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no-excuse

Ray Rice, the NFL, and What We Know About Domestic Violence

no-excuseThe recent events and media coverage surrounding Ray Rice and the NFL have created a powerful swell of conversation about domestic violence. Many people are speaking outsharing personal stories, and calling for less victim-blaming and more accountability for abusers and their public enablers. While we are outraged by the stories we hear daily at the Hotline, we are heartened by the support of so many people who recognize that there is no excuse for abuse.

Often, a lack of understanding about the dynamics of abuse leads to misguided comments and notions about why victims stay with their abusive partners, or how domestic violence isn’t that pervasive of an issue (because it’s so often hidden from the public). At the Hotline, there are a few things we know for sure about domestic violence:

Domestic violence happens everyday, in every community. Studies show that domestic violence affects roughly 12 million people in the United States. However, abuse is often not reported, in many cases due to a victim’s fear or not knowing where to turn. Maybe you know someone – a friend, a family member, a coworker – who is experiencing abuse at home with their partner. Maybe you’re experiencing it yourself. Whatever the case, please know that help is out there.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or religion.

Domestic violence isn’t just physical abuse. The media tends to focus on physical abuse, but domestic violence includes emotional, verbal, sexual, and/or financial abuse.

Domestic violence is complex. Each person’s situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to domestic violence. There are many reasons victims stay in abusive relationships. What they need – what they deserve – are resources and support to help them find their own paths to safety.

Domestic violence is not the victim’s fault. The choice to be abusive lies solely with the abusive partner.

We believe that ALL people deserve to feel safe and respected in their relationships. If you or someone you know needs help, we are here to support you. Contacts to the Hotline are anonymous and confidential. Call us 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or chat here on our website Monday through Friday, 9am-7pm CT.

$20 covers the total cost of one phone call to the Hotline, and one phone call can be life-changing. If you would like to show your support for domestic violence victims and survivors with a donation, please fill out our secure online donation form. Thank you!

helpful safety tips

When The Fighting Starts: Tips for Protection

While no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship and no one deserves to be physically or emotionally harmed by a loved one, the reality is that it occurs far too often and in many situations leaving is not always an option.

If you’re in a relationship where physical abuse is ongoing or likely to occur, there are some practical tips that could help keep you safer. Of course, making a plan for safety is very individualized — what works for one person may not be a possible or safe option for another.

Calling the hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE will connect you with an advocate who can help you make a plan for remaining safe based on your specific situation — where you are in the relationship, what tactics may have worked in the past, and more.

Above all, you are the expert of your situation. You may be able to recognize signs that violence is escalating, and plan accordingly based on this. Have a safety plan for you and your children to know who to call, where to go, and how to get out if you can escape.


While there are tips to try to prevent abuse from happening, a violent attack or assault can be unpredictable. If there’s no way to escape the violence, there are some tips for protection that could help keep you safer during an attack.

  • If you’re pregnant, there is always a heightened risk during violent situations. If you’re in a home with stairs, try to stay on the first floor.  Getting into the fetal position around your stomach if you’re being attacked is another tactic that can be instrumental in staying safe.
  • Determine which rooms are safe areas to go. Which rooms have locks on the doors? What offers you the most space? Small spaces such as closets or bathrooms could leave you trapped. Safe rooms may have windows or doors for escape, and may have a phone to reach in case of emergency. Try to avoid rooms with hard counters or other dangerous surfaces.
  • Be aware of what could be used as a weapon — and if you know where guns or knives or other weapons are, hide them away if you can, or stay away from where they’re located (in the kitchen or garage, for example).
  • Consider calling 911 if you feel like it’s safe to do so. Try to remove yourself from the situation first. If you’re calling from a cell phone, begin by telling the dispatcher the address where you’re located in case you need to hang up quickly — it’s more difficult to pick up on where a call on a cell phone is coming from.
  • Consider having a “back up phone.” If you think it won’t be possible to reach a phone in case of emergency — and if its safe to do so — think about purchasing a pay-as-you-go phone to hide in a safe room.
  • Protect your major organs. Make yourself small and curl up into a ball. Protect your face and your head.

