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pregnancy-2

Staying Physically, Emotionally and Financially Safe During Pregnancy

This post was contributed by Rebecca, a Hotline manager, and is the second in a series about pregnancy and abuse. Read the first post here

pregnancy-2While often portrayed as a magical, happy time, pregnancy—with the associated physical, emotional, social, and financial changes—can be challenging, even with a supportive partner in a healthy relationship. Because an abusive partner may see the unpredictability of pregnancy as an opportunity to increase power and control, if you’re pregnant it’s important to explore options to enhance your physical, emotional, financial and legal safety.

Your physical safety needs may change as pregnancy progresses; what may seem safe at one point may not feel that way a few weeks later. Getting prenatal care may be a way to maintain both your and the baby’s health during this time. It also may be a way to connect with a service provider that you can turn to if you are concerned for your safety. If you are unsure about accessing prenatal care, you may be able to get more information by contacting 211, a local resource line available in most communities. You can also sign up for Text4Baby, a free service that sends you tips about staying healthy during pregnancy up through your child’s first birthday. If you have concerns about not being insured, you may be able to get insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Survivors of domestic violence can enroll at the healthcare.gov website at any time, using the Special Enrollment Period (SEP). For more information about this option, visit the What’s New? area of the Health Cares About IPV website.

During pregnancy, your center of gravity shifts and joints loosen to allow for easier childbirth. This can make getting around more difficult. If you live with the abuser, consider mapping the safest routes out of the home or apartment from the rooms where you spend the most time. Try avoiding rooms with weapons, hard surfaces and areas near stairs. If it is becoming difficult to drive, consider identifying some safe people that you can contact if you need transportation. Keeping cab or bus fare stowed in a packed bag may be another way to get out quickly if needed.

Protecting and maintaining your emotional energy during this time is also important and closely linked to physical safety, as stress can adversely impact your pregnancy. Creating a self-care plan is one way to achieve this. Some people use prenatal yoga, walking in nature, journaling, art or spending time with loved ones as part of their self-care. Creating social connections with other parents can be particularly important during pregnancy. Meetup.com is a website where you may be able to a group of parents expecting children with a due date close to yours. Other parenting and social media websites may have similar groups that you can join to find support and connection. If finding a group online doesn’t fit your needs, you could ask your healthcare provider to ask about classes or programs for expecting parents. Seeking out the support of a counselor may be an additional way to get perspective during this time. The Hotline can offer information about local domestic violence programs that offer counseling and support groups. If you’re looking for counselors that specialize in other areas, GoodTherapy is a website that offers assistance finding a local counselor, as well as articles and resources on issues that impact emotional well-being, including during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is also a time when financial and legal options begin to shift. Knowing your rights around these issues is a first step to creating a plan to protect yourself and your new child. While workplaces may differ in their support for pregnant employees, there are certain employment laws that they must follow. The Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau has a website where you can review your rights during pregnancy and as a new parent. Some state domestic violence coalitions also have dedicated projects that offer support for protecting yourself financially. One great example is the Economic Justice Project of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence called Get Money, Get Safe, which offers general tips on banking, credit and other issues for survivors of domestic violence. Knowing your options regarding custody can also be confusing, especially if you have several plans that you are considering for both your and your future child’s safety. WomensLaw offers a wealth of legal information including custody information and parental kidnapping laws searchable by state.

Safety plans are not one size fits all. Each person has a right to safety and a right to define how that will look, and these suggestions are not meant to serve as a guarantee or a direction. At The Hotline, we believe that you are the foremost expert in your situation. If you see some ideas that seem fitting and would like to expand on them, you’re always welcome to call us 24/7 or chat online between 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. (CST) to fully discuss creating a personalized safety plan.

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Drugs, Alcohol and Abuse

drugs-alcohol-abuseBeing in an abusive relationship is already a difficult and dangerous situation. Alcohol and/or drug abuse only make matters worse. When a partner is under the influence, the risk of all types of abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, financial, and sexual) increases, leading to a very troubling situation.

Blaming the Booze

“It wasn’t me, it was the beer talking!”
“I would never do that if I was sober.”
“I’m not really that person. That’s who I am when I’m high.”

