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kids-as-mechanism

Children as an Abusive Mechanism

kids-as-mechanismAs complicated as domestic violence is on its own, it becomes even more complex when children are involved. Not only can they be affected by the abuse (whether they experience it or witness it), they are sometimes used as a mechanism for the abuse by the perpetrator.

What do we mean by “abusive mechanism”?

Abusive partners exert power and control over their significant others through many different tactics — and unfortunately, using children can become a tactic.

Many times, abusive partners will threaten their significant others by telling them that if they leave the relationship, they’ll take custody of the children. This threat is a form of emotional abuse that the abusive partner uses to keep the victim in the relationship.

Even if an abusive partner hasn’t threatened to take the child away, if they feel like they’re losing control in the relationship they might see the child as an opportunity to regain control. This can often happen in relationships even where the partners aren’t married. If there’s no legal tie between the couple, then the child might be the only link that the abusive partner can use to maintain their control.

What can you do?

There’s no way to prevent an abusive partner from filing a petition for sole custody of the children in court, as they have legal rights and are entitled to access the court system. That being said, in some cases custody provisions may be added to a protection order, which may allow for a window of time to plan for next steps with custody. If a custody petition is filed by the abusive partner, the other parent may wish to reach out for support to help them.

Victims of abuse who have children with their partners may want to reach out to their local domestic violence programs. These service providers may offer much needed support, or possibly make connections to legal aid. Some domestic violence programs may have legal advisors who can provide guidance on the steps for accessing the court system regarding custody issues.g . If you decide to look for an attorney, the local domestic violence program may have recommendations for attorneys who are trained in the dynamics of domestic violence. It also may be useful to use this list of questions from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence as a guide to determine whether an attorney will be able to best represent you in your custody case. Womenslaw.org is another useful resource to find suggestions for working with an attorney, information about custody proceedings in your area, contact information about local courts, and other assistance. Legal Momentum also offers a free legal resource kit to download on domestic violence and custody issues.

If you are dealing with custody issues, it’s important to make sure your children know that you are there to keep them safe. Let them know that what is happening is not their fault and they didn’t cause it. Try to maintain regular activities and schedules as much as possible, and create a safety plan with them that is age appropriate. And most of all, tell them often that you love them and that you support them no matter what.

If your abusive partner has threatened or is attempting to file for sole custody of your children, give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Our advocates will listen to and support you, help you brainstorm safety plans, and may connect you with local services where you can find the legal help you need.

pets

Keeping Your Pets Safe

petsInternational Homeless Animals Day is on Saturday, August 16th this year. There are many reasons why beloved animals may become homeless: overpopulation due to lack of spaying and neutering, pet owners who decide they no longer wish to keep their pets, pets that run away from home, pets who are abused by their owners. Many pets are also displaced as a result of domestic violence.

According to Safe Place for Pets, up to 65% of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusive partners because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave. In many cases, victims of domestic violence may try to take their pets with them when they are able to leave the relationship, but find that their local domestic violence shelters do not accept pets. Fortunately, this is changing, and shelters for domestic violence and abuse victims are beginning to create spaces for pets. Thanks to the Animal Welfare Institute’s Safe Havens Mapping Project, it’s becoming easier to locate shelters that accept pets.

Check out the Pets & DV page on our website and click to find shelters in your area.

If you are in an abusive relationship and have pets in your home, it can be a good idea to make your pets part of your safety plan. Here are a few suggestions for safety planning with pets:

  • If possible, don’t leave pets alone with an abusive partner.
  • If you’re thinking about getting a protective order, consider that some states allow pets to be a part of these.

If you are planning to leave:

  • Talk to friends, family or your veterinarian about temporary care for your pet. If that is not an option, search by state or zip code for services that assist domestic violence survivors with safekeeping for their pets. Try zip code first, and if there are no results, try a search by state. If none of the results are feasible for your situation, try contacting your local domestic violence or animal shelter directly. For help finding an animal shelter, visit the Humane Society website.
  • Take steps to prove ownership of your pet: have them vaccinated and license them with your town, ensuring that these registrations are made in your name (you can change them if they aren’t).
  • Pack a bag for your pet that includes:

– food
– medicine
– documents of ownership (receipts from adoption or purchase of pet, license to establish ownership, receipts for animal purchases)
– health documents (veterinary or vaccination records)
– leash
– ID and rabies tag, if a dog or cat (these will also help establish ownership)
– carrier
– toys
– bedding

  • If you must leave without your pet, remember to leave enough food, fresh bedding, litter, etc. for your pet.
  • If you’ve had to leave your pet behind with your abusive partner, try to ask for assistance from law enforcement officials or animal control to see if they can intervene.

