Help for the New Partner of a Survivor

new-partnerIf your current partner is a survivor of domestic violence, you may be wondering how you can offer support while building a healthy relationship with them. It is possible to have a healthy relationship after a domestic violence situation, but it is a process and there are some things to keep in mind.

Due to previous abuse (whether it was physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and/or financial), it’s very likely that your partner will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to some degree. PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a traumatic event or series of events that a person experiences or witnesses. Symptoms may include flashbacks and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about their experience. For abuse survivors, it may be very difficult to feel “normal” even after an abusive relationship has ended, as their bodies and minds may continue to relive their past experiences despite new circumstances. Being mindful of this can help you be sensitive to their past trauma while understanding that the trauma is not about or because of you.

Here are a few suggestions for what you can do to help your partner:

Communicate. Your partner may not want to discuss the details of their past relationship with you, and that’s okay. At this time, it’s helpful for you to be willing to learn your partner’s triggers and what makes your partner feel safe or unsafe. Your partner may not be able to articulate these things right away, but encourage them to communicate openly with you, and remind them that you are there for them. Being clear about boundaries in the relationship can help your partner feel more secure as your relationship progresses and they continue healing.

Encourage personal wellness. Self-care and personal wellness are important for everyone, but particularly for someone who is healing from an abusive relationship. Encourage your partner to create a personal wellness plan and practice self-care regularly. Make time to do these things yourself, too; taking care of yourself is not only good for you, it will help you to stay strong and emotionally present for your partner. Wellness plans can include each of you working with your own counselor, activities that you enjoy doing together and separately, and/or reading books that offer healing advice. We strongly recommend finding counseling or support groups specifically for survivors of domestic violence and PTSD; not only can your partner find support through these avenues, but they may help you to better understand what your partner is going through. If you need assistance finding local resources, advocates at The Hotline can help!

Build support systems. A support system is a network of people – family members, friends, counselors, coworkers, coaches, etc. – that you trust and can turn to when you need emotional support. It can be very helpful for both you and your partner to build your own support systems so that you don’t have to rely solely on each other for support, which can be exhausting and detrimental to the relationship.

We do want to emphasize that even though your partner needs your support, PTSD is not an excuse for your partner to be abusive toward YOU. You deserve to feel safe and be treated with respect, as does your partner, and if at any point the relationship is not meeting your needs or is making you uncomfortable, it’s okay to take a step back and give yourself some space. Remember that while you might love your partner and want to help them, it’s not your responsibility to “fix” them. By the same token, it’s important to be willing to honor your partner’s request for space as well. Respecting your partner’s rights to have control over their part in the new relationship may be one of the most healing things that you can provide, even if it means that the relationship does not move forward at that point.

Our advocates are here 24/7 if you have questions or need more guidance. We can also provide referrals to local resources like counselors or support groups. Give us a call anytime at 1-800-799-7233 or chat online from 7am-2am CT everyday.

Additional Resources:

  • This article further discusses PTSD and reconnecting after domestic violence
  • Helping Her Get Free by Susan Brewster is a great book for family and friends of someone in an abusive relationship, but it’s also a useful read for someone who is in a new relationship with a partner who has experienced abuse
am I hurting my partner

Ask Yourself, “Am I Hurting My Partner?”

Even the best of relationships have their ups and downs. You hate it when your boyfriend leaves dirty dishes in the sink… for the third night in a row. Your wife keeps scheduling all the holiday visits with her in-laws and you just wanted to see your family this Christmas. You can’t pry your husband away from the football game even when you had plans to go out.

In any relationship there are arguments both big and small that can cause hurt feelings. What distinguishes the arguments in a healthy relationship from those in an unhealthy relationship is how they’re handled, how each partner responds to them and how both partners communicate about them.

Have you ever thought that you may be behaving in a way that could be physically or mentally harmful to your partner? These behaviors are often difficult to recognize if you’re the one doing them — but acknowledging that you may be hurting your partner is the first step in moving toward a healthier relationship.

Check in with yourself: How do you act toward your partner?

Do you…

  • Get angry or insecure about your partner’s relationships with others (friends, family, coworkers) and feel possessive?
  • Frequently call and text to check up on your partner, or have them check in with you?
  • Check up on your partner in different ways? (Ex. Reading their personal emails, checking their texts)
  • Feel like your partner needs to ask your permission to go out, get a job, go to school or spend time with others?
  • Get angry when your partner doesn’t act the way you want them to or do what you want them to?
  • Blame your anger on drugs, alcohol, or your partner’s actions?
  • Find it very difficult to control your anger and calm down?
  • Express your anger by threatening to hurt your partner, or actually physically doing so?
  • Express your anger verbally through raising your voice, name calling or using put-downs?
  • Forbid your partner from spending money, or require that they have an allowance and keep receipts of their spending?
  • Force or attempt to force your partner to be intimate with you?
  • Blow up in anger at small incidents or “mistakes” your partner makes?

