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National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Final Thoughts on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

We wanted our posts about the RHOBH to reach survivors, victims and bystanders alike in order to spark conversations about how we deal with abuse when we see it happen in our own lives and in the lives of our friends.

We did not get the chance to finish our discussion (we launched a new loveisrespect.org, hosted an event in LA, led James Brown on a tour, and many other exciting endeavors), so we wanted to take a moment today to conclude our thoughts on what was an emotional season of this show, not only for those involved but also the viewers at home who found parallels between their lives and the housewives’ when it came to domestic violence.

Believe Your Friends

How many times did we hear the phrase, “Unless I see it…” in regards to Taylor’s abuse this season? So. Many. Times. The friends had a really hard time believing that their friend could be experiencing something so horrific. Unfortunately, this is a really common phenomenon for most victims of domestic violence.

If you are a friend who is struggling to believe, please consider how hard it must have been for your friend to disclose that fact. Victims often are isolated from their friends and family and have had their self-esteem lessened. Believe what he/she says.

Still really struggling to believe? Consider what you know of the couple. Does your friend’s partner display issues with power and control? In the case of Taylor, we had seen Russell show warning signs. He told her when to leave parties. He dictated what happened in the household (remember the dog incident?) and Taylor was often talking about her marriage trouble. Think back to these signs when you find yourself wanting to voice your doubt.

Your Friend’s Safety Should Trump Winning an Argument

Watching Taylor climb into the limo with Russell after being denied entry at Kyle’s party in episode 16, “Uninvited,” made us nervous. Abuse is not rational. Just because Taylor was not truly responsible for getting turned away at the door did not mean that Russell would see it that way. He could have held it against her, or “punished” her when they were back home.

The way the group handled the situation was ill-advised. While they may have had the right to turn the couple away, their method was questionable. They brought the issue up to Russell, reminding him that Taylor herself had told Camille the secrets in the first place. It was risky for Taylor to leave with him, considering he was embarrassed and might strike back to regain power.

In this situation, though it may have made the friends feel better to not have strife between Camille and Russell, they didn’t recognize the danger they placed Taylor in by either making her explain why she shared the info in the first place or by having Russell blame her for the situation.

If you have a friend who is being abused, their safety should trump friend dynamics. Be a watch-guard for them. You can’t fix your friend’s situation, but you can watch your actions and be mindful of potential danger you may place them in, especially if their abuser is around.

It Can Take Many Times for a Victim to Leave

We also heard the common refrain of “Why doesn’t she just leave?” at multiple points of the season. We don’t blame the friends for wondering this because it’s hard to see a friend in pain, and as a society, we tend to oversimplify relationships. It is so difficult for a victim to leave because of a variety of reasons spanning from emotional to financial.

We want to point out that it is not uncommon for a victim to try to leave before leaving for good. Even then, the victim may still love the abuser. Russell was the father of Taylor’s child, her attachment to him was incredibly strong. It is completely normal and justified that she should struggle with leaving the marriage.

In conclusion, it’s easy to analyze what’s happening in these relationships because we are not the ones living them. We wish nothing but healing and peace for all of the Housewives and their families as they recover from the experiences of this time in their lives. Our hearts especially go out to Taylor and Kennedy as they move forward.

We hope our discussion of these episodes helped you in some way. We only seek to empower you with information. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please contact us so that we can connect you to resources in your area. Please call 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224 today.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHOBH Recap: Taylor’s Therapy & Why We Don’t Recommend It

Did you catch Monday’s episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills? Quick recap for those who missed it, we watched the Housewives going along with their lives — Lisa planning her daughter’s wedding, Adrienne fussing over her shoe line debut, and Kyle and Brandi going for manicures. The scene we found ourselves drawn to most, however, was Taylor and Russell’s very real therapy session.

It was hard to watch.

The therapist brought up the topics of Russell’s anger, his aggression and his desire to hurt Taylor when they’re arguing. The therapist didn’t specify in which way Russell hurts his wife, so we are not clear if the therapist is referring to physical, verbal/emotional abuse or other. Russell contributed that it wasn’t pretty when he was angry, a comment that seemed too casual for the topic at hand. Russell left the session early to attend a business meeting.

We bring up this scene to discuss what may surprise some of our readers.

