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I #SeeDV as an Issue That Impacts Survivors of All Ages and Abilities: Kathy Greenlee

DVAM-greenleeThe last day of October means the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I see domestic violence as an issue that requires a community response accessible by all survivors; this includes people of all ages, and people with disabilities. However, it is often difficult for survivors with disabilities and older adults to access the support services they need to escape abuse. Although we have made progress, the work to expand access to services for these survivors and bring visibility to their experiences is only just beginning.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s commitment to providing comprehensive support for people who are deaf or hard of hearing is an example of what is needed to address violence in the lives of all people. For more than 22,000 survivors each month, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides that first link to help. According to the Hotline, in 2013, 24% of callers identified themselves as over the age of 46—and almost 10% were over the age of 55. Nearly 2,000 callers accessed help through the TTY (Deaf Hotline) service.

Regardless of age or ability, all survivors of domestic violence deserve pathways to safety. Every day, advocates at the Hotline provide callers with safety planning and crisis intervention. But what happens after a survivor hangs up the phone is just as critical. For the Hotline to have its full impact, its advocates must be able to connect survivors with direct service providers in their communities that can accommodate their needs. For older adults and people with disabilities, this is not always the case.

Last year, the Hotline reported that more than 1,600 callers had difficulty accessing local services because programs could not accommodate their disabilities. That these survivors were turned away after making the effort to find assistance is particularly troubling, given that people with disabilities can have increased barriers to seeking help, such as reliance on a caregiver (who may be the abuser), social isolation, and communication obstacles. Similarly, older adults in violent relationships can find it challenging to leave an abuser or access shelter. Some older people may have medical conditions and disabilities that make living on their own (or in shelter) difficult; and others may be the caregiver to an abusive partner, making the thought of leaving seem impossible.

To improve access to services for older survivors and people with disabilities, there are some basic things domestic violence agencies can do. For example, the very act of getting to shelter cannot be taken for granted. Transportation is doubly challenging for older people and people with disabilities who rely on a caregiver and are reluctant to disclose their need to go to a domestic violence shelter. Survivors should not be expected to find safety without help if they need it. With additional training, domestic violence providers can consider some of these barriers and encourage advocates to reach survivors where they are.

I began my career as a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate in Kansas in the late 1980s. Since then, our country’s response to violence against women has tremendously improved, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a model for accommodating survivors with diverse needs—from language access, to the Deaf Hotline. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is over, but I will continue to raise awareness and build support for a network of victim services that reaches all people, regardless of age or disability. I hope you will join me.

Additional resources:

greenlee-125Kathy Greenlee is the Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ACL brings together into a single entity the Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability, and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. Ms. Greenlee was appointed by President Obama as Assistant Secretary for Aging and confirmed by the Senate in June 2009. Prior to her service at HHS, she served as Secretary of Aging in Kansas, and before that as the Kansas State Long Term Care Ombudsman. A champion for the wellbeing, dignity, and independence of all persons, regardless of age and disability, Assistant Secretary Greenlee began her career as a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate in Kansas. Concurrently serving as a member of the state attorney general’s Victims’ Rights Task Force, she served as the Executive Director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Ms. Greenlee is a graduate of the University of Kansas with degrees in business administration and law.

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How I #SeeDV: Crayton Webb

DVAM-webbI remember distinctly the moment that I finally got it. That I understood. The moment when I realized that violence against women was more than just an issue the company I work for had taken on as a priority philanthropic cause nearly twenty years ago. That it was my issue, my problem. That it was a man’s issue. All of a sudden, for me it was finally personal.

I was fortunate not to have grown up in a home with domestic violence. Had never been in a relationship where violence was prevalent. I was, and am, blessed to be in a loving marriage with three healthy, happy, and often rambunctious and loud, little boys.

