More than 12 million people in the U.S. are affected by domestic violence each year. While domestic violence typically happens behind closed doors, in some cases it does happen in a public space or around friends or family members, meaning that other people may witness or be aware of the abuse. When we overhear or see something that doesn’t feel right, it can be difficult to know how to react. So, here are some tips and suggestions for what you might do to intervene and interrupt that violence.
This post was contributed by Alexander, a Hotline advocate
Here at The Hotline, we have conversations with family members, friends, coworkers and caring neighbors about what to do when someone they know is being abused. Knowing that someone in your life is being hurt is really difficult, and it’s normal to feel unsure about how to best approach this challenging situation. Many people feel like calling the police can be a way to help. In a moment of a crisis, it’s natural to want to reach out for support from local law enforcement; however, you may be surprised to hear that it’s not always the best response for an individual in an abusive relationship. Let’s examine several perspectives to figure out what the safest course of action could be to help support a person that you’re concerned about.
Before calling the police, consider these key points:
- If a person experiencing abuse has not created a safety plan with you about when to contact police on their behalf, doing so without the person’s consent can limit their opportunities to make choices based on what they personally know to be most beneficial to support their safety and well-being.
- The person experiencing abuse may not be in a place to speak honestly with law enforcement about the abuse. If law enforcement does show up, it might be safest for the person being abused to deny or downplay the abuse, particularly if the abusive individual is present.
- Having police involved could upset the abusive partner. When the police leave, the abuser might harm their partner more because police were involved.
- The police might not believe that abuse is happening. It’s common that the abusive partner will lie or manipulate the situation to police to get them to go away.
- The abusive partner might have connections to the police department. This can create a very difficult situation for the victim because the abusive partner is in a position of power outside of the relationship.
- If the victim is in a LGBTQ relationship, the police might hold the common (though incorrect) belief that abuse isn’t possible in these types of relationships.
One thing we always encourage is being mindful and respectful of what the person who is experiencing abuse wants in their situation. In an abusive relationship, the victim rarely (if ever) has their wishes or boundaries respected. Honoring boundaries and being respectful of what the victim wants can be a great way to show them what a healthy and supportive relationship looks like. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that it is not your responsibility to rescue someone or “fix” their situation. A person who is in an abusive relationship has the right to decide if/when they leave and how, and there are many reasons why a person might stay in an abusive relationship.
Aside from calling the police, there are many other ways you can help someone who is in an abusive relationship. Below are some alternative ways to help someone experiencing abuse:
- If you are a person the victim knows and trusts, talk to the victim about what they want. Try to find a safe time and place to speak with them (away from the abusive partner) and ask how you can best support them. They may not be ready or able to discuss the abuse with you; if this is the case, just let them know that you are there to support them in any way you can.
- Every time you hear abuse happening, keep a journal about the events. Mark the day it happens, the time it happens and what you heard or witnessed. This record can provide evidence if the victim does choose to approach law enforcement.
- Help the victim create a safety plan when you’re able to find a safe time and place to communicate. You can always contact one of our advocates to help you brainstorm.
- If you live next to the person and hear abuse happening, you could knock on the door and ask to borrow an item as a way to interrupt what’s happening.
- Reach out to a local or state domestic violence agency. Learn more about what abuse can look like, understand what the victim is going through and get more information on how you can offer support.
- If you live in a community with communal areas, like a mail room or laundry room, posting a flyer from The Hotline with contact information could be a way to help a person experiencing abuse reach out for support. You can click HERE to print contact information for The Hotline.
While we know that calling the police may not always be the safest option for a victim, there could be circumstances in which it might be necessary, for example, if the the victim is in imminent physical danger. Keep in mind that if at any point you personally feel in danger or unsafe, you have every right to contact police for yourself. Your personal safety and well-being is very important as well.
If you’re still struggling with how to support someone you know that’s experiencing abuse, you can check out our page on Help for Friends and Family Members. You can also reach out to one of our advocates by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) any time or chat online with us from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. CST.
The issue of sexual assault has been gaining awareness in recent months as more and more survivors are coming forward to tell their stories. Sexual assault is still a big problem in our country. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):
- Every day in the United States, there are 804 incidents of sexual assault.