We at the hotline do not encourage anyone in an abusive relationship to seek counseling with their partner. Abuse is not a relationship problem. While there can be benefits for couples who undergo couple’s therapy, there’s a great risk for any person who is being abused to attend therapy with their abusive partner.

Relationship counseling can help partners understand each other, resolve difficult problems, and even help the couple gain a different perspective on their situation. It cannot, however, fix the unequal power structure that is characteristic of an abusive relationship.

An abuser may use what is said in therapy later against their partner. Therapy can make a person feel vulnerable. If the abuser is embarrassed or angered by something said in therapy, he or she may make their partner suffer to gain back the sense of control. Therapy is often considered a “safe space” for people to talk. For an abused partner, that safety doesn’t necessarily extend to their home.

Couples often enter couple’s therapy to fix their relationship. Deciding whether or not the relationship is better is extremely hard for a couple if one is being abused. The abuser has all of the power and can no longer gauge if a relationship is getting better because he/she does not see what their partner sees. The abused partner often cannot even rate how bad or good the relationship is because the abuse has affected him/her. We saw this happen in the episode. Russell even tried to control the evaluation of therapy, declaring that he thought they were progressing. Taylor responded saying that while they were working on it, they weren’t quite to a good place just yet.

Another reason that couple’s therapy or counseling is not recommended is that the facilitator may not know about the abuse, which would make the entire process ineffective. The abuser may make their partner seem responsible for the problems, and if the therapist does not realize that abuse is present, her or she may believe the abuser.

If you or someone you know is considering entering therapy with an abusive partner, please have them call us at the hotline. We can talk to them, and give them a judgment-free sounding board for their hopes and concerns about the process.

Here’s an interview Taylor did on KTLA in which she says that the reality show may have even saved her life.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

The Hotline Gives Thanks

This has been a big year for The Hotline. We want to thank every caller who reached out and every friend or stranger who helped them overcome domestic violence, one step at a time.

Our callers
We are so thankful that you found the courage to pick up your phone and ask for help. The Hotline received a record number of calls this year, which means that a record number of people sought help from domestic violence; a step towards safety and happiness. Your stories have moved us and have further empowered us to continue the work we do.

Brave bystanders
By choosing to act, you stood up against domestic violence and may have even saved a life. As a stranger, speaking up may have felt uncomfortable, but your courage helped create change and showed someone that they are not alone.

Supportive family and friends
Thank you for your loyalty to someone who may have felt lost or alone during their difficult situation. We want to recognize your dedication to ending domestic violence and your patience along the way. Having a strong support system is one of the most important parts of overcoming relationship violence—thanks for being a pillar of strength for your loved one.

Vice President Biden’s 1 is 2 Many Campaign
We’d like to extend a thanks to Vice President Biden for his continued efforts to raise awareness of the issue. His 1 is 2 Many campaign has brought much-needed attention to dating abuse on college campuses. We would also like to thank him for his support of the National Dating Abuse Helpline, especially in his promotion of their new texting service.

Media outlets that shared real stories of domestic violence
We are so excited to have been included in the conversations around domestic violence as depicted on television this year. Networks like Bravo showed the affects of domestic violence on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Entertainment Tonight even aired an exposé about domestic violence, where viewers heard from survivors directly. These television specials helped women watching recognize unhealthy behaviors and helped start a dialogue about how to end domestic violence.

Lastly, we want to thank all of you who are reading this. By visiting our site, you are educating yourself about domestic violence and can spread the message to others. Thank you for taking an interest in our services and the domestic violence movement. We hope you will have a safe and healthy holiday spent with loved ones.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHOBH: “But Now We’ve Said It”

On tonight’s episode “Tempest in a Tea Party,” a heated discussion amongst the wives about loyalty and friendship turned into an unexpected intervention for Taylor Armstrong about her marriage. The housewives agree that they all want to protect Taylor, but they also admit to feelings of confusion about how to handle the situation as friends of both Taylor and Russell.

Taylor was visibly anxious during the initial conversation with Lisa and when the subject of her marriage arose, Taylor becomes uncomfortable and even asks “Why are we talking about this?” Though Taylor is unsure of who her real friends are, the housewives repeatedly confess feeling scared for her.