The story I read in the newspaper that particular morning suddenly made it all seem very real. The story was about a young man from a prominent and wealthy Dallas family who didn’t take no for an answer one night. The teenager and his girlfriend had been making-out in the back seat of his car; he didn’t stop when she said, “STOP,” and he was being charged with rape. How unbelievably awful! Her life scarred and potentially ruined. And his too, for that matter. How could he do this? Why didn’t he stop? Then the judgment came – how could he not know better? Why didn’t his parents, his dad, teach him better…talk to him? But maybe they did. And then the worst thought yet: oh God, what if my boys ever did something like that?

All of these horrific scenes flashed through my head of one of my now sweet little boys, grown up and more than misbehaving: hurting another person, hurting a woman. And then suddenly, it was all clear to me. It hit home. This is our problem! This is our issue! There is no violence against women—no domestic violence, no dating abuse—without the abuser. And that’s us! We men are the problem! And how scary, how truly horrific, that the only role we men have played in this issue up until now, is being the problem!

Men must have another role, a larger part to play in the fight to end domestic violence. What I’ve come to fully understand since I read that article nearly three years ago, is that it’s just not enough for us men to be good guys. It’s not enough for us to not abuse our spouse, girlfriend or loved one. It’s just not enough to read articles every day about women who are hurt in our society by men who say they love them and for us to close the page and say, “What a shame, glad I’m not that type of guy.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are many men—some who are quite organized, articulate and vocal—that have been speaking loudly and passionately about ending violence against women for some time. They have been and will continue to be champions. They get it. But the majority of men—the majority of people, in fact—do not get the role of men here. We men have a larger part to play in ending violence against women, and it’s more than just not being abusive. I understand that talk is cheap and real change comes with action. But I’ve come to believe that the biggest job we men have in ending violence against women is just that: talk. Talking to our sons about what it means to be a gentleman; talking to our daughters about what they should expect and not accept in a relationship; and, perhaps most important of all, talking to each other—other men—about what it means to be a real man.

It takes a lot of courage for a man to speak up to another man and say, “I see the way you talk to your girlfriend. It’s not okay. In fact, it’s completely unacceptable.” It takes courage for a man to say to another, “I know you hit your wife and I want nothing to do with you.”

Courage? Really? How hard could it really be for a man to speak up when confronted with an opportunity to do something, you ask? But here’s the problem. We tell ourselves stories. We tell ourselves that we don’t know the circumstances. We weren’t there. We don’t really know the situation. We shouldn’t interfere. We don’t want to judge. We might offend our buddy if we speak up to him about such a personal matter. Offend him?

The fact is that it’s offensive that in the year 2014 one in four women and one in three girls will experience abuse at the hand of a man who says he loves her! It’s offensive that a child would grow up in a home with domestic violence thinking that abuse is a normal part of relationships. And it’s offensive the only role men have played is as the abuser!

The message must be clear and simple: A REAL MAN WILL NEVER HURT A WOMAN! Period. End of story! Now, let’s start talking!

webb-125Crayton Webb is Vice President of Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility for Dallas, Texas based Mary Kay Inc. Crayton oversees the company’s global media and public relations team and is also responsible for Mary Kay’s global CSR and philanthropic efforts. Crayton is chairman of the men’s auxiliary for Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas, HeROs (He Respects Others, #itsoffensive), and was recently appointed to the board of the Texas Council on Family Violence in Austin, Texas. Follow Crayton on Twitter: @craytonwebb.

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I #SeeDV and Firearms as a Lethal Combination: Rob Valente

DVAM-valenteDomestic and dating violence and firearms are a lethal combination. Researchers say that just the presence of a gun in a home where domestic violence is taking place (no matter who owns the gun) increases the risk of homicide by a factor of five. About one-third of female homicide victims are killed as a result of domestic violence; 3% of male victims of domestic violence are killed by an intimate partner. The greatest risk of intimate partner homicide is when an abuser has access to a gun and has threatened the victim or others with the gun.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which tracks homicide data, reports that more intimate partner homicides are committed by dating partners than by spouses. And those numbers are increasing.

Yet studies also show that, where states had laws prohibiting persons subject to protection orders from possessing firearms, firearms homicides of intimate partners went down by 12-13%.