Here at The Hotline, brainstorming with and talking to callers about how to stay safe is one of the most important parts of each call. While the above are practical ideas for protecting yourself in the face of danger, every situation is different.

If physical violence has occurred in the past, you may know what it takes to deescalate and end it — or, you may not know how you’ll react until you find yourself in a situation where you need to. Trust your instincts — and we can help, too. If you’re in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, please give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE, 24/7, to speak confidentially with a trained advocate.

what is safety planning

What Is Safety Planning?

Safety planning is an important aspect of how advocates at The Hotline help callers protect themselves emotionally and physically in an abusive relationship.

what is safety planning

A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that can help you avoid dangerous situations and know the best way to react when you are in danger. This plan includes ways to remain safe while in the relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action, and more. We safety plan with victims, friends and family members — anyone who is concerned about their own safety or the safety of another.

Although some of the things that you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that in moments of crisis your brain doesn’t function the same was as when you are calm. When adrenaline is pumping through your veins it can be hard to think clearly or to make logical decisions about your safety. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments.

Safety planning looks different for different types of abuse. You safety plan should be tailored to your specific situation.

Physical Violence
If your partner is physically violent, identify the places in your home that are the safest — places where there are no weapons and where there is an easy escape point — and try to get there in the case of an argument. Try to avoid violence if at all possible by leaving. If leaving seems unsafe and violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Go to your safe spot and curl up in a little ball, protecting your face by wrapping your arms around each side of your head and entwining your fingers.

Emotional Abuse
If your partner is emotionally abusive, stay connected to a support network. Friends and family members can be great allies in times of need and can build you up. If you feel comfortable, talking to someone about what is happening can help you stay positive. Try to stay involved in all of the activities that you love or develop new hobbies. Keep a journal of all of the good things in your life and all of the things that you like about yourself. Make a list of things that help you to relax (like taking a warm bath) and do them one by one until you feel calm and relaxed.

If you’ve left the relationship, emotional safety planning may look different than what it would be if you were still in an abusive situation. Leaving a relationship is one of the most dangerous times for victims emotionally as well — it’s normal and expected that you’ll be encountering new feelings (ex: loneliness, struggling with being uprooted, difficulty adjusting to a new life). Our advocates are here for you during this challenging time.

Safety Planning with Children
If you have children, they need to become part of your safety plan — planning for both their physical and emotional safety. If you’re in a physically abusive relationship, don’t run to them when your partner becomes violent. This could potentially put them in danger. Teach them how to get help, but instruct them not to interfere with any arguments that are happening. You can work with them to come up with a code word that will let them know when they need to leave the house or hide to protect themselves. You can also practice how to safely exit the home with them.

If you trust your friend and/or neighbors, develop a system to let them know when violence is occurring and you need help. Your kids can go to their house to stay safe, they can call the police and you can stash an overnight bag there for quick getaways. Check back on the blog in the future for more information on comprehensive safety planning with kids.

Remember that at all times, your safety is the utmost priority. If you need help safety planning, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Did You See Last Night’s Law & Order SVU? Thoughts?

Last night’s Law and Order SVU told a familiar story — one of a young pop princess being brutally beaten by her baby-faced singer boyfriend. It was very similar to Rihanna and Chris Brown’s experiences, including the same triggers that set off the fight, his controversial tattoo and the public tweeting between the couple. It was an emotional episode that ended tragically — the young star is slain by her boyfriend after they get back together.

Here are some thoughts around last night’s episode:

Victim-Blaming Worsens the Situation

It was heartbreaking to watch the young pop icon named “Micha” in the episode attempt to recover in the days following the abuse.  She had just been betrayed by her best friend and partner, “Caleb,” she was physically hurting and she alone had to decide what to do next. In the midst of all of this, former fans and Caleb supporters were slamming her on Twitter saying that she was a “hoe,” that she should take him back, etc. A neighbor even told police, “She shouldn’t have dissed him.”