- That makes for about 293,000 victims of sexual violence every year.
- One in six women and one in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
We still have a long way to go towards ending sexual assault, but we believe that there is hope. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), we can all work together to create a culture of healthy relationships and end sexual violence. This month, RAINN is highlighting four steps to being an active bystander. Using the C.A.R.E. acronym, these steps emphasize the role of friends and loved ones taking action:
Create a distraction: Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.
Ask directly: If you see someone who looks uncomfortable or is at risk, intervene and talk to the person who might be in trouble. If you feel safe, find a way to de-escalate the situation and separate all parties involved.
Refer to an authority: Keeping your friends safe doesn’t have to fall entirely on you alone. Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to involve someone who has more influence than you.
Enlist others: It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you. There is safety in numbers.
There are plenty of other ways to get involved during SAAM and speak out against sexual violence. Check out the list below, or visit RAINN.org or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for more info.
April 3: Speak out against victim-blaming on the International Day Against Victim Blaming. On social media use #IDAVB #EndVictimBlaming
April 8: Austin friends, join loveisrespect and many other organizations from 6:30-9 p.m at Take Back the Night on the Main Mall at UT Austin. Hosted by UT’s Voices Against Violence, this gender-inclusive event will serve to illuminate the movement to end sexual violence.
April 12-18: Participate in the It’s on Us Week of Action to raise awareness of college sexual assault. #Itsonus
April 29: Denim Day! Be sure to wear your denim and share the powerful story of this decades-long movement to end misconceptions and victim-blaming. #DenimDay.
All month: Check out RAINN’s 7 Ways to Take Action this April.
All month: Share your SAAM photos and news on Instagram with the NSVRC’s #30DaysofSAAM photo contest!
- National Sexual Assault Online Hotline (24/7): 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
It’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:
- Speaking up if you witness violence or assault
- Taking action if you sense that someone needs help
- Knowing what consent is and what it looks like
- Calling out words or ideas that perpetuate rape culture, misogyny, or gender stereotypes; check out this NPR segment on the power of the peer group in preventing campus rape
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.
When our coworker logged onto Facebook a couple of weeks ago, he was bothered by some insensitive jokes a good friend had posted about the #YesAllWomen campaign. He had a choice: let it go, or say something.
We asked him what he thought when he saw his friend’s post. He explained:
“I felt responsible. I talk a good game [about speaking out] but am I going to do it when I have the opportunity? I had a challenge for myself. I could either stand for something or not say anything. You can’t just talk; you have to stand every now and then, and this was an opportunity, even though it was outside of my comfort zone.”
We asked him how he felt when he sent a personal message to his friend:
“I was nervous about how he was going to react. But his response was good— I didn’t have to sell it to him. It just spoke for itself. I just basically put it out there and let it sit. In speaking up about something like this, you’re not trying to correct, you’re just trying to highlight an error that lots of people just do unknowingly without intending to be offensive.”
This got us thinking: what’s a good way to call attention to something you hear or see, perhaps without being overly confrontational? There a lot of reasons even the most well-intentioned people won’t speak up if they witness violence or hear something that condones it. We may fear our instincts are wrong or worry that we’re being nosy or intrusive. We worry that we’ll be perceived as too “politically correct” or that it wouldn’t be cool to call someone out on something.
The truth is, silence can be harmful. It’s tacit support of what’s going on. It’s an affirmation that what you’re witnessing or hearing is OK.
What Can You Do?
You don’t have to make a huge ordeal out of calling someone out. Even the simplest of actions or words can make a difference — and it doesn’t need to be done in front of everyone or in the moment. Send a Facebook message, or pull someone aside later to talk about it.
Begin to pay more attention to phrases that attribute gender to an action. Certain societal norms and the ways we talk about masculinity and femininity can encourage dominance or violence (EX. Telling other guys, “You’re acting like a girl.”)
Sexist, racist, homophobic, and other prejudiced sayings and remarks can have the same impact. Do you or people you hang out with say things or tell jokes that would fall under one of these categories? Next time you hear something like this, say something.
Do you know someone who is being abusive to their partner? Speak up if you suspect it’s happening or if you see it firsthand.