What is often lost in all the data is that abusers use guns not just to kill their intimate partners, but also to intimidate, terrorize, and manipulate them. Some abusers intimidate their dating partners by simply saying, “I went out and bought a gun yesterday.” If there is already abuse in the relationship, that statement is far more complex than it sounds. It’s a way of telling the victimized partner, “I have the means to kill you whenever I want.”

In other cases, the abuser may threaten to use a firearm to kill the partner’s children or their pet if the intimate partner tries to leave. Another form of abuse is when the abuser threatens to commit suicide if the victim leaves. All of these actions are meant to intimidate the intimate partner and control their behavior, and the abuser actually uses or threatens to use a firearm to make the point.

Because firearms are so dangerous, these forms of abuse should not be ignored. It’s important for a victim experiencing these threats to reach out to a helpline, like loveisrespect or the National Domestic Violence Hotline, to find a local program that can help the victim figure out the safest response to these threats.

Recently, the Hotline and the loveisrespect surveyed callers about firearms and got some startling answers.

Of those who answered the survey:

  • 25% said their partner pointed the gun at them or others
  • 30% said their partner left the gun out to create a feeling of fear
  • When asked if they knew that the court may be able to order their partner to surrender their firearms and ammunition, only 34% of the participants said they were aware of this.
  • Nearly 52% said they would feel safer if law enforcement took their partner/spouse/ex’s firearms.
  • At least 67% believe their partner is capable of killing them.

The stories that the survey participants told were even more chilling:

  • One caller shared the story about her husband who sleeps with loaded guns under his pillow. One night, she woke to the sound of him releasing the safety next to her head. His guns, she said, are regularly used to threaten her and abuse her.
  • One woman said that her partner shot her while she sat in her car. Another said her husband threatened to shoot her in the face. One of the women said her partner put a gun in his mouth while talking to her on Skype. In another case, a husband recorded a video of how he would kill himself with his gun if she left him. He even showed her the bullets he would use.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, think about whether firearms violence might be a concern. Any use or threatened use of firearms by the abuser against the victim, children, pets, family members, friends, or workplace acquaintances must be taken seriously. The mere presence of firearms raises the risk of death so greatly that it is important to reach out for outside help. Call the Hotline, contact loveisrespect, or reach out to your local domestic violence program to develop a safety plan and to figure out how you will handle these threats.

valente-125Rob (Roberta) Valente is a Policy Consultant for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, with specialized interests in firearms, federal domestic violence laws and interventions, and tribal issues relating to domestic violence. She was one of the national coordinators of legislative work to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. Ms. Valente also serves as a consultant on civil legal issues regarding domestic violence for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Congress of American Indians.

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How I #SeeDV: Christopher Gandin Le

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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.

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How I #SeeDV: Dr. Wendy Walsh

Dr. Wendy Walsh, how do you #SeeDV?

“I think we’re finally at a place in history where we can see an end to domestic violence. I think that awareness has grown. I think that people are finally asking the questions – the important questions, not the questions of why she stays, but the questions of why he hits, or why as a culture we’re raising perpetrators of domestic violence. I think that we’re at a precipice right now…”

Check out the video to hear more from Dr. Walsh:

wendy-walsh-125Dr. Wendy Walsh is one of America’s thought leaders on relationships. She is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at California State University, Channel Islands. She holds a B.A. in Journalism, a Masters degree in Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and is the author of three books and numerous publications, including The 30-Day Love Detox. She appears regularly on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, The Steve Harvey Show, The O’Reilly Factor, Inside Edition, The Katic Couric Show, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and The View. Dr. Walsh was nominated for an Emmy award for her work as a co-host on the Dr. Phil spinoff show, The Doctors. Visit her website at www.drwendywalsh.com.

 

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The Hotline and 30Second Mom Team Up for a Twitter Chat on Domestic Violence

All month, we’ve asked people to share how they see DV as part of the Hotline’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month initiative to encourage the community to start conversations, share stories and learn more about domestic violence.