Take-Away: This was a powerful reminder of the difficulties facing a victim days after an instance of abuse. We should never judge or blame the victim for what has happened. No one wants or asks to be abused. Abuse is never justified. Let’s make sure that we always take an open-minded and supportive approach towards the victims in our life, and never tell them what they should do but rather be there for them as they heal.

Labels and How Abuse Changes Self-Perception

One of the most jolting lines in the show was Micha saying, “I don’t want the world to see me like that — like a victim.” In the episode, Micha’s brand managers talk with the detectives about what Micha should do in order to protect her public image. The scene also hinted at an internal struggle. It seemed that Micha didn’t like how her own self-perception had twisted as a result of what happened. One of the characters said, “He breaks the law and she gets punished?” Micha’s “punishment” wasn’t confined to her injuries, but rather her self-esteem and understanding of the world was changed as a result of Caleb’s violence.

Take Away: Victims are not only victims. They’re mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, teachers, jokesters, romantics, artists, you name it. Too often in news stories or TV dramas, the victim isn’t adequately described outside of the violent situation. If you are being abused now or have survived, know that your experience isn’t all that you are. It’s a part of your story, but know that you are still a whole person. If you’re struggling in how you feel about yourself as a result of abuse, we have advocates on the lines 24/7 who are here to talk.

Is Anything “Inevitable” In Abuse?

The episode ended on a jaw-dropper. Micha and Caleb publicly announce they are back together. When asked what the detectives should do next, Detective Benson replies, “We wait for the inevitable.” Cut to Micha and Caleb on a boat, seemingly happy until Caleb receives a text message from another girl. A fight ensues, and in the next scene a TV report broadcasts that the young singer’s body was found.

Take Away: The sad ending to the show seemed to insinuate that death always follows abuse. While it is true that abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm, we do want to point out that nothing is “inevitable” when it comes to someone’s situation. Advocates on The Hotline can help assess for potential risk. We are always concerned about our callers’ safety and can help anyone see how much danger is present. If you or someone you know is being abused and there are weapons present, please call The Hotline to safety plan around staying safe with those in the house.

What did you think of last night’s episode? Did anything stand out to you?

(photo credit: nbc.com)

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Know the Red Flags of Abuse

It’s not always easy to tell at the beginning of a relationship if it will become abusive.

In fact, many abusers may seem absolutely perfect on the surface — as if they are the dream partner — in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.

If you’re beginning to feel as if your partner or a loved one’s partner is becoming abusive, there are a few behaviors that you can look out for. Watch out for these red flags and if you’re experiencing one or more of them in your relationship, call The Hotline to talk about what’s going on:

  • Embarrassing or putting you down
  • Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you
  • Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do
  • Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing your friends or families
  • Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses
  • Preventing you from making your own decisions
  • Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children
  • Preventing you from working or attending school
  • Blaming you for the abuse, or acting like it’s not really happening
  • Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets
  • Intimidating you  with guns, knives or other weapons
  • Shoving, slapping, choking or hitting you
  • Attempting to stop you from pressing charges
  • Threatening to commit suicide because of something you’ve done
  • Threatening to hurt or kill you
  • Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
  • Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Preventing you from using birth control or pressuring you to become pregnant when you’re not ready

Domestic violence doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different. But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have more power and control over their partners.

If you’re concerned about some of these things happening in your relationship, please feel free to give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

(Photo: “Red Flag” by Andy Wright)

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Teen Mom Features The Hotline

A recent episode of Teen Mom showed a family experiencing domestic violence. Teen parents Catelynn and Tyler have a unique situation. Catelynn’s mom April and Tyler’s dad Butch got married after Catelynn and Tyler started dating in middle school. Butch has been physically and emotionally abusive to April prior to this incident.

In the episode, April called Tyler to alert him to an incident that involved Butch assaulting her after suspecting that she was talking  to another man. Butch was arrested, and April told Tyler that she was unsure of their future together. Tyler and Catelynn were immediately concerned and rushed over to April to find out what happened.