Actions speak volumes as well. Treat those around you with respect. Treat women respectfully in front of men who are friends with you, care about your opinions, or look up to you.
Being an active bystander means more than just stepping in between a man who’s being abusive toward a woman. It means stopping violence before it starts — by stopping behaviors or actions that normalize violence.
What Kinds of Things Should You Say?
White Ribbon has some helpful info about talking to other men and challenging violence-supportive comments or jokes:
- Provide information. Highlight the facts and debunk the myths.
- Question the assumption. Challenge the logic of the statement. No one deserves to be raped, beaten or stalked. No one asks for it. No one likes it.
- Convey your feelings and principles. Show emotion and passion. Show that you’re affected by what was said or done and doesn’t think it’s right. Tell them that these types of statements make you uncomfortable.
- Use humor to playfully question sexist and derogatory remarks.
- Ask for an explanation. Ask, “What are you saying?” to invite critical reflection.
- Invite group pressure. Say in front of others, “I don’t feel good about this. Does anyone else feel uncomfortable too?”
It’s important to keep in mind that men can also be the victims of domestic violence. Regardless of gender, these methods and techniques for intervention and talking to others can be helpful tools for anyone.
Change begins with one action or assertion, and everyone has a stake in ending domestic violence. After all, it’s not just a women’s issue or a men’s issue — it’s a human issue.
Men Who Have Spoken Up
Check out these men who have received media attention for being outspoken about domestic violence (but you obviously don’t have to be famous or in politics to talk about the issue!):
- Star Trek star Patrick Stewart has spoken about the necessity of men getting involved to help stop domestic violence.
- Dallas, Texas mayor Mike Rawlings held a rally to get Texas men involved
- Some awesome NFL players like Jason Witten, William Gay, and Chris Johnson have challenged norms about masculinity and helped spread awareness about domestic violence
Today we’re very excited to have Denver Broncos Chris Harris, Jr. share his perspective on domestic violence and discuss how men and athletes can promote healthy relationships.
Domestic violence is an issue that affects everyone whether they know it or not. When you look at the statistics that approximately 1 in 4 women are affected, you know that all of us probably have at least one friend or family member being affected. In the past I think people have viewed domestic violence as a ‘women’s issue’ but I feel it is important for male role models to speak out and set a good example.
How do you define a healthy relationship for yourself?
I think in a healthy relationship there has to be love, support, respect and equality. If any of those aspects are missing you end up having a relationship that just doesn’t really work. Even though two people bring different things to a relationship, you have to respect the other person and realize that what they are bringing is equally important as what you are bringing.
Through your career, the Chris Harris Foundation and your work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, you’ve been such a role model to young boys. What do you hope to teach them about relationships?
I just think it is important for young men and boys to realize that relationships are a two-way street. If they are going to be involved with a woman, they should be bringing out the best in that person and vice versa. Relationships require give and take, so I want young men to realize that and be responsible for the roles they play in relationships. But all of this really comes back to respecting the person they are with and being a source of strength rather than an obstacle.
You’ve faced many challenges in your career. You were an undrafted free agent who worked his way to being named Denver’s Breakout Player of the Year and Overachiever of the Year in 2011. To accomplish this, you must have had a very strong mental game. How do you mentally overcome a bad, or “off” day?
I just try to stay focused on the positive. Whatever happens happens and nothing can really be gained from dwelling on the past. Obviously we all want to learn from our mistakes, but ultimately we have to stay focused on the challenges that lay ahead. I’ve been very blessed with the talents that I have, so at the end of the day I can be confident that those talents will carry me through even if I have a bad day.
An article once described you and your wife, Leah, as a “packaged deal.” What are some ways the two of you support each other?
We really are a team in every sense of the word. She is my biggest fan and supports me before and after every game with motivation, love and support. She also handles a lot of business that I am unable to handle due to my busy schedule during the season. She is also starting her own business right now so I am doing all that I can to support that via promoting it with social media and being someone she can talk to about any issues she is facing. Everyone can check out her work at MyTimelessImpression.com.
You were recently the spokesperson for the Domestic Violence Intervention Services program located in your hometown of Tulsa. What did you learn about domestic violence through that experience?