To continue the conversation, join us for a Twitter chat hosted by 30Second Mom tomorrow, October 22, from 8 to 9 p.m. CT (9 to 10 p.m. ET). During the chat, we’ll discuss topics including:

  • The warning signs of abuse;
  • Characteristics of healthy relationships; and
  • How exposure to domestic violence affects children.

Whitney Laas, manager of digital services operations for the Hotline and loveisrespect, will also be on hand during the chat to answer questions using @ndvh. Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #30SecondMom!

Also joining the chat:

  • Andrew Willis, founder and CEO of the Stop Abuse Campaign (@AbuseStoppers)
  • Prudence Williams, program director of the Exchange Club Family Center of Northeastern Florida (@ECFamilyCenter)

30Second Mom is a free app and website where busy women can access information helpful information and share it on their social networks.

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I #SeeDV as an Intergenerational Epidemic: Jo Crawford

crawfordI have worked with more than 1,700 survivors (not victims!) of domestic violence in the past ten years, helping them to become financially independent and create new lives for themselves and their families. Only then can they save their more than 4,000 children from becoming abusers or abused. I often hear from these incredibly brave women that they have seen their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and cousins in abusive relationships. How can they know what a healthy relationship is if abuse is the model in which they grew up? Women fall in love with men who they believe are wonderful, only to find that they are violent and dangerous later. This is why it takes an average of seven times for a woman to leave for good, often after the children have been abused as well. This is also true for the men and boys who abuse. They have only seen men in their families abuse women, not treat them with the loving respect they all deserve.

How do we change this? Mothers, fathers, schools, and athletic teams need to stop the continuation of abuse by teaching very young children that little girls deserve to be treated with respect and little boys must treat women of all ages with respect. There needs to be zero tolerance for abuse at home, at work and in public. Not until violence against women is socially unacceptable will the staggering numbers of abuse change.

When I started working with survivors, I thought I would be working with low self-esteem issues, but there is a lack of self worth that is even more insidious. We so often are taught that other people are more important than we are and that it is our job to take care of others first. Women need to be reminded, and little girls need to be taught, that they deserve the very best of everything and that they have the power to create the life of their dreams. I believe this education is the responsibility of all of us, and it needs to start by the age of five. Anything less is not acceptable. If we all do not commit to ending domestic violence, we are as guilty as the abuser. We need to say, “No More.”

crawford-125Johanna Crawford was 13, living in an alcoholic, abusive household, when she watched her father try to kill her mother. The memory never left her, even years later as an adult who had built a string of successful businesses and sold high-end real estate.

In 2003, while volunteering at a crisis shelter, Crawford broke a rule and gave $40 out of her own wallet to a victim who arrived with two young children – petrified and penniless, and without the documents needed to apply for aid. There she saw a gap in what the government and domestic violence agencies were providing, and what the victims really needed in the moment: emergency cash grants as the first step to rebuilding their lives. The woman ended up using the $40 to pay a government fee to access her own records.

A year later, Crawford, who is now 67, launched her encore as the founder and executive director of Web of Benefit. Her Transition to Self Sufficiency and Good Works Programs assist survivors in developing skills for economic and personal independence and ensures each grantee adheres to her “Pay-It-Forward” philosophy.

According to the Mary Kay Foundation’s 2012 “Truth About Abuse” survey report, 74% of female domestic violence victims stay in an abusive relationship longer for financial reasons. To combat this, Web of Benefit has directly given grants to more than 1,400 survivors totaling over $750,000, touched the lives of more than 5,000 survivors, and partners with more than 80 organizations in Boston and 25 in Chicago. In 2012, she was honored as a CNN Hero for her encore work.

Says Crawford, “I believe women working together can change the world.”

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We #SeeDV Going Unrecognized: Heather Heiman & Casey Swegman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FVPSA Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

The rules are different when you know an abuser.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How I #SeeDV: Nicole Warner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic, destructive, and deadly for far too many.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#SeeDV This October

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

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

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

How do you #seeDV?

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

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

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

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

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

Want to get involved? Click here.

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