Photo from mtv.com, Tyler at Catelynn from a previous episode

As the episode progressed, it became clear that the evening was incredibly violent, leaving April with bruises and pain. Butch had violated a “no contact” order in coming over to April’s home.

Despite the horrible details of the assault, April didn’t place all of the blame on Butch. She was quick to mention that Butch wasn’t himself because of drugs and alcohol. She told Tyler, “I really can’t say that I’m gonna leave him or anything like that because I really don’t know. He wasn’t there, dude, it wasn’t your dad.”

She also maintained hope that he will change, saying, “I honestly think if he’ll do his time, the drinking and the drugging is going to stop.”

Sadly, at The Hotline, we know that experiences like April’s are all too common. It’s not unusual for abusive partners to be extremely jealous, and accuse their partners of cheating, even when that is so far from the truth. We know that children and teens are dealing with the aftermath of abuse every day in their homes, just like Tyler and Catelynn.

April had a hard time deciding what to do in her relationship. An issue that complicated April’s decision-making process is Butch’s substance abuse. Again, this is an issue that is all too common in abusive relationships, and it makes it challenging to understand why someone becomes violent.

A common misconception is that using alcohol and drugs can make someone ‘lose control’ and hurt those around them. Even if Butch was able to get clean and sober, it’s likely that he would still be controlling and abusive. Alcohol and drug use can make abusive situations worse, but it doesn’t cause a non-abusive, non-controlling person to become violent.

Just as April said, it’s very likely that when Butch attacked her, he looked like a different person than the person she fell in love with. But, despite his drug use, Butch was still responsible for how he hurt April. Naturally, April wants to see Butch get the help that he needs so that she can be in a healthy, safe relationship with him, but he would need to accept responsibility for his substance abuse and his controlling and abusive behavior and be committed to getting help for both in order to change. Getting help for substance abuse and domestic violence would require a lot of personal accountability and determination.

When an abusive partner is using drugs or alcohol, there is an increased risk of severe physical violence. It’s really important to be aware of how the substance use affects their behavior. Do they become more aggressive or violent when they’re using or when they’re in withdrawal? This can help survivors know the risks of a situation and take steps to become safer in the moment.

If you have some concerns about similar issues happening in your relationship, you can always call The Hotline to talk. An advocate at The Hotline can help you think about what’s going on in your relationship, what the risks are to your safety and your children’s safety, and what you can do to stay safe.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Francesca’s Story

* Note from The Hotline: Special thanks to Francesca for bravely sharing her story with us.*

Living with a man like my ex-husband is like having a gun pointed at your head every single day, and you just don’t know when the gun is going to go off.

I am writing to tell my story – of how I have been a victim and survivor of repeated, relentless domestic violence – and to bring the weaknesses in the justice system and the general lack of knowledge in the community about domestic violence to your attention.

I married my ex-husband in October of 2005 thinking that he was a kind, gentle, compassionate, and caring man. Not until I was pregnant with our child did I see his true character. When I was about six months pregnant, he slapped me across my face, leaving me with a black eye and knocking me to the ground. Luckily nothing happened to my baby, but the abuse did not end there. At the time, I was living in Ecuador. I was trapped and scared.

My daughter was born in June of 2007, and we traveled to the U.S. permanently in August of 2007. Once there he did not hold back. Just three weeks after arriving in the U.S., there had already been three calls made to the police on domestic disputes, and he was arrested after battering me while I had our infant daughter in my arms. As I tried to call 9-1-1, he ripped the phone cord out of the wall. He threatened me that if I testified against him that he would kill me, and I believed him.

Rape was a regular occurrence in our home, and I cannot count the number of times I laid in bed crying as he raped me. He also strangled me on a regular basis, slammed my head into the walls of our home, leaving large holes, tortured me sexually, mentally, psychologically, and ruined me financially.

He hit our three your old daughter in the face, leaving a large bruise, then kept her home from day care for several days until the bruise was no longer visible. He put her head through our bathroom wall, which was reported to the Illinois DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services). DCFS decided that he did, in fact, abuse our daughter, but they did not pursue the case any further.