I learned a lot about the statistics of domestic violence and just how big of a problem it is. That experience also really helped me to think about what my role could be in stopping the problem. So much of the domestic violence is caused by attitudes ingrained in children at a young age. I think that if me and other male role models take a stand and teach kids a new way of thinking, we can make progress.
We know that men holding other men accountable for their actions and words makes a difference in promoting a culture of healthy relationships. How do you encourage your friends and teammates to be healthy in their dating behaviors?
I think the most important thing is just not to be the silent bystander. There are certain issues in our culture that if someone brings it up people are going to tell them they are wrong to think that way. Unfortunately the proper way to treat women or to participate in relationships has not always been one of those issues. We just have to change our thinking about that and make sure that if someone says something that is unacceptable that we call it out and hopefully they won’t be comfortable making those kinds of comments again.
Please finish this sentence. “I see domestic violence ______________________.
I see domestic violence as an issue that can be resolved if we can come together and change the way people think about it.
About Our Contributor
Denver Broncos Chris Harris, Jr. knows how to make an impact. A third-year cornerback, Harris has played 31 regular-season games in his first two NFL campaigns. While he began his professional career as an undrafted free agent, he finished his rookie season with glowing stats and was voted Denver’s All-Rookie Team, Breakout Player of the Year and Overachiever of the Year. Harris completed the 2012 season ranked 5th in the NFL in receiving yards allowed and holds the record for the longest interception return in Broncos history.
In addition to his on-the-field activities, Harris’ passions extend to helping others experience the same mentorship and opportunity he had growing up. In 2013, he launched the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation to support children of military families. Harris launched a Student Success Challenge, encouraging kids to get involved in school, fitness, community service and more. Harris also participates in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and helps with program initiatives and mentoring children.
This past week disturbing photos of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her husband Charles Saatchi were all over the news. The couple was outside at a restaurant, and Saatchi grabbed her by the throat. What we know from the simple fact that photos of the incident exist — and that the couple was eating outside at a public restaurant — is that people witnessed what was going on. Yet no one seemed to have intervened.
As a bystander to any kind of violence, it can be difficult to know whether or not you should get involved and what to do. If it’s an incident between a couple, many people feel like it’s not their place to intervene because it’s a ‘private’ issue.
On Tuesday evening, loveisrespect Director Brian Pinero spoke with Huffington Post Live about what we should do as bystanders if we witness something. He was joined by Director of the Center for Progressive Development Douglas LaBier, Defense Attorney Matt Kaiser, and Austin, TX bar owner Leon Solimani.
Check out the video below to see what they had to say. If you saw a couple fighting in public, would you intervene?
“I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember…I just want this to go away.”
That was one of the last things 15-year-old Audrie Potts posted on her Facebook before taking her own life after a photo of her assault was circulated to nearly the entire high school. It’s a familiar feeling for the many girls whose names have been made into headlines throughout the past months.
Seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off of life support following an attempt to take her own life after a photo of her assault was distributed all over cell phones and social media sites.
In Torrington, Connecticut, two male 18-year-olds were arrested and accused of the statutory rape of two 13-year-old girls. What followed was an attack on the young girls over Twitter and social media and a trending “#FreeEdgar” hashtag in support of the perpetrators.
In Steubenville, Ohio, Jane Doe didn’t know she had been sexually assaulted until she found out about it through videos uploaded to YouTube and images posted on Instagram. When the case went public, backlash on social media against her, the victim, was relentless.
Lately we’ve seen social media channels become venues for public shaming and sharing information without ones consent to large numbers of people. “Viral” shaming adds a new dimension to an already horrific situation — continued emotional abuse from not just the perpetrator, but any outsider who decides to “share” or chime in. In this way, even after an assault a perpetrator can still exert control over their victim, making them feel powerless. It can feel impossible to know how to make it end, and it can feel like there’s nowhere to turn for safety and privacy.
What can you do as an online “bystander”?
While there are tips for “how to stop compromising pictures of you being published online,” these pictures and videos can get posted anyways without your knowledge or consent. The person who holds responsibility is the one who posts the content.