We know there is no handbook for helping a friend or family member who is experiencing abuse. The housewives may not have supported Taylor the way we would have, but they did show concern for her safety and happiness, which is important. There were a few moments during the intervention that we wanted to pull out and talk about how they could have gone differently.

“You say that he’s leaving you, but then you’re getting on a plane with him.”
Camille tells the girls about Taylor coming over and talking for three hours about her struggle with her marriage and then is surprised when Taylor announces at the end of their conversation that she is going on a trip with her husband.  Camille is obviously worried about Taylor’s safety, but seems to blame her for putting herself in an unsafe situation. Many believe that abusive relationships are easy to leave and that the abuse ends as soon as the victim has left. Unfortunately, the reality is that, on average, a victim takes multiple tries to leave an abusive relationship. We appreciate Camille’s concern for Taylor, but we wish she had been more understanding of Taylor’s difficult position.

“Russell’s always been lovely to me.”
All of the housewives seem to have a good relationship with Taylor’s husband. Abusive partners can be charming and friendly in person, so this isn’t surprising. However, Taylor has shared several instances of abusive behavior with her fellow housewives. Seeing through an abuser’s façade requires a critical eye. We understand that the women have never seen Russell as unkind but we wish they took Taylor’s confessions to heart.

“Unless I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I can’t say.”
Kyle does not feel comfortable taking a side between two of her close friends when she has not witnessed the alleged abuser as a threat. She is also suspicious that Taylor may be exaggerating her stories about her marriage. Victims of abuse frequently do not come forward about their experiences because they fear they won’t be believed. Taylor was courageous for sharing her situation with her friends; however, her fears were realized in this episode when her struggle was not taken seriously. This can be especially dangerous if the abuse continues or worsens because Taylor will not trust anyone to support her. We recognize that Kyle was trying to be diplomatic by not believing what she had not physically seen, but we wish that she would have believed her friend and validated her feelings.

We would like to thank Bravo for airing this footage and we hope that viewers will feel more comfortable talking about domestic violence in their own lives.

Are you in a position where you need to support someone in an abusive relationship? Find more information about helping a friend or family member who is experiencing abuse or contact The Hotline and an advocate can help you figure out your next step.

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHOBH: What Kyle Sees Isn’t What Taylor Gets

Last week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills episode “Otherwise Engaged” showed a particular moment that we’d like to discuss.

Kyle and her husband Mauricio attended a dinner thrown by Taylor and Russell. While a dinner between friends is common enough, there appeared to be a discomfort between the two couples. One of the reasons for this was shared by Kyle’s voice-over as she walked into the Armstrong’s home.

“Taylor will tell us things that make us not like Russell. That’s very difficult because then when we see him, he’s very polite and seems to be a nice person. It’s very confusing for everyone.”

As the viewer watching this, we know that Taylor will later come forward about Russell abusing her.

This situation between Kyle and Russell is very typical.

Often, abusive partners can be well liked by family members and friends of the victim. This is because friends and family might not see the abuse happen, and they may only ever see the kind side of the abuser.

If you find yourself in a situation like Kyle’s, know that it’s ok to be conflicted. You may like the person and not like their behaviors. It’s ok to question your feelings towards them.

We do want to point out that if you are rude or hostile towards the abusive partner, this can be used against your friend (the victim). The abusive partner can say things like, “What did you tell your friends?” or “Have you been talking about me behind my back?” and then use this situation against the person they are abusing.

Be mindful of how your actions or statements can be used to fuel the abuse.

This moment on RHOBH was significant for us because it seemed to be a red-flag moment for Kyle. She recognized that things weren’t adding up. We encourage you to call The Hotline if you need help reaching a friend experiencing abuse.

Did you see this episode? Did this moment catch your eye? Will you be tuning in tonight?

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHBH: Taylor Shares Fears About Marriage With Friends

Photo courtesy of BravoTV.com

In last night’s episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, we see the end of the trip with the housewives to Camille’s ski property. In a conversation between Taylor and Kyle, Taylor shared the anxiety she was experiencing about her failing marriage. A combination of altitude, wine and feelings seemed to overwhelm Taylor as she broke down and displayed emotions ranging from anger to paranoia and depression.

The other ladies showed concern for Taylor, asking her to talk about her situation and offering her their thoughts on her situation. After a moment where Taylor succumbed to tears, Adrienne piped up, “Sometimes two separate happy homes are better than one miserable home.”