I tried so hard to protect her from him, but every time he would hit her, I would step in, and receive my own beating on her behalf. I did not report it since I was sure he would kill me or kidnap my daughter if I did.

Perhaps one of the worst parts of this whole story is that he almost killed me. Actually, he did kill me, but thankfully doctors were able to revive me. In this particular incident we were involved in a heated discussion because I had to leave Ecuador to return to the U.S. for medical school and my graduate work in biochemistry. He had not obtained a visa to come to the U.S. at that point, and threatened to divorce me if I did not stay with him in Ecuador. He grabbed my wrists, screamed at me, and then threatened me with a screwdriver. I walked home knowing that I would divorce him, and knowing that I had a flight back to the U.S. in about three days. I laid down to take a nap, and did not wake up until four days later.

I was on a ventilator in the hospital, and they informed me that I had undergone cardiac arrest on several occasions. The coma was so profound that I received the lowest rating on the Glasgow coma scale. It is truly a miracle that I survived.

It is my firm belief that my ex-husband poisoned me with scopolamine, a common date rape drug in parts of Latin America. He called my medical school and told them I had tried to kill myself, instead of giving them the true story, which then led to me being expelled from school. He has sabotaged my career, my jobs, did not allow me to have any friends or family in my life, destroyed my home and beat my pets

When I have told my story to friends and family, a few people’s reaction is to ask why I didn’t leave sooner, or they simply don’t believe me at all. It is a shock to me how undereducated the public is on domestic violence.

People do not understand how difficult it is to escape. It is almost impossible to gather evidence, because the abuser will find a way to destroy it. No one on the outside knows what is happening because the abuser has the victim trapped and alone. He cuts her off from all outside interaction, and attempts to control her mind, and in many cases, he is successful.

If a woman does manage to escape, the justice system does little to help or protect her. I have had a domestic violence advocate tell me that there is only a 50/50 chance that someone will get convicted of domestic battery in my county, even in cases where there are bloody pictures, good witnesses, hospital reports, and other evidence. This is why women cannot simply just walk out the door. It is a real life or death risk to leave a man that believes he owns you. You could, and many have, die in the process. 4 out of 5 deaths due to domestic battery occur when a woman tries to leave.

I am asking for your help to educate the public on these issues. Women are beaten every day by their husbands, and it is a misdemeanor. You can get a felony charge for getting in a bar fight, but if you beat your wife, the justice system is sending a message that you will only get a slap on the wrist, if even that.

One of the most difficult problems I think battered women and children face is that the abuser isolates the victim to the point where most of the time there are no eyewitnesses. Because of this, it makes these cases very difficult to prosecute, but even worse, it makes the state’s attorney’s office reluctant to even pursue it because they see it as a waste of money and resources.

Domestic violence is NOT a family matter. It is everyone’s business. It affects us all even if we are not directly abused. Women should be able to speak out against their abusers. They should be able to bring their abusers to justice. The public should be educated about what it means to be battered, and why it is so difficult to escape. With stiffer punishments, and better prevention, many women would be able to leave sooner. PLEASE help me and all women fight for what is fundamentally right.

blog-imgs-08

On the Lines- The Hotline, September 2010

“I can’t even stop by to see my parents without his permission,” my caller told me.

My caller described her relationship with her husband as something that started out very loving and comforting, but soon deteriorated into something that she described as “monstrous” and “unbearable.” About two years into my caller’s marriage, her husband started getting paranoid that she was going to leave him. He would check in on her constantly, often asking detailed, minute-by-minute accounts of her day. Sometimes, he would check her routes on Google maps and make sure that the mileage on her car matched her story.

One day, she had taken one hour to do the grocery shopping. When she got home from that shopping trip, her husband was furious. He insisted that she should only need 30 minutes to do the shopping. When my caller told him that she sometimes needed more than that, he slammed her head against the piano bench and told her never to talk back to him again. It was the first time he physically hurt her, but it would not be the last. She lived in constant fear.