Responsibility also falls on bystanders — people who see the image being taken, see the assault in action, view the image online, distribute it, or even just pass it by. If you witness an assault, what do you do? If you’re sent a picture, do you pass it on? Do you join in on the actions or victim shaming just to be a part of the joke?
Begin to hold yourself and those around you accountable for what’s being said and posted. If you see something, report it. On Facebook, use the report link that appears near the content to send a message to have it removed. Twitter also has different forms for reporting a violation. YouTube has a “Safety Center” for requesting videos to be flagged or removed.
If you know someone who is involved in a situation of online abuse, ask how you can help. Offer to document the abuse (by taking screen shots or tracking where it’s showing up online). It can be helpful to be a third party keeping track of what’s being said and shared, especially if charges will be pressed.
As a Victim
Different states have specific laws, but no matter where you are, taking some type of legal action is always an option. Document the content, because it can be used as evidence. Contact the bar association in your state to find an attorney who specializes in Internet privacy and rights. The organization Without My Consent discusses different courses of action.
No matter what you decide to do, safety plan for your emotional well being as content is circulating. Know that you can ask for help and do ask for help, because it’s too much to take on alone, especially when it can feel like you’re up against the entire world.
Do you have a trusted coworker, friend or counselor you can talk to? Building a support system is important — and there’s always someone to turn to. You shouldn’t go through this whole process alone.
RAINN has many resources, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE, and they offer free, confidential advice 24.7.
In the wake of these all-too-similar stories, it’s easy to feel helpless. We can honor the victims of these and other tragedies by taking social responsibility seriously — holding ourselves and others accountable for what’s said or posted, and starting productive dialogues.
Social media is what we make of it, and we have the ability to make it a powerful tool for change and positivity.
“Revenge Porn: The Fight Against The Net’s Nastiest Corner” by Adam Steinbaugh
“Criminalizing ‘Revenge Porn’” by Tracy Clark-Flory
Have you often wondered what makes a person speak out against domestic violence? Is it because they themselves or a family member were abused by an intimate partner? Or did they see the injustice that the abused face and want to speak out to offer support and help?
Out of the 17 members on our 15th Anniversary Honorary Committee, eight were either abused themselves or they had a family member who was abused in a relationship. The other nine were moved through events in their careers and by people in their lives who have helped them see the glaring threat that domestic violence poses to our families.
There are many ways someone can use their voice against domestic violence. Many individuals have started blogs to get information out on exactly what domestic violence is, and to supply resources for those needing help. Some bloggers are survivors of domestic violence and want to tell their story in hopes of reaching someone who is going through the same situation.
Others, like members of The Hotline’s 15th Anniversary Honorary Committee, have created public service announcements to spread awareness on the issue.
Quite a few musical artists have used their talents to express their feelings, whether through writing songs about domestic violence or using music videos to reach people. Two local musicians who are using their voices on behalf of victims are AJ Vallejo of the Austin-based band Vallejo and Jacob Gonzales. They produced an acoustic version of Rihanna’s song, “Umbrella” for SafePlace in Austin. The cover is a stirring rendition and contains statistics and pictures in the video that highlight the facts of domestic violence. Through their music, AJ and Jacob want to ensure that people know how prevalent domestic violence is in our country and that there is help for those who need it.
Another group who is using their talents to bring awareness to domestic violence is Y&R Chicago, a creative firm that aims to bring attention to worthy causes. This group expressed their admiration for The Hotline, and independently created “It Rarely Stops,” a PSA with haunting imagery, to bring to light the cyclical nature of domestic violence. The video includes the moving lyrics of “Mercy Street” performed by Peter Gabriel, who donated the rights to the music for the use of the video. Y&R feels the silence of the victim, her voicelessness, is the very thing that makes the spot powerful – and therefore speaks so loudly to its audience.
The Celtic-rock band Apsylon has been supporting The Hotline by donating proceeds from the download of their debut album, “Dreaming of Yesterday,” to The Hotline and loveisrespect. They were also inspired by our 15th Anniversary Love Is campaign to produce a PSA for the campaign.