If you are able to leave with your pet:

  • Keep pets indoors (if possible)
  • Avoid leaving the pet outside alone
  • Pick a safe route and time to walk your pet
  • Don’t exercise or walk pet alone
  • Change your veterinarian

Remember, your situation is unique, and these tips may not work for everyone. You can always call or chat with an advocate at the Hotline for more information. We can help you brainstorm ways to keep yourself and your pets safe!

NDVH-pets2

Finding Safety for Our Four-Legged Friends

For any pet owner that’s tossed a Frisbee in the park with their dog or taken a cat nap curled up beside their feline friend, it should come as no surprise that it’s not easy to just leave an animal behind. Pets can be like family — and if you’re contemplating leaving a bad relationship, the question of what will happen to your pet can become an important deciding factor.

Thankfully this topic is becoming more public in the news lately. A new law in Texas, for instance, ensures that pets can now be included in protective orders, and the Urban Resource Institute just became NYC’s first shelter to allow pets.

We know that there’s still progress to be made, though, because there’s an unmistakable correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse. In one study of domestic violence shelters across the country, 85.4 percent of shelter directors encountered cases in which victims disclosed animal abuse.

Animal Abuse and Domestic AbuseNDVH-pets2

A pet can often become a tool for an abusive partner to hold power and control in the relationship. By threatening or enacting violence against a pet, the abuser can further terrorize the victim, punish them and enforce submission.

Concern for the safety of pets is also a reason that many victims stay in an abusive relationship. There may be threats made against the wellbeing of their pets if they don’t stay, or they don’t know what will happen to the pets if they leave.

Safety Planning With Pets

If you’re creating a safety plan of your own to leave an abusive relationship, safety planning for your pets is important as well. Bring extra provisions for them, copies of their medical records and important phone numbers.

If possible, don’t leave pets alone with your abuser. If you’re planning on leaving, look for domestic violence shelters that accept pets or foster care programs at animal shelters. You can also talk to friends, family or your veterinarian about temporary care for your animal.

If you’ve had to leave your pet behind with the abusive partner, try to ask for assistance from law enforcement officials or animal control to see if they can intervene.

Take steps to prove ownership of your pet: have them vaccinated and license them with your town, ensuring that these registrations are made in your name (change them if they aren’t).

If you’re thinking about getting a protective order, know that some states allow pets to be a part of these.

If you’ve left your abuser, ensure the safety of your pet by changing veterinarians and avoid leaving pets outside alone.

What Loved Ones Can Do

The correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse is increasingly recognized by many individuals and organizations, so cross reporting of violence by law enforcement officials, vets, teachers, social workers and other professionals is becoming more common. Working together, these agencies can help one another become informed about possible abuse.

If you’re a friend or family member of someone who you suspect may be in an abusive relationship, noticeable animal abuse could be a further indication that there’s also intimate partner abuse. Begin by talking to them about the animal abuse and take steps to report it.

Resources and Further Reading:

  • A New York Times Article discusses what is referred to as “The Animal-Cruelty Syndrome
  • The Animal Welfare Institute has the Safe Havens Mapping Project for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims, which maps shelters state by state that allow you to bring pets. If there is no listing for your area, call a local shelter and ask about temporary assistance for pets in domestic violence situations
  • If you’re thinking of placing your pet at a shelter, the Humane Society has a database of local locations and FAQ’s about shelters
  • Check the Pets 911.com website for local rescue groups and emergency vets
  • Organizations like Georgia-based Ahimsa House and Littlegrass Ranch in Texas offer advice for safety planning with animals, especially with non-traditional animals like horses that are more difficult to transport
  • RedRover offers different grant programs to enable victims to leave their batterers without having to leave their pets behind. The grants must be submitted by a shelter worker. You can also now search for shelter locations by zip code at SafePlaceforPets.org.
solutions from advocates

Clever Tips That May Keep You Safe

Situations that are difficult or frightening force us to think on our feet or think outside of the box to stay safe. It is during those tough, defining moments that the brain works in different and clever ways.