On the day she called The Hotline, she had gone to see her parents. They noticed a new bruise on her upper arm, one in the shape of her husband’s hand. She told them that she couldn’t stay to discuss it with them; she had to get home before her husband got suspicious. She said that the looks on her parents’ faces broke her heart. In that moment, she knew that she needed help. I let my caller know that I was glad she called. She did not deserve to be treated the way she had been treated, and she was not alone. We explored the ways that she could keep herself physically and emotionally safe, and we discussed her options and resources in going forward.

She ended the call with a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” she said. “Without you, he literally might have killed me or driven me crazy. You have saved my life!”

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

From Survivor to Mountaineer

By Kathleen Schmidt

My name is Kathleen Schmidt, and I’m a survivor of domestic violence and abuse. I fled for my life over 15 years ago from extreme emotional and physical abuse, and created a new life for myself.

When I was living in a shelter for battered women, I kept telling myself over and over, “I have a brain, two hands, two feet and I know how to work; I WILL make my life better.” I chose to become a victor instead of a victim.  Books became my source of education and inspiration, and not only did I work on my own healing, I also had to find a way to earn a living. Not shy of hard work, I at one point sold pictures out of the trunk of my car. My efforts paid off, and it won me a trip to the Bahamas that allowed me to dive with sharks (I learned how to scuba dive while living in the shelter).

I entertained the idea for a very long time, since I lived in the shelter, to write my story. So finally, after many years needed to grow and heal, I wrote my little blue book “Escaping the Glass Cage: A Story of Survival & Empowerment from Domestic Violence.” It isn’t a big book, but something a woman in crisis can read and find encouragement in. I wrote it for women in shelters, but my hope is that it also helps those on the outside get a basic understanding of domestic violence and its effects.  But getting my book published didn’t feel like enough.

I wanted to find a way to reach more people on a global scale. So I created “Project Empowerment,” a blog talk radio show dedicated to empowering survivors of domestic violence and abuse, as well as others. I truly believe we each have a voice, and if people are able to listen to another’s story, it can help them make different choices and empower them to live a better life.

My guests have included Betty Makoni, Top 10 CNN Hero of the Year for 2009 for her humanitarian work rescuing rape victims in Zimbabwe. I’ve also interviewed actress/author Mariel Hemingway, as well as the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s Operations Director, Katie-Ray Jones. My guests have also included many shelter directors from all over the world, authors, psychotherapists, counselors and survivors, each sharing their story, their passion and the work they are doing to make our world a better place. We talk about the tough subjects, and at the end of each show we share our ideas of solutions to the issues discussed, such as why the victim stays, where do abused men get help, how a can victim get help to rebuild their life, and how we can empower the children.

It is humbling to be contacted by listeners from all around the world, to learn the vital resources shared and how their sheer willpower helped them gain the strength to leave their abuser. My dream to build “Project Empowerment” into a global resource tool is coming true.

But again, I felt there needed to be something else to raise awareness. So I am very excited to announce “Climb for Empowerment,” with the mission to empower survivors of domestic violence and abuse … one step at a time. I will be climbing Mt. Rainier September 1–3, 2011, in honor of all those who have struggled to start their lives over.

It is by choice, to take one step after another. My dream is to show the world that if I can make a new life, so can you, one step at a time. I know how hard it is to rebuild a life. It takes a lot of courage to start over, learn how to live again and grow through the pain. So this climb is a symbol of that growth. It takes time, training and a lot of determination to do this, and I will need your support. Donations will be shared between Girl Child Network Worldwide and The Pixel Project. Both are global initiatives working very hard to help end violence against women.

I truly believe that all healing and empowerment begins from within. And for us to have peace in our world, we must first have peace within our homes, within ourselves. If you can find that spark, that driving force that pulls you in the direction of doing something bigger than you, listen to it. We each have a voice, we each can make a difference in the world, and it all starts with us.

To learn more about my work, Project Empowerment, Climb for Empowerment and upcoming Empowerment Workshops (New!), you can visit my website at www.kathleenmschmidt.com.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Love Is…Knowing the Signs of Abuse to Help Yourself or a Friend

In October we launched The Hotline’s 15th anniversary with the debut of our “Love is” campaign. This campaign is aimed not only at raising awareness to our issue, but also ensuring people know they are not alone and help is available.