However you choose to use your skills to help those being abused, we thank you and applaud your efforts to make sure everyone knows help is available and that they are not alone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is confidential and anonymous and takes calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
by Christina Owens
When you’re silent
You’re identifying with him
When you’re silent
You’re telling her that her life isn’t valuable
When you’re silent
You’re condoning his behaviour
When you’re silent
You’re disregarding her
When you’re silent
You’re making excuses for him
When you’re silent
It’s your hand striking her
Silence is not the answer
Silence is the problem
Refuse to be silent
By Jessica L. Young, O.D. | Pennsylvania Optometric Association’s 2010 Young Optometrist of the Year
Many may think that visiting an eye doctor would be the last place for an abuse victim to go. After reading this article, you may disagree. One day, a 49 year-old woman came to see me for a routine eye examination. Her vision was getting a little worse and she thought, “Maybe I need a new pair of glasses.” During the examination, I noticed a tear in the iris of her right eye.
Upon checking her eye pressure I found that it was elevated in her right eye. I asked the woman if she had ever sustained any injuries to her eyes. She confirmed that she had in fact been hit many times in her eyes and face years ago by a former boyfriend. I explained how the trauma had damaged her eye and the increased eye pressure could lead to optic nerve damage and vision loss if left untreated. We decided to begin medicated eye drops to lower the eye pressure. So far the drops are successfully keeping the pressure down, reducing her chances of vision loss. This woman very well may have lost her eyesight had she not happened to come for a regular eye exam.
Physical assault resulting in trauma to the eye can have both immediate and lasting effects. If trauma to the eye occurs, urgent medical attention should be sought to treat any immediate damage. Visiting an eye doctor is prudent for anyone who has ever sustained trauma to the eye at any time. This is because a form of glaucoma, called traumatic or angle recession glaucoma, can occur months or even years after an eye injury.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. But what is glaucoma? The eye contains fluid, which is constantly being produced and drained. This fluid creates a pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) and helps the eye keep its shape. If this pressure becomes too high, it can damage the nerve inside the eye (the optic nerve), which can result in permanent vision loss. This is glaucoma.
When the eye undergoes trauma, the damage that occurs can lead to glaucoma. The fluid in the eye is drained where the cornea (the front clear window of the eye) meets the iris (the colored part of the eye); this is called the angle. This drainage angle can be damaged during a traumatic event such as a strike to the eye. When the angle is damaged, the fluid may not drain properly, which can cause the eye pressure to increase and can then lead to glaucoma. This is a special type of glaucoma: angle recession, or traumatic glaucoma.
In the United States, over 1 million Americans experience eye injuries each year. Blunt eye injuries account for over 60% of these injuries, and over 10% of all eye traumas are due to assault. Damage to the eye angle (called angle recession) is one of the most common complications after a strike to the eye. Though infrequent, damage to the eye angle can lead to angle recession glaucoma. This can occur weeks, months, or even many years after the trauma to the eye has occurred. As with most other forms of glaucoma, symptoms of vision loss are not noticed until the glaucoma is advanced and the damage is extensive. In fact, glaucoma is often called the “sneak thief of sight”. Since traumatic glaucoma can occur long after the eye has been injured, it is very important not only have an initial eye examination, but also regular visits to an eye doctor.
At the first visit to an eye doctor, it is necessary to mention any previous eye or head trauma so the eye can be properly evaluated for angle recession and glaucoma. The doctor will check the eye angle with a special lens, measure the eye pressure, and evaluate the optic nerves for any signs of damage. If angle recession is found, regular follow-up visits will be needed to monitor the eye for angle recession glaucoma. If glaucoma is detected, the doctor will likely start prescription eye drops to lower the eye pressure and try to prevent further damage to the optic nerve.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Domestic violence is a serious problem and a common cause of injury.
I urge anyone who has ever sustained an eye injury, especially victims of domestic violence or child abuse, to schedule an examination with an eye doctor. Please mention your history of eye trauma so the eyes can be properly evaluated
 American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2009 Eye Injury Snapshot Project Results. http://www.aao.org/practice_mgmt/eyesmart/snapshot_2009_results.cfm
 Sullivan, Brian R. Angle Recession Glaucoma. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/angle_recession_glaucoma/article_em.htm
* It’s rare to get an eye doctor’s perspective on domestic violence. We thank Dr. Young for reaching out to us and sharing this important piece of information. *
The following blog entry was written by Emily Toothman. She graduated from The University of Texas in 2005. She is now 26 years old, working as a Program Specialist at The National Domestic Violence Hotline. In February of 2007, she had the honor of answering the first call to the loveisrespect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.