Often our calls at The Hotline include safety planning. Safety planning is what it sounds like: developing strategies and ideas to keep you safe, no matter where you are in your relationship.

These plans differ for everyone. What works for one person might not be the best option for someone else.

Thankfully, our advocates are smart and intuitive and so are you. They’ll brainstorm with you to consider tactics that could work best, exploring options for both your immediate and long-term safety.

Sometimes our advocates have to get extra creative to keep someone safe. Here are some ingenious safety planning strategies that advocates have suggested to callers in the past:

  • Do you need a place to stay overnight and other options aren’t lining up? Some emergency rooms may let you stay the night.
  • If you have a car and are out of options for places to stay, most Walmart parking lots let you park your car overnight.
  • If your partner is very controlling about money/checks/receipts, think about ways you can save very small amounts of money. Purchase small items like bottles of shampoo and then return them. Some purchases made with a debit card allow you to get cash back from your returns.
  • Trying to hide away some money? Consider sneaking money into a tampon box or some place your partner wouldn’t think to look.
  • If your partner is calling multiple times, let it go to voicemail. Threatening voicemails can become evidence if you decide to file for a protective order.
  • If you’re relocating somewhere and you need money for a bus ticket, ask different family members for a specific amount (ex. Can I borrow $10 for a bus ticket?) Sometimes it’s easier for people to grapple with an amount as opposed to just hearing “I need money.”
  • Occasionally Megabus and other bus services offer inexpensive ticket deals. Megabus offers some long-distance travel deals for as low as $1
  • If you lack money, internet and other resources and need to buy a ticket to leave, see if someone can go online, buy you a ticket and give you the confirmation number.
  • If you get a raise at work, ask your boss to have the amount of the raise directly deposited into a separate account at the bank that the abusive partner doesn’t know about.

These safety planning techniques may not work for everyone — and you are the expert on your situation. If you want to develop creative solutions to help stay safe in an abusive relationship, call us at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) to speak with an advocate.

Do you have any unique safety planning tips?

pregnancy and abuse

Pregnancy and Abuse: How to Stay Safe for Your 9 Months

Pregnancy is a time of change. If you’re pregnant, your life — and your body — starts taking on a new shape as you prepare to bring a little person into the world. Pregnancy can be full of excitement but also comes with an added need for support. It’s natural to need emotional support from a partner, as well as perhaps financial assistance, help to prepare for the baby and more.

If your partner is emotionally or physically destructive toward you, it can make these months of transition especially difficult. Thankfully, there are resources available to help expecting women get the support needed for a safe, healthy pregnancy.

If the Abuse Is Increasing or Just Starting — Why Now?

According to the CDC, intimate partner violence affects approximately 1.5 million women each year and affects as many as 324,000 pregnant women each year. Pregnancy can be an especially dangerous time for women in abusive relationships, and abuse can often begin or escalate during the pregnancy.

Partners become abusive or increase the abuse during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Since abuse is based on power and control, it’s common that an abusive partner will become resentful and jealous that the attention is shifting from them to the pregnancy. They may be stressed at the thought of financially supporting a child, frustrated at the increased responsibilities or angry that their partner’s body is changing. None of this is the new mom’s fault and none of these are excuses. Nothing is an excuse for abuse.

Abuse of any kind during pregnancy can put a woman and her unborn child at heightened risk, because a pregnant woman is in a uniquely vulnerable position both physically and emotionally. If the abuse is physical, trauma can cause both immediate injury as well as increase her risk for hemorrhaging, a uterine rupture, pre-term birth, complications during labor or miscarriage later in the pregnancy.

What Can You Do?

Approximately 96% of pregnant women receive prenatal care for an average of 12 to 13 visits. These frequent doctor’s visits can be an opportunity to discuss what is going on in your relationship. Whether or not you choose to tell a professional about the abuse, or how much you choose to disclose, is completely your choice. However, their job is focused on the wellbeing of you and your child so this could be a safe time to talk about any concerns.