An abusive partner who is also using alcohol or drugs might make statements like these. They may blame drugs or alcohol instead of accepting responsibility for their behavior or actions. It can be all too easy to just accept what they say and move on without addressing the real underlying issue of abuse. We often hear from survivors who say, “If I could just get them to go to rehab, everything would get better.” But because drugs and alcohol aren’t the root issues of abuse (abuse is about power and control), achieving sobriety doesn’t necessarily end the abuse. There are plenty of people who use drugs and alcohol and don’t become abusive. Drugs and alcohol can affect a person’s judgment and behavior, but using them doesn’t excuse violence or abuse.

In this article about domestic violence myths, Claudia Garcia-Rojas, co-director of the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women, explains: “In partner abuse situations, drugs and/or alcohol certainly play a role but they are not the root cause of the violence. Assuming so perpetuates the idea that partner abuse is caused by a single issue, when in fact, there are multiple factors that contribute to the dynamics of why a partner chooses to be either emotionally, physically, financially, and/or psychologically abusive, though it is very common that an abuser will use alcohol/drugs as an excuse for why they are abusive. While these problems overlap, they are independent of one another.”

The Cycle of (Substance) Abuse

When one partner has a drinking or drug problem, a vicious cycle can occur. The issues created by their habit — like financial stress, neglect of responsibilities, or legal problems — may lead to fighting with their partner, and then to take the stress off, they may drink or use more drugs. While this cycle continues, abusive behaviors might get worse. Additionally, the stress of the abuse might cause victims to turn to drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms.

Treatment is available to help with drug addiction and abusive behavior, including counseling, self-help meetings and support groups. However, an abusive partner who is using drugs must decide for themselves to seek help for both their abusive behavior and their substance abuse.

If you or someone you know is in a relationship with a person who is abusive while using drugs and/or alcohol, we are here for you. Call us anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat online from 7AM-2AM CT.

Additional resources:

dvinthenews

Everyone Deserves a Safe Relationship

You’re probably aware that the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the extremely popular book series, opens today nationwide. Despite the popularity of the series, many different voices have criticized the books for portraying and even romanticizing unhealthy and abusive behaviors.

Some members of the media and other groups have also commented about the characters participating in BDSM. We at The Hotline want to note that a BDSM relationship is not inherently abusive. People in the BDSM community enter into consenting and healthy relationships every day.

A healthy relationship includes open communication, mutually agreed-upon boundaries and consent from all partners. No matter how a relationship is defined, behaviors like verbal abuse, sexual violence, jealousy, possessiveness, stalking and damaging or destroying belongings are all signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. If you have questions about your own relationship, if you feel unsafe or if you are feeling triggered, advocates are here to support you 24/7, confidentially and without judgment.

At The Hotline, we believe everyone deserves to be in a healthy and safe relationship.

DVAM-gandinle

How I #SeeDV: Christopher Gandin Le

DVAM-gandinle

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why
we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women
-Tupac Shakur

The song Keep Ya Head Up by Tupac was what made me realize I had to care about violence against women, and for me, caring meant to fight. I know that this anthem is over-simplifying a complex set of issues, and that referring to women as “our women” is inherently problematic. But this song was part of my wake-up moment. I reference it here because I’m very interested in that thing that changes a man from a bystander (or worse, a perpetrator) of violence against women into a man that instead sees it as his duty to make the world safe for women (and men! And everyone!) to live in without fear of physical, verbal or emotional abuse.

I want to frame this post on the next few lines of the song:

I think it’s time we kill for our women

Kill for me meant: tear down.

We have to tear down rape culture. When I was a teenager and first heard the statistics of rape, I promised myself that if anyone ever did rape one of my friends I would kill the rapist. And then one of my best friends was date raped, and instead of becoming a raging vigilante I chose to do as much as possible to end the systemic problems that lead to rape and to provide caring and healing services to victims. There is still that fight impulse though, the anger that some d-bag hurt someone that I love – knowing what to do with that impulse is vital. Activism > Jail-time.