How does your partner react?

Do they…

  • Seem nervous around you?
  • Seem afraid of you?
  • Cringe or move away from you when you’re angry?
  • Cry because of something you don’t let them do, or something you made them do?
  • Seem scared or unable to contradict you or speak up about something?
  • Restrict their own interaction with friends, coworkers or family in order to avoid displeasing you?

If any of these behaviors sound familiar to how you act or how your partner reacts, it could be a red flag that you may be hurting them. This can be a difficult and unnerving realization to come to.

So — what now? At the hotline we take calls from everyone, from concerned friends and family, to those questioning unhealthy behaviors in their relationship (whether they’re on the giving or receiving end of the actions). Call us at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to confidentially talk to one of our advocates. We’ll discuss these behaviors with you, learn about what’s going on and take it from there.

By acknowledging now that your behaviors might be questionable and taking responsibility for them, you’re a step ahead in beginning to correct them.

what is consent

What Is Healthy Consent? What ISN’T Consent?

Consent. This one word draws a line between acceptable and unacceptable sexual behaviors. This one word helps define whether an experience was sexual assault or not. Was the action wanted? Was the act agreed upon by both people?

For as important as consent is, we don’t talk about it enough. In the wake of so many high coverage media cases of sexual assault in which much of the coverage shifted the blame to the victims who were somehow “asking for it” or “didn’t say no,” it’s important to reevaluate what consent is and how we can give it or withhold it. It’s also essential that we understand what it looks like when our partners give — or don’t give — consent.

First, we need to change how we think about consent. The old idea of “no means no” is not a good approach. It puts the responsibility on one person to resist or accept, and makes consent about what a partner doesn’t want, instead of what they do want.

Consent can be sexy. It can be a moment for both partners to openly express to each other what they’re looking for and what they do want to experience. The saying “yes means yes” can be empowering and useful in thinking about what consent is.

Consent is ongoing. Both partners should keep giving, and looking for, consent. Just because you’ve given consent to an act before, doesn’t mean it becomes a “given” every time. This idea also relates to new relationships — just because you’ve given consent to something in a different relationship doesn’t make it “automatic” in a new relationship.

Consent is not a free pass. Saying yes to one act doesn’t mean you have to consent to other acts. Each requires its own consent. EX: Saying yes to oral sex doesn’t automatically mean you’re saying yes to intercourse.

Your relationship status does not make consent automatic. If you’re married to someone, friends with someone, or dating someone, it doesn’t mean they ‘own’ your consent by default. Or that you own theirs. Also, consent can be taken back at any time — even if you’re in the midst of something and feeling uncomfortable, you always have the right to stop.

There’s no such thing as implied consent. The absence of a “no” does not equal a “yes.” What you or a partner chooses to wear doesn’t mean that you or they are inviting unwanted sexual attention or “pre-consenting.” The same can be said for flirting, talking, showing interest or any other actions.

It’s not consent if you’re afraid to say no. It’s not consent if you’re being manipulated, pressured, or threatened to say yes. It’s also not consent if you or a partner is unable to legitimately give consent, which includes being asleep, unconscious, under the influence of conscious-altering substances or not able to understand what you’re saying yes to.

Nonconsent means STOP. If anyone involved isn’t consenting, then what is happening is or could be rape, sexual assault or abuse.

Here are some red flags that your partner doesn’t respect consent:

  • They pressure or guilt you into doing things you may not want to do.
  • They make you feel like you “owe” them — because you’re dating, or married, they gave you a gift, etc.
  • They react negatively (with sadness, anger or resentment) if you say “no” to something, or don’t immediately consent.
  • They ignore your wishes, and don’t pay attention to non-verbal cues that could show that you’re not consenting (EX: being reluctant, pulling away).

How to practice healthy consent: 

  • Talk about it! Communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship. Establish boundaries by explaining what things you and your partner are comfortable with and what things you may not feel comfortable with. Always ask first. Try phrases like:
    “Are you OK with this?”
    “If you’re into it, I could…”
    “Are you comfortable with this?”
  • Be aware of the physical and nonverbal signs of consent as well. If your partner seems uncomfortable, talk about it and discuss it. Don’t assume that silence is them saying yes.
  • Remember that giving and receiving consent is an ongoing process.