One component of raising awareness is ensuring people recognize the signs of domestic violence. Everyone needs to know what it is and how to spot it happening in their lives or in the lives of their friends.

Remember: Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.

Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone. It happens to all races, ages, sexual orientation, religion or gender. Is domestic violence something that only happens between married couples? No. While domestic violence does apply to married couples, it can also occur between people who are living together or who are dating.

We hope that by discussing what love is, we can help show what love is not – any form of abuse. Please join us in our campaign by telling us what you believe love is and by remembering these warning signs that you – or someone you know – may be in an abusive situation.

• Your partner humiliates you or puts you down
• Your partner makes you feel bad about yourself
• Your partner controls what you do, who you see, who you talk to, where the money is spent
• Your partner prevents you from getting or keeping a job
• Your partner tells you it is your fault he hurts you and if only you wouldn’t make him act this way
• Your partner uses the children to make you feel guilty or threatens to harm the children if you do not do what he says.

Also, remember we’re always here to talk at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). You are not alone. There is hope and there is help.

Additional info:

Be Smart. Be Well. “Domestic Violence: What Is It??”

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

SEEING Beyond Abuse

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[1]. Damage to the eye angle (called angle recession) is one of the most common complications after a strike to the eye[2].  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


[1] American Academy of Ophthalmology.  2009 Eye Injury Snapshot Project Results. http://www.aao.org/practice_mgmt/eyesmart/snapshot_2009_results.cfm

[2] 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. *

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Life After

It takes a lot of courage to share these stories. Thanks to Shana Smith for speaking about her experience in the hopes of helping others.

This is something that you just don’t hear enough about. Survivors speak and they go from their abuse to what they are currently doing, not describing enough of the true gut-wrenching feelings that you have in the days weeks or months after you leave. Life after abuse is so positive, but truth be told, sometimes you feel like it’s harder than the abuse. There are many great programs that will help you with the transition from where you have been to where you will be. The Victim Compensation Fund is a great program that will help with Mental Health Therapy, relocation and many other things, plus some cities have at least one shelter to turn to. There are many options for assistance; you just need to safely find them.

After almost 8 years since the abuse, I still deal with my after. There are still days that I apologize incessantly, cry at the drop of a hat, feel totally worthless and take the weight of the world on my shoulders. I still don’t let people see beyond the mask of total happiness — if you met me, you would never know the past that I am hiding. This is the truth about life after abuse. I married my Prince Charming at 19 after a year of dating. We were married about 15 months before he became physically abusive. I became withdrawn from my family and long-term friends out of fear they would find out. I left after 3 ½ years of marriage following a huge fight.

I had no money except for an ATM card that I was just sure he would cancel quickly, no place to go and no clothes. I left with a bag that had no makeup, hair brush or deodorant – only a toothbrush and a change of clothes. I didn’t really know anyone to call, besides I really didn’t want anyone to know. So I drove to the only hotel in town. The hotel was booked! How in the world could a Days Inn in a town of 30,000 people, mostly farm laborers, be BOOKED?! NO WAY was my thought. I begged and pleaded for a room with no luck. I couldn’t go to a shelter for fear I would lose my job if they found out, so I slept in my car that night. Ok, let’s be honest, I didn’t sleep. I waited for him to find me – and then went into work the next day and acted as if everything was normal. My husband worked 30 minutes from our house so I knew that I could, safely, go home at lunch without him there to get something for the next day. I didn’t go home the day after I left because I didn’t know if he would expect that and be there. I knew what the consequence would be for leaving.

I met someone at my gym who let me sleep on the couch until I got on my feet. For three months I hid. For three months, my abuser came to my work to ‘take care of me,’ bringing me little things like protein shakes, soup and money, all to entice me back into my old life. I was so secretive about my separation that people I worked with thought we were still happily married until after my divorce was final. Even through it all I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to make everything ok. I knew that I couldn’t go back but that didn’t mean that I wanted anything negative to happen to him or me. I just wanted to move on; I wanted a healthy life and chance to be more than just So & So’s wife – I wanted to be Shana.