Time to heal our women

This doesn’t mean what Tupac thought it means. We can’t heal someone in the same way that we can’t empower them to become stronger. Healing and power come through time, through self-care. What we can do is to create a culture where women’s voices are heard and amplify those voices wherever possible. Projects like I Believe You | It’s Not Your Fault are amazing examples of what happens when people don’t try to explain or excuse an incident. This is where true healing begins, and our role as men is to know when to rally around someone and help and when to just say I believe you, I’m here to hold that truth for you and not to judge or try to fix anything.

Be real to our women

Being real, not just to women in our lives, but to men and to ourselves. This one might be the most important, and the thing that we as men actually have the power to change. Men account for 2/3 of the suicide deaths in the U.S. 85% of murder-suicides are perpetrated by men, it’s men that have committed virtually all mass shootings in America.

We can no longer afford to ignore our emotions; being silent and strong is deadly. In 2015, I’m launching a nonprofit with the mission of creating safe emotional spaces for men. The goal is not to reduce stigma of seeking mental health care, but to design and create interventions and programs that are stigma-free by design. I believe that men are much more in touch with emotions than people give us credit for, but that we don’t have a place to express them in safe, open and real ways. It’s exciting, and it’s scary because I don’t have any answers, just questions that will hopefully lead to a new way of being a man in this world.

So, that song, now 21 years old, was what made me realize that I had to do everything in my power to reduce domestic violence and rape culture. What was your wake-up moment?

gandinle-125Christopher Gandin Le has helped launch basically all of the national suicide prevention programs. These include the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the National Suicide Prevention LifelineVeterans Crisis Line and CrisisChat.org. He established the initial Facebook/Suicide prevention partnership and co-wrote the Facebook policy on suicide in 2005, and has since helped Google, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest create similar policies. Chris is on the boards of Connect Safely and the Lifeline and Crisis Text Line, and through his company Emotion Technology he continues to link social media companies and non-profit organizations. He was an Aspen Institute Scholar and an Aspen Challenge presenter. Having launched these national and international programs, he’s now looking to fill in the gaps, to find what’s missing in our mental health system and create tools through which communities can support their own systems of healing and care.

male-victims

Men Can Be Victims of Abuse, Too

male-victimsAt the Hotline, we know that domestic violence can affect anyone – including men. According to the CDC, one in seven men age 18+ in the U.S. has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his lifetime. One in 10 men has experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. In 2013, 13% of documented contacts to the Hotline identified themselves as male victims. Although they make up a smaller percentage of callers to the Hotline, there are likely many more men who do not report or seek help for their abuse, for a variety of reasons:

Men are socialized not to express their feelings or see themselves as victims.
Our culture still clings to narrow definitions of gender (although there are signs that this is slowly shifting). Young boys are taught not to express their emotions, to “suck it up” and “be a man.” Tony Porter calls this the “man box” in his well-known TED talk. This can be extremely detrimental to boys as they age, especially if they find themselves in an abusive relationship. Men may feel discouraged to talk about what’s going on in their personal lives, or they feel like no one will believe them. They may not even realize that they are being abused, or they might assume they should just deal with the abuse on their own.

Pervading beliefs or stereotypes about men being abusers, women being victims.
The majority of domestic violence stories covered by the media are about male perpetrators and female victims who are typically in heterosexual relationships. While we certainly don’t want to minimize this violence, focusing on only one type of situation renders invisible the many scenarios that do not fit this definition, including abusive relationships among homosexual, bisexual, and trans* men. This might make many victims feel like they don’t have the space or the support to speak out about their own experiences and seek help.

The abuse of men is often treated as less serious, or a “joke.”
We’ve seen this in action recently with the elevator footage of Solange Knowles attacking Jay-Z. When a man is abused, many people don’t take it as seriously (in part due to the previous two reasons we’ve mentioned). The truth is, abuse is not a joke, in any situation, between any two people. All victims deserve support and resources to help them feel safe.

Many believe there are no resources or support available for male victims.
It can seem like the majority of shelters and services for domestic violence victims are women-focused. However, services for male victims do exist. Most federal funding sources require that domestic violence services be provided to all victims of abuse. Our advocates can provide information, assist with safety planning, and/or find local resources, if available. They can also help brainstorm alternative options if local programs are not meeting the requirements for male victims, including who a caller may be able to contact if they believe they have experienced discrimination.