From what we have heard of Taylor’s interview on Entertainment Tonight and from watching Taylor struggle on this episode, we know there is something majorly wrong in her relationship. In last week’s episode, she expressed that she was scared, and last night, she confirmed that she was afraid for her child.

Here are moments of this episode that we’d like to point out:

  • When Taylor says she’s scared, the other housewives don’t ask her to clarify. They never directly confront what is making her afraid.
  • Hotline Help: If a friend opens up to you and uses a word like “scared,” “afraid,” “nervous,” “intimidated” and other red flag words, it’s ok to ask for more information. You can ask, “Do you feel safe in your relationship?”.
  • Alcohol seemed to fuel Taylor’s candor. Consuming alcohol can be seen as a coping behavior and may be another red flag.
  • Hotline Help: If you see a friend reach for the bottle whenever he/she discusses their unhealthy relationship, point out this behavior to them when they are sober. It may sound like, “Hey, I’ve noticed you mostly talk about your relationship when you’re drinking.” Let them know that you want to take the opportunity to talk without alcohol present.
  • Kyle didn’t talk about Taylor’s situation when she had reunited with her husband Mauricio because she didn’t want him to think that she didn’t have a good time on the trip.
  • Hotline Help: If you ever are worried about a friend, it’s ok to use the people in your life as your sounding board. If your friend’s behaviors are striking you as off or concerning, talk about it with someone else and air your concerns. Silence might perpetuate your friend’s suffering.
  • It can be hard to know what to say to a friend in need. Make sure you stay away from areas of victim-blaming. This exchange perked our ears:
    Lisa: “Don’t you really feel that maybe you really deserve better than the way you’ve been treated. Really?”
    Taylor: “I think I don’t believe that. “
    Lisa: “That’s the problem, isn’t it?”
    While Lisa was trying to help, her approach placed the guilt on Taylor, making Taylor believe that she had done something wrong.
  • Hotline Help: No one chooses to be in an abusive relationship or wants the abuse to continue. Remember to be supportive and non-judgmental. Respect your friend’s decisions and do not criticize them. Remember that it’s easier to talk as an outsider looking at the relationship than the other way around.
  • This was an emotional trip for the housewives. As they returned home, especially in light of what Taylor had shared, we were concerned that no one asked her the crucial question, “Do you feel safe going home?”
  • Hotline Help: After a friend shares that they worry about their safety, or the safety of a child, address their physical needs by asking if they feel safe to go back to the house.

Are you ready to have the conversation? If you need help or would like more information about how to support a friend or family member, please contact us at The Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Why We’re Blogging About the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

For those of us at The Hotline who are Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fans, it’s difficult to watch this season. Housewife Taylor Armstrong has recently disclosed her experience of abuse and is also coping with the suicide of her allegedly abusive ex-husband. Entertainment Tonight has released gruesome photos of the black eye Taylor suffered and is discussing the incidents of abuse in greater detail.

Russell Armstrong’s death occurred after season two of the RHWOBH had finished filming. There has been a lot of controversy around the choice made by Bravo to continue airing the therapy sessions with Taylor in which she analyzed her relationship with Russell.

As this season airs, we are going to blog about the behaviors we see. We want to provide you a context for the human experiences we are all watching unfold as we tune in to each week’s episode. We hope to empower you, our readers, with knowledge that you can use if you find yourself in a similar situation to what you see on screen. What are ways to help a friend in Taylor’s situation? Is therapy recommended for abusive couples? How should you react if someone tells you that they are abused? These and other questions are areas we strive to answer by using the lens of this show to examine domestic violence.

As we write about what we see, we do not mean to exploit, objectify or judge the very real people who we are watching. We extend our saddest condolences to Russell Armstrong’s family and wish nothing but support for Taylor and her daughter as they grieve and begin their healing process.

According to online sources, 2.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the season premiere. The sheer amount of people watching the show, combined with the knowledge that one in four women has experienced abuse, helps us feel that this season could be an important learning moment for all of us.

In season one, Taylor, a domestic violence advocate herself, used her access to the cameras to positively promote a local Beverly Hills shelter, 1736 Family Crisis Center. Blogging about this season is a way for us to use a platform we have — this website — to discuss a topic that deserves our attention.

We hope you’ll join our conversation.