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emotional-safetyplan

Emotional Safety Planning

emotional-safetyplan

This post was written by Diane, a Hotline advocate.

A safety plan can help you stay safe while in an abusive relationship, while preparing to leave an abusive relationship, or after leaving an abusive relationship. Often, emphasis is placed on planning around physical safety, but it’s important to consider your emotional safety as well. Emotional safety can look different for different people, but ultimately it’s about developing a personalized plan that helps you feel accepting of your emotions and decisions when dealing with abuse. Below are some ideas for how to create and maintain an emotional safety plan that works for you.

Seek Out Supportive People
You deserve to feel safe while expressing yourself and your opinions, and having supportive people around you can help foster this space. A caring presence such as a trusted friend or family member can help create a calm atmosphere to think through difficult situations and allow for you to discuss potential options.

Identify and Work Towards Achievable Goals
Dealing with abusive situations can be very overwhelming and stressful, and taking one step at a time can be very helpful in overcoming larger tasks later. An achievable goal might be calling a local resource and seeing what services are available in your area, or talking to one of our advocates at The Hotline. Remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can help options feel more possible when you are ready. Reading this page and looking for strategies to be emotionally safe is already an amazing step that you have taken!

Create a Peaceful Space for Yourself
Designating a physical place where your mind can relax and feel safe can be good option when working through difficult emotions that can arise when dealing with abuse. This can be a room in your house, a spot under your favorite tree, a comfy chair by a window or in a room with low lights. Whatever space works for you personally! Incorporating other elements such as calming music, plants, or tools to journal is an option to explore (just be sure that your abusive partner does not have access to personal journals). This is your safe space, so whatever brings you peace is a great choice.

Remind Yourself of Your Great Value
You are important and special, and recognizing and reminding yourself of this reality is so beneficial for your emotional health. It is never your fault when someone chooses to be abusive to you, and it has no reflection on the great value you have as person. You deserve to remind yourself of this! Writing messages to yourself about things you like about yourself or saying these things out loud every day can be good ways to start. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with this, just thinking “I matter and how I feel matters” is a great thing that you are doing for yourself. It is the truth, and you deserve to hear it.

Remember That You Deserve to Be Kind to Yourself
It is easy to fall into a pattern where we put extreme pressure on ourselves to make the right decisions right away. This isn’t always possible, and it’s completely okay to take whatever time you need to make whatever choices are right for you. You deserve support from other people, but you also have a right to be kind to yourself, and remember that you are going through a very difficult time. Taking time to practice self-care every day, even if it is only for a few minutes, really creates space for peace and emotional safety. It’s healthy to give yourself emotional breaks and step back from your situation sometimes. In the end, this can help you make the decisions that are best for you.

If you need to talk to someone about your situation, or if you need help creating a personal safety plan, our advocates are here for you. Call anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat online from 7am-2am Central.

G4G-blog

#GingerbreadForGood: Spotlight on Hotline Advocates

G4G-blogAdvocates are the backbone of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect (our project for teens and young adults). They are here 24/7/365 offering support to people who need information, resources, or just to