Further Reading

The Good Men Project has an amazing article about how to teach consent to your children, breaking down the ‘methods’ and ideas into what would be most appropriate for each age group.

The post “Drivers Ed for the Sexual Superhighway,” is geared toward teens but relates to any relationship.

The Consensual Project focuses on partnering with schools and universities to teach students about consent in their daily lives.

safety planning with children

Safety Planning With Children

Being in an abusive situation can feel incredibly scary and isolating, and if children are involved – even indirectly witnessing the abusive – it can become a lot more complicated and dangerous. A parent’s instinct is to make sure their child is safe – but how can you do this best if your abusive partner is unpredictable, or manipulative?

All of our advocates at The Hotline are equipped to help you safety plan for you and your children during any stage in your relationship. Based on what you’re going through, we can help assess the best plans of action and brainstorm different options with you – even when you’re feeling out of options.

Planning for Violence in the Home
If you are in an abusive relationship, a safety plan should include ways that your children can stay safe when violence is happening in your home. It’s key to remember that if the violence is escalating, you should avoid running to the children because your partner may hurt them as well

  • Teach your children when and how to call 911
  • Instruct them to leave the home if possible when things begin to escalate, and where they can go
  • Come up with a code word that you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency  — make sure that they know not to tell others what the secret word means
  • In the house: Identify a room they can go to when they’re afraid and something they can think about when they’re scared
  • Instruct them to stay out of the kitchen, bathroom and other areas where there are items that could be used as weapons
  • Teach them that although they want to protect their parent, that they should never intervene
  • Help them to make a list of people that they are comfortable talking and expressing themselves to
  • Enroll them in a counseling program (local service providers often have children’s programs)

Planning for Unsupervised Visits
If you have separated from an abusive partner and are concerned for your children’s safety when they visit your ex, developing a safety plan for while they are at their home can be beneficial.

  • Brainstorm with your children (if they are old enough) to come up with ways that they can stay safe using the same model as you would for your own home. Have them identify where they can get to a phone, how they can leave the house, and who they can go to.
  • If it’s safe to do, send a cell phone with the children to be used in emergency situations — this can be used to call 911, a neighbor or you if they need aid

Planning for Safe Custody Exchanges

  • Avoid exchanging custody at your home or your partner’s home
  • Meet in a safe, public place such as a restaurant, a bank/other area with lots of cameras, or even near a police station
  • Bring a friend or relative with you to the exchanges, or have them make the exchange
  • Perhaps plan to have your partner pick the children up from school at the end of the day after you drop them off in the morning – this eliminates the chances of seeing each other
  • Emotional safety plan as well – figure out something to do before the exchange to calm any nerves you’re feelings, and something after to focus on yourself or the kids, such as going to a park or doing a fun activity

Planning for After You Leave

  • Alert anyone you can about the situation: school authorities like the counselor, receptionist, teachers and principal, sports instructors, and other caretakers
  • Talk to these people about what’s going on, EX. If you have a protective order or restraining order, who is allowed to pick them up, etc.

How to Have These Conversations

Let your child know that what’s happening is not their fault and that they didn’t cause it. Let them know how much you love them and that you support them no matter what. Tell them that you want to protect them and that you want everyone to be safe, so you have come up with a plan to use in case of emergencies. It’s important to remember that when you’re safety planning with a child, they might tell this information to the abusive partner, which could make the situation more dangerous (ex. “Mom said to do this if you get angry.”) When talking about these plans with your child, use phrases such as “We’re practicing what to do in an emergency,” instead of “We’re planning what you can do when dad/mom becomes violent”

If you have any questions about safety planning or want an advocate’s help in developing a personalized safety plan for your child, give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

teaching teens healthy relationships

Teaching Teens About Healthy Relationships

For teens, a first relationship is exciting. However, a lack of experience in the love department can mean disappointment, broken hearts and even abuse. As a parent, teaching your child about healthy relationships is a good step to prepare them for the future. It’s never too early to talk about it.

Begin by asking questions to learn about what your teen already knows or thinks about relationships, such as “Are any of your friends dating? What would you want a boyfriend/girlfriend to be like?”

Discuss the elements of a healthy relationship:

Freedom to Be Yourself

Tell your teen that they should feel comfortable expressing who they are. This means spending time with the people they like, dressing however makes them feel good, and participating in the activities that make them happy.