If your partner goes to these appointments with you, try to find a moment when they’re out of the room to ask your care provider (or even the front desk receptionist) about coming up with an excuse to talk to them one-on-one. The doctor’s office can also be a quiet place to make a phone call to The Hotline. If you’ve decided to leave your relationship, a health care provider can become an active participant in your plan to leave.

Additionally, under the Affordable Care Act, all new and non-grandfathered health plans must cover screening and counseling for domestic violence — considering these to be preventive care services.

If possible, see if you can take a women-only prenatal class. This could be a comfortable atmosphere for discussing pregnancy concerns or could allow you to speak to the class instructor one-on-one.

Here at The Hotline, our advocates are also available 24/7 to help you plan how to stay safe during your pregnancy — both physically and emotionally. Physical safety planning could include tips for when fighting starts, for example, such as protecting your abdomen and staying on the bottom floor in a house with stairs.

Pregnancy can be a challenging time and it can feel hurtful if your partner isn’t being supportive, is putting you down or physically harming you. It’s important to develop ways to take care of yourself during such an important stage of your life — and we can help.

Further Reading and Resources

Safe Pregnancy in an Abusive Relationship

A Safe Passage

digital-safety

Social Media Shaming: When Sexual Assault Goes “Viral”

“I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember…I just want this to go away.”

That was one of the last things 15-year-old Audrie Potts posted on her Facebook before taking her own life after a photo of her assault was circulated to nearly the entire high school. It’s a familiar feeling for the many girls whose names have been made into headlines throughout the past months.

Seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off of life support following an attempt to take her own life after a photo of her assault was distributed all over cell phones and social media sites.

In Torrington, Connecticut, two male 18-year-olds were arrested and accused of the statutory rape of two 13-year-old girls. What followed was an attack on the young girls over Twitter and social media and a trending “#FreeEdgar” hashtag in support of the perpetrators.

In Steubenville, Ohio, Jane Doe didn’t know she had been sexually assaulted until she found out about it through videos uploaded to YouTube and images posted on Instagram. When the case went public, backlash on social media against her, the victim, was relentless.

Lately we’ve seen social media channels become venues for public shaming and sharing information without ones consent to large numbers of people. “Viral” shaming adds a new dimension to an already horrific situation — continued emotional abuse from not just the perpetrator, but any outsider who decides to “share” or chime in. In this way, even after an assault a perpetrator can still exert control over their victim, making them feel powerless. It can feel impossible to know how to make it end, and it can feel like there’s nowhere to turn for safety and privacy.

What can you do as an online “bystander”?

While there are tips for “how to stop compromising pictures of you being published online,” these pictures and videos can get posted anyways without your knowledge or consent. The person who holds responsibility is the one who posts the content.

Responsibility also falls on bystanders — people who see the image being taken, see the assault in action, view the image online, distribute it, or even just pass it by. If you witness an assault, what do you do? If you’re sent a picture, do you pass it on? Do you join in on the actions or victim shaming just to be a part of the joke?

Begin to hold yourself and those around you accountable for what’s being said and posted. If you see something, report it. On Facebook, use the report link that appears near the content to send a message to have it removed. Twitter also has different forms for reporting a violation. YouTube has a “Safety Center” for requesting videos to be flagged or removed.

If you know someone who is involved in a situation of online abuse, ask how you can help. Offer to document the abuse (by taking screen shots or tracking where it’s showing up online). It can be helpful to be a third party keeping track of what’s being said and shared, especially if charges will be pressed.

As a Victim

Different states have specific laws, but no matter where you are, taking some type of legal action is always an option. Document the content, because it can be used as evidence. Contact the bar association in your state to find an attorney who specializes in Internet privacy and rights. The organization Without My Consent discusses different courses of action.

No matter what you decide to do, safety plan for your emotional well being as content is circulating. Know that you can ask for help and do ask for help, because it’s too much to take on alone, especially when it can feel like you’re up against the entire world.