No matter what your situation is, the Hotline is here to help, confidentially and without judgment. Please give us a call anytime, or chat online from 7am-2am CST.

A Few Resources for Men:

dvinthenews

Violence is Never Okay (Or a Joke)

dvinthenewsFor the past few days, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about the incident between Jay-Z and Beyonce’s sister, Solange. Quick recap: footage was leaked to TMZ of Solange physically attacking Jay-Z in an elevator, while a bodyguard attempted to restrain her and Beyonce stood by. No sound was available with the footage, so we don’t know what was said between any of them, and (so far) no one involved has come forward with an explanation (Update: they have released a statement). In fact, it seems like they’re all doing their best to pretend it didn’t happen.

Plenty of people all over the internet have been speculating about the reasons for the attack, and unfortunately many are choosing to make jokes about it (for examples, just check Twitter). At the Hotline, we believe that jokes about violence only serve to diminish people’s perception of its severity. Abuse in any relationship – whether it’s between family members, friends, or people in an intimate partnership – is not acceptable, no matter the “reasons” behind it or the gender of the people involved.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, or if you have questions about domestic violence, our advocates are here to help. Please give us a call anytime, or chat online whenever the chat button is active.

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Building Your Case: How to Document Abuse

document-the-abuseIf you are in an abusive relationship and are in the process of taking (or deciding to take) legal action against your abusive partner, documentation of your partner’s abusive behaviors can be an important component of your case.

It’s worth noting that each state has different laws about what evidence and documentation can be used in court. Speaking with a legal advocate in your state might better prepare you for your unique situation (our advocates at the Hotline can help locate a legal advocate near you). According to WomensLaw, in most states evidence can include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Verbal testimony from you or your witnesses
  • Medical reports of injuries from the abuse
  • Pictures (dated) of any injuries
  • Police reports of when you or a witness called the police
  • Household objects torn or broken by the abuser
  • Pictures of your household in disarray after a violent episode
  • Pictures of weapons used by the abuser against you
  • A personal diary or calendar in which you documented the abuse as it happened

Below are a few actions you can take to create documentation, if you are able to or feel safe doing so:

Visit the doctor. More and more, doctors and gynecologists are trained to recognize signs of abuse. Your health care provider could also be a safe resource for disclosing the abuse. If you’re visiting a doctor for an injury, ask them about safe ways they can make notes about the abuse — ex. Some can write “cause of an injury” without it having to go to the police.

Consider outside documentation. Do you have a trusted friend, coworker or family member who knows what’s going on and would be willing to help? There are many ways they can help document the abuse — whether that’s a coworker making note of times your partner calls you at the office, or a friend holding your journal at her house.

Create a stalking log. If your partner is stalking you, creating a stalking log can be very helpful to your case. The National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center has examples of stalking logs (in PDF and Word formats) as well as additional information on stalking.

Learn more about police reports. Always ask questions. Call your local police department’s non-emergency number and find out about the protocols and procedures of filing a police report — ex. Like filing about a lost bike. Ask, “Hypothetically, if there was something that was happening that I would want to report…” This can help you prepare for filing a police report if you need to, which creates a paper trail of the abuse.

Take pictures. A digital camera or your phone camera may not always be safe. Consider getting a disposable camera. Another option is for someone else to take the pictures and keep them for you.

Let a call go to voicemail. Is your partner calling over and over? Let it go to voicemail once and save the voicemail.

Save digital evidence. Do you have a smartphone? Most have the “take a screenshot” option. Thirty missed calls from your abusive partner? Take a screenshot of that. Threatening texts? Instead of responding to them, take a screenshot of them. These screen shots get saved in your images folder, so remember to send them on to a friend and delete them. If your partner sends threatening emails, don’t respond to them, but consider saving them in a folder in your inbox.

If you’re not sure if making documentation of your abuse would be safe, always go with your gut. It’s very important to keep in mind that you are the expert on your situation, and what works for one person may not be a safe idea for another person.

We are not legal advocates at the Hotline, but we are able to offer support and refer you to the local or state resources that might be helpful to you. Give us a call anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).