Most victims would say that you become the queen of appearance. You know how to smile regardless of what just happened and act like everything is fine. The months after I left were horribly hard. I thought it would never get better. I thought I would never be able to support myself, be able to pay my own bills and be a successful adult without him. I often thought about going back because that would have been so much easier, at least in that arena I knew what to expect.

I couldn’t handle most loud noises. A slamming cupboard in the next apartment would make me jump and TV shows with violence would give me horrible nightmares (I still don’t do well with them). I was sick to my stomach constantly worried that my work or my family would find out my secret. I didn’t sleep very well; always worried that he would come to get me. There were days that I would cry – just sob – because I felt like I failed. I was getting divorced at 23 years old. I couldn’t handle the reality in my mind as a complete failure. To this day I feel like that sometimes.

Two months after I left, I finally went to our apartment to move my things into storage and on that day he tried to kill me. I remember thinking that I would die by strangulation. Thankfully, he let me go and I eventually moved to San Diego where I eventually found a job. To forget the past, I drank and had little self-worth. I did anything to try and forget the past. I thought that forgetting it was better than dealing with it. Most people seem to shy away from people after being in an abusive relationship, but I ran head first into as much attention as I could. I went to therapy and tried to talk to my friends, but no one believed that the man I was married to would do anything to hurt me. I felt so isolated and only two people stuck by me through all of this.

I moved to Orange County in 2003, and it was my big chance for a future. I got a job with a temporary agency, making barely enough money to pay my bills, but everything was MINE. The best part was that HE didn’t know where I lived. Until the day he called and begged to get back together, he had changed.

We had been apart for 18 months so I wanted to believe him. I made the mistake of allowing HIM to come down and spend a weekend to talk and see if there was anything left of the relationship and to see if he had changed. How perfect! I could be with him and have no violence and then I hadn’t really failed at marriage, right? After spending time with him, I realized he hadn’t changed. He was still the same person. I asked him to leave and he did. Over the past several years he has emailed me and contacted me on MySpace and Facebook. I’ve come to realize he will never stop trying to reach me.

After a while, I started working on myself, realizing that my unhappiness was not good for me. I deserved to be happy. What I went through with him was not a reflection of who I am or what I am worth. I started writing again and encourage others to write about their day and feelings and then reflect on what you have written.

I began to feel like my old self again. I started looking at dating again and I even stopped drinking occasionally. I didn’t feel the need to be numb any more. In 2006, I had the amazing opportunity to become a mother through adoption.  Every moment of my life became about this little girl. I knew that everything had to change but I never realized that I had pushed my past so far back in my mind. I didn’t realize how much changing my life would require me to deal with things. I have been the mother to my beautiful daughter for 3 years and 5 months. Two and a half years ago I married an amazing man, a man that would never raise his hand to me. To this day, I don’t like scarves around my neck, or really anything touching the front of my neck. I apologize for everything, my fault or not. I worry that my daughter will follow in my footsteps, just as I followed in my mother’s. I worry that no matter how many times I say I am a SURVIVOR of domestic violence that I will have nightmares for the rest of my life.

Surviving domestic violence is one day at a time. I believe that forgiveness is important in moving on but not forgetting because this made you a stronger person. You lived through something that most people couldn’t. I don’t like people to pity me or apologize for what HE did to me. I want people to see me as a strong woman, a mother and a wife – a woman that survived and is thriving. A woman with a mission to help educate others on domestic violence.

Are you supposed to be terrified to leave? YES. Are you supposed to think about him afterwards? YES. Are you supposed to be able to move on and have a happy and healthy relationship? YES. There is no one way to deal with the after trauma of domestic violence but know you can do it. There are so many people here to help, so many organizations that want you to succeed!

You can do it. Each person deals with this in their own way, none of them are any better – only different.

http://talesfromasurvivor.blogspot.com