Do you have a trusted coworker, friend or counselor you can talk to? Building a support system is important — and there’s always someone to turn to. You shouldn’t go through this whole process alone.

RAINN has many resources, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE, and they offer free, confidential advice 24.7.


In the wake of these all-too-similar stories, it’s easy to feel helpless. We can honor the victims of these and other tragedies by taking social responsibility seriously — holding ourselves and others accountable for what’s said or posted, and starting productive dialogues.

Social media is what we make of it, and we have the ability to make it a powerful tool for change and positivity.

Further Reading:

“Revenge Porn: The Fight Against The Net’s Nastiest Corner” by Adam Steinbaugh

“Criminalizing ‘Revenge Porn’” by Tracy Clark-Flory

leaving safely

Leaving Safely – Part 2

In addition to packing and planning, there are a few other measures you can take to safeguard against potential problems that may arise when you’re leaving. As we see on today’s Dr. Phil episode, “Saving Julie: The Final Decision,” getting out of an abusive relationship is a dangerous, difficult time, and it is important to plan and have a support system in place.


Digital Safety

Don’t disclose any personal information online about your plans. If you’re making plans for leaving and communicating about it via a computer or cell phone, access a computer from the library or a friend’s house, or remember to clear your browser history. Make sure to tell friends to not post anything about your whereabouts online.

Don’t answer threatening or excessive texts or calls while you leave and after you’ve left. Let them go to voicemail. This also could be used to document the abuse — for example, 50 missed calls? Take a screen shot of that.

Cell phones can be tracked via GPS. Try a “throw away phone” or perhaps plan to get a new one and leave your old phone behind.

What about protective orders? 

A protective order is legal documentation to keep your abuser away from you, and can often contain provisions related to custody, finance, and more. However, these will require you to see your abuser in court, and are not always highly enforced. In this episode we see Danny describing how he broke a protective order and attacked his ex-girlfriend and a man she was with.

While protective orders may be able to put a stop to physical abuse, psychological abuse is still possible — so a protective order should never replace a safety plan.

Our advocates can speak to you about how a protective order works, as well as direct you to legal advocates that can provide you with specific information about this based on where you’re living. Different states have different processes for a protective order. Check out Women’s Law for more info.

If you already have a protective order, it should be kept on you at all times — as well as given to your children and anyone they might be with — especially when you’re leaving your abuser.

After You Leave

Consider making a “false trail.” For example, call motels far away from where you plan on being. Do this after you leave, otherwise it could tip off the abuser that you’re planning on leaving, which could be dangerous.

Remember that leaving will likely be difficult, and it’s important to have support and a plan in place. If you feel like leaving might be an option, give us a call at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) to discuss options.

Our advocates at The Hotline are here for you to help create a safety plan for leaving as well as after you’ve left, and to make sure you have ongoing emotional support afterwards.

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.

safety planning with children

Safety Planning With Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning for Safe Custody Exchanges

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

Planning for After You Leave

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

How to Have These Conversations

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

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

help a coworker

How to Help a Coworker Who Is Experiencing Abuse

Approximately 74% of employed domestic violence victims are contacted or harassed by their abusers while they are at work. Based on this statistic alone, it is possible that during your professional career, you may encounter a coworker who is experiencing domestic violence.

If someone is experiencing abuse at home, the effects of the abuse are likely to carry over into the work environment as well. You may notice changes in their behavior at work that could indicate that something is wrong. For instance:

  • Excessive lateness or unexplained absences
  • Frequent use of ‘sick time’
  • Unexplained injuries or bruising
  • Changes in appearance
  • Lack of concentration/often preoccupied
  • Disruptive phone calls or personal visits from their partner
  • Drops in productivity
  • Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home

Follow your instinct, and if you feel like you should talk to them about what might be going on, do so. The worst that could happen is that they don’t want to talk – and even then, they at least know that you care. There’s no harm in asking. Work may be the one place where they can talk to someone safely without the abusive partner finding out. Also, your coworker may believe that you are more objective to their situation than family and close friends.

Be sure to approach them in a confidential manner, at a time and place without interruptions. When approaching the topic of domestic violence with your coworker, remember to be nonjudgmental. They may be embarrassed by the situation, and you might be the first person they are telling. Consider starting with a simple comment and question like, “You seem a bit preoccupied/stressed. Do you want to talk about it?” Give them the space to share what they want to share with you. Don’t pressure them.