Mutual Respect

Both people in the partnership should speak to each other respectfully. Partners should avoid put-downs, even in the heat of a disagreement.

Limited Jealousy

While the green-eyed monster is sometimes mistaken for caring, a good partner doesn’t make their partner feel guilty for spending time with family or friends instead of them.


In a healthy relationship, partners offer a listening ear and encouragement for their significant other’s ideas and aspirations. In bad times, a partner can be the one to turn to for comfort.


While sharing can be a good thing between a couple, being someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t require a person to open up every aspect of their life. Partners are still allowed their privacy, which includes text messages, computer passwords, etc.


Setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship. A couple should talk about what they’re comfortable with — how often will they see each other, how far do they want to go physically, etc.


Trust and honesty are key foundations to a healthy relationship. Both partners should be able to talk about feelings openly without fearing negative consequences. Partners should be able to discuss serious matters face-to-face, and find the right time to do so. Compromise is necessary in a healthy relationship.

By starting a conversation about healthy dating with your children now, they are more likely to feel comfortable coming to you in the future when they need to talk. If you suspect that your teen may currently be experiencing dating abuse in their relationship, read about how you can help and resources you can pass along.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

In a Washington Post article from early February, the authors (two state attorneys) describe children who are exposed to incidents of domestic violence as the “invisible victims.” They write:

As prosecutors, we have long noted with distress how often children are present when violent crimes are committed. Kids don’t need to be the target of the violence to be scarred by it. Ask any adult who witnessed domestic violence while growing up; decades later, he or she will still be able to talk vividly of the event and how it affects them today.”

Domestic abuse affects everyone — family, friends, and even the community. As highlighted in the Post article, children often are affected if they are living in a space where this is taking place. They become the ‘secondary’ victims of the abuse, whether it’s emotional, physical or sexual, and whether it takes place constantly or in isolated incidents.

Here are some interesting facts about children and domestic violence:

  • Over half of female domestic violence victims live in households withchildren under the age of 12.
  • Research indicates that up to 90 percent of children living in homes where there is domestic violence know what is going on.
  • In a study of more than 6,000 families in the United States, it was reported that half of the men who physically abused their wives also abused their children. Also, older children are frequently assaulted when they interfere to defend or protect the victim.
  • A child’s exposure to domestic violence is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.
  • Childhood abuse and trauma has a high correlation to both emotional and physical problems in adulthood, including tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression and a higher risk for unintended pregnancy.

How Can I Help

One resource for learning how to assist children in these situations is Lundy Bancroft’s “Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse,” in which he shares ways parents can encourage their children to cope, heal and talk about the abuse they’ve seen.

If your child is witnessing abuse in your home, what you’re experiencing is likely made even worse by the worry and concern you feel for your child. It’s important to remember that both you and your children’s needs are important.

Have conversations. Let children know that it’s okay to talk about what has happened. Stress that abuse is wrong, but avoid criticizing the abuser if they are a parent or parent-figure to the child.

Remind your kids that the abuse is never their fault. Make sure that they know that you care about them. Children are extremely resilient, and while the impact of abuse can be long lasting, knowing that they have someone to depend on that loves them will help them heal.

Above all, proceed with caution and listen to your instincts. Tap into what you feel is best for both you and your child. There are often pros and cons of either staying with or leaving an abusive partner. It can be a dangerous situation either way. If you do decide to leave your relationship, consider when and how to best leave. Allow children to be open about their feelings in the process, and devise a safety plan (whether staying or leaving).

Call The Hotline toll free, 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for more information about what you can do.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

What is a Healthy Relationship?

“Healthy relationships.” This is a term we’re going to be talking about more on The Hotline blog. We want all of our callers to have healthy relationships in their lives.

What exactly do we mean by healthy though? And who decides what is healthy and what’s not? In the coming weeks, we want to look at what makes a healthy relationship so healthy, and what steps can be taken to improve the health of a relationship.

What Is Healthy?

Healthy relationships allow both partners to feel supported and connected but still feel independent. Here are some signs of a healthy relationship.

Both partners:

  • Treat each other with respect
  • Feel supported to do things they like
  • Don’t criticize each other
  • Allow each other to spend time with friends and family
  • Listen to each other and compromise
  • Share some interests such as movies, sports, reading, dancing or music
  • Aren’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings
  • Celebrate each other’s accomplishments and successes
  • Respect boundaries and do not abuse technology
  • Trust each other and don’t require their partner to “check in”
  • Don’t pressure the other to do things that they don’t want to do
  • Don’t constantly accuse each other of cheating or being unfaithful

There are two major components of healthy relationships: communication and boundaries.