I was 19, a student in my second year at college, when I met the man of my dreams in one of my classes. He was tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and All-American — with a smooth demeanor and a knack for saying all the right things. He treated me like a princess. Gifts, surprise visits to my dorm room and classes, frequent phone calls to see where I was and how I was doing. He told me he loved me within the first month of our relationship, and he wanted to be near me all the time. On our first anniversary, he surprised me with a candlelit dinner in a house overlooking the lake. I was living the fairy tale that every little girl is taught to dream.
But then, two weeks after our first anniversary, I found him in bed with an ex-girlfriend. I immediately broke up with him. It was only then that I began to truly see his controlling nature.
I started to see him everywhere I went. He showed up to my classes and sat two rows behind me. I caught glimpses of him walking a couple paces behind me on campus. Pretty soon, he started calling my cell phone constantly, leaving up to twenty voice messages a day begging me to reconsider our relationship. When I started hanging out with other guys, he would follow me and leave threatening notes under the windshield wipers on my car. My professors started to confide in me that “my boyfriend” had told them about my “drug problem.”
I returned home one evening after going to a meeting on campus, and he was on my doorstep. He was drunk, and he was angry. As his anger escalated, he began to shove me around and pin me by my neck against my front door, smashing empty beer bottles against the corner of the building and holding the shattered glass up to my face. He had simply snapped. I escaped to a friend’s house an hour later with a broken rib, a sprained wrist, a black eye, and bruises from head to toe.
Following the first attack, I took some self-defense lessons from a friend of mine who was a black-belt in karate. I stayed with some friends so that I didn’t have to go back to my apartment alone. I felt like everyone was looking at me, even though I had carefully caked on make-up to cover the bruises. It took me days to build up the courage to leave the apartment to go to class. I was terrified, and I felt more alone than ever. Though I have always been close to my parents, I refused to tell them. I felt that they would be hurt, worried – or worse – disappointed in how I’d handled the situation. My friends, though they tried to be supportive, had a hard time even believing what was happening.
A week later, he confronted me again. This time, he was sober, and it was in broad daylight in the center of campus. He once again pinned me to the wall, but this time he threatened me with a butterfly knife to my jugular. Students would walk by and stare, but not one interfered. I struggled with him for close to a quarter of an hour, and finally, I managed to kick his knee backwards. It broke. As he was writhing on the ground, I used my cell phone to call the police. A week later, he would break bail and leave the country. I would never see him again.
The experience did change me – sometimes for the worse, but (I hope) mostly for the better. I had to struggle with fear, anger, depression, insomnia, and even nausea. I had to mend the breach of trust that my parents felt when they found out about my situation after the fact. I’ve had to fight to break down my defensive walls, so that I could be less guarded in my romantic relationships and less cautious in my friendships. It has not been easy.
But — to be completely honest with you – I wouldn’t change a moment of my experience for anything in the world. It shook me to the core. It created a passion in me for justice and peace, and it led me down a path that I would have never expected. It led me here, to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I will always remember, with the highest gratitude, the role that my experience has allowed me to play in reaching out to survivors.
Dating abuse is a reality for many, many teens across this country — a terrifying, overwhelming reality that is largely hidden and ignored. I wish that I had known at the time what I know now, thanks to the work of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the loveisrespect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: I am not alone. I am not the only one to have experienced what I experienced, and I am not the only one who has decided to turn those experiences into positive changes for others like me. I am very honored to be a part of such an amazing generation of young people who will start the conversation about dating abuse, and who will change the realities of young people across the nation.
By Emily Toothman
Please visit loveisrespect.org for resources on teen dating abuse or to chat with a peer advocate. If chat is unavailable, call 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 TTY. loveisrespect has recently been called on for its expert guidance by the popular soap opera General Hospital for a teen dating abuse storyline. The storyline will air today, Friday July 17th and a PSA will air directly following the program.
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