If your coworker does open up to you about the abuse, listen and refer. Your role is not to fix the problem for them – sometimes, listening can be the most helpful. You might want to pass along some information to them. If it feels appropriate, pass on the number of the Hotline. We can help your coworker safety plan around their current situation and can refer them to local service providers.

If your coworker gives you permission, you can help them document the instances of domestic violence in their life. Take pictures of injuries, write down exact transcripts of interactions, make notes on a calendar of the dates that things happen. Documenting the abuse might help the victim to obtain legal aid later on.

If your coworker has been open with you about their situation, you can help them learn about their rights. Women’s Law is an excellent resource for information on domestic violence laws and procedures. Browsing this website with your coworker or giving them the link can provide them with crucial information.

Introduce them to the security guard, or volunteer to meet the security guard with them if they’d like help. Keeping the security guard at the office in the loop can help deter your coworker’s abuser from stopping by, make sure your coworker is escorted safely to and from the office space, and more.

Ask if they’d like to create a safety plan for their work environment. Ask what they would like you to do if their partner should call or stop by the office. If you’re having trouble coming up with a safety plan on your own, call The Hotline for assistance.

Above all remember that just supporting your coworker no matter what can make a difference. Respect their decisions – you may not know all of the factors involved. Your coworker may not do what you want or expect them to do. Instead of focusing on being the one to solve the problem for them, focus on being supportive and trustworthy in their time of need.

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).

what to expect when you call the hotline

What To Expect When You Call

Every call to The Hotline comes from someone different. Some callers identify as survivors of abuse, some as abusers, and some as concerned family members and friends seeking help for someone else. While every call is specific to the individual, here are some phrases and questions that advocates consistently communicate to best help each caller.

“Thanks for reaching out.”
Calling The Hotline can be nerve-racking, especially if you haven’t reached out for help before. Our calls are completely confidential and anonymous and our advocates have extensive training in domestic violence matters. Reaching out for help is the first step to improving your situation, whatever that may be. We say this line to let you know how happy we are that you’re taking the first step toward getting the help you deserve.

“Are you in a safe place to chat?”
It’s critical for your safety that you reach out when your partner isn’t home. If your partner does come home or walk in while you’re talking with an advocate, immediately disconnect the call. Because abusive relationships are based on power and control, an abusive partner is likely to react in anger as you take steps to regain control. Another way to stay safe is to remember to delete our number from your phone and clear your internet browser history after visiting our website.

“Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your situation?”
Before an advocate can begin helping you, she or he has to know your specific situation. This gives you an opportunity to bring up any concerns you’ve had about your relationship. Sometimes, giving a relationship timeline or explaining a recent altercation with your partner can give the advocate a better idea about what you’ve experienced.

“What have you considered doing at this point?”
You are the expert of your own situation. Callers reach out at all different times in their relationships, so advocates need to know what steps you’re ready to take before they can help you find resources. While an advocate won’t give explicit advice on what you should do next, you can talk out some options to make the best decision for yourself.

“How are you taking care of yourself?”
Self-wellness is important at any stage of a relationship. Especially in the matter of abusive relationships, it is easy to forget about keeping yourself healthy and happy. Taking care of yourself may be as simple as eating a good breakfast to prepare for the day or getting enough sleep at night. Advocates often suggest writing in a journal, reading a good book or taking a bubble bath to ease your mind.

“Let’s brainstorm together.”
Whether you are deciding how to communicate better with your partner, planning on leaving the relationship or finding things that you can do to feel safe, there is always more than one right answer and an advocate can help you sort through the options to determine the best one for you.

“Is there anything else I can help you with tonight?”
Maybe over the course of your conversation with an advocate, you thought of another question you had or feel more comfortable asking something you were scared to ask before. Advocates are always available to answer your questions about healthy relationships and how to handle an unhealthy or abusive relationship, so don’t hesitate to ask.

The advocates at our Hotline are available 365 days a year, 24/7 to take your calls. Read more about what types of things The Hotline can help you with here, and don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).