Communication allows you and your partner to have a deep understanding of each other. Do you feel that you can openly talk to your partner? Do you feel heard when you express your feelings? Do you allow your partner the same chance? Communication allows two people to connect.

Setting boundariesis also an important part of a healthy relationship. There are two distinct people in a relationship. While a couple should have shared goals and values, it also matters that both people have their needs met. Each person should express to their partner what they are and are not comfortable with, especially when it comes to their sex life, finances, family and friends, personal space and time.

Ultimately, the two people in the relationship decide what is healthy for them and what is not. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, you should have the freedom to voice your concerns to your partner.

Stay tuned for more information about healthy relationships. How do you define “healthy relationships?” If you need support in your relationship, don’t hesitate to call a Hotline advocate today at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233).

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

What Makes Teen Dating Abuse Unique

Teen dating abuse can be as serious and scary as violence within an adult relationship. The abuse faced by teens can manifest itself in a variety of forms including physical, verbal and digital. We wanted to shed a light on dating abuse as February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

There are a lot of similarities between teen dating abuse and domestic violence, but there are also quite a few differences.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what a teen relationship is. Teens often use unique language to define their own relationships, using terms like talking, hanging out, hooking up or friends with benefits. These teen relationships can be extremely casual or extremely serious, and abuse can happen in any of these situations.

Unfortunately because many teens identify their relationships as being casual, they don’t realize that they can experience dating abuse. If they do realize, they often struggle with reaching out and telling someone about their abuse.

There is often a communication disconnect between teens and their parents or other adults. Teens may feel reluctant about reaching out to adults because of this lack of trust or comfort.  A teen’s first confidant will more than likely be a friend.

Teens that are new to dating may have unrealistic or unhealthy expectations. If teens don’t feel that they have strong models of healthy relationships to look up to, they may look to popular culture to learn what a relationship should look like. This can be problematic with the promotion of unhealthy relationships like those seen on TV or on the radio. These examples of relationships can be negative and often romanticize or fail to condemn unhealthy behaviors. This affects not only how teens perceive their own relationships, but also the type of advice that they give to their friends.

It’s difficult for teens to get away from their abusive partners. Teens may not drive, may not have a vehicle or may be limited in where they are allowed to drive. They often attend the same school as their abuser, so it’s difficult to avoid seeing their partner daily. They may share a friend group with their abuser, so it’s hard for them to know who they can trust.

Because of these difficulties, teens sometimes feel like it’s impossible to end the relationship or to get away from their abuser. They may not seek resources from their school or community for protection.

If you know a young adult who is in an unhealthy relationship, or would like to learn more about dating abuse, please visit The site features an online chat run by peer advocates from the National Dating Abuse Helpline, and can provide intervention via phone at 1-877-331-9474 or through text at 77054 or through their online chat.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

The Best Gift You Can Give Your Valentine is a Healthy Relationship

The most popular gifts loved ones give each other for Valentine’s day are roses, chocolates and jewelry. Yes, it is nice to get the flowers and treats, but it is also nice to know that you are in a loving and secure relationship. The best gift you can give a loved one is the gift of a healthy relationship year-round.

Here are some tips to a healthy relationship:

  • Be respectful, thoughtful and kind. This sounds simple enough but there are times when our own emotions get in the way and we take out our stress and anger on those we love.
  • Be honest and talk openly with each other if something is bothering you. If there is conflict, see if there is a compromise that suits you both.
  • Be supportive of each other’s successes and also be there for one another when things don’t go quite right.
  • Maintain your own identities and spend some time apart so that you do not become dependent on each other and isolated from friends and family.

If you’re a parent, remember that maintaining a healthy relationship is also good for your children. They mimic what they see at home so show them through your own relationship what they should look for in a partner. It is never too early to talk with your children about how to develop a healthy relationship.

Consider these goals for teaching your children about relationships:

  • Ensure they respect other people and other people’s property.
  • Show them how to address a situation that makes them angry without using violence or angry words.
  • If they have a problem with a friend, talk to them about compromises.
  • Teach them that there are consequences for our actions. Kids need to know this, even at an early age.

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship but you should strive for a healthy relationship that makes you happy and doesn’t cause you an inordinate amount of stress. Everyone deserves love, dignity and respect in their relationship.

Happy Valentine’s Day!