating your own images and messages tagged with the #SeeDV hashtag, you’ve all shared powerful words throughout the month.
Today our special How I See DV guest is Tonya Turner, Director of Legal Services at Break the Cycle. In this position, she oversees the legal services program that represents young domestic and dating violence survivors between the ages of 12-24 in civil protection proceedings and custody matters. Tonya is an expert on LGBTQ dating abuse and has provided key trainings on the issue to law enforcement and the American Bar Association.
I provide holistic legal services to young LGBTQ survivors of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. I also train young people about healthy relationships so that they can better identify unhealthy or abusive ones.
Why did you get involved with this work?
I believe dating violence, stalking and sexual assault are often normalized and minimized and I wish to help shape a world where dating violence is not acceptable or tolerated.
What sustains you in this work?
The fact that I genuinely believe that helping one person actually makes a difference. I believe the impact of my work can really shape the way young people view relationships and assist them in making healthier choices.
What are some of the unique struggles people in abusive LGBTQ relationships face?
Many LGBTQ teens are not yet “out” to their parents or friends and may be afraid that an abusive dating partner will “out” them to friends or family. Also, many young LGBTQ survivors are afraid to ask for help because bullying or harassment may start or increase.
Many LGBTQ teens also are afraid that they will be not believed or taken seriously. Often adults believe that abuse between LGBTQ partners is always mutual, does not occur in lesbian relationships, or that the abuser is only the more dominate partner.
What would you say to someone who is hesitant to get help about their relationship because they are afraid of getting outed?
I would stress that everyone deserves to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Next, I would discuss their concerns about speaking to their parents. If they are not ready to come out, I would encourage them to safety plan and connect them with LGBTQ resources so that they could get additional support.
How do you define a healthy relationship?
A healthy relationship involves two people who can laugh together, talk about anything, encourage each other and respect each other’s differences. In a healthy relationship, your partner makes you feel like nothing is impossible and they will be right there with you.
We know you were involved with the creation of showmelovedc.org. Can you tell us about that project?
Many LGBTQ people do not feel supported or know their legal rights. Show Me Love was a campaign created to celebrate healthy LGBTQ relationships, and to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community about legal rights and resources available to people in unhealthy or abusive relationships.
Please complete this sentence. I see DV_______.
I see domestic violence not being tolerated as we empower people to have healthier relationships and they stand up and say violence is not acceptable.
About Our Contributor
Tonya Turner is currently the Director of Legal Services at Break the Cycle. In her position at Break the Cycle, Tonya trains Metropolitan Police Department Officers and adult service providers about domestic violence laws that impact young people and how to better help young people experiencing abuse. She has provided substantive and skills training with such programs as the ABA’s Commission on Domestic Violence Custody Institute, the National Institute on Civil Representation of Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Sexual Assault Who Are D/deaf, Hard of Hearing and/or with Disabilities, and Best Practices for Lawyers Assisting Pro Se Victims of DV with Civil Protection Orders. Tonya also does outreach and education on LGBTQ domestic and dating violence. She is a board member of Rainbow Response Coalition (RRC). RRC is actively committed to informing LGBT people in the Washington Metropolitan Area of their legal rights and ensuring that law enforcement officers respond to dating/domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking calls involving LGBT people appropriately. Tonya is also on the advisory board for Show Me Love- a local campaign to raise the awareness, inform survivors in DC’s LGBTQ communities about their legal rights, and direct people to resources about maintaining healthy and violence-free relationships. Tonya received her advanced degree from Rutgers School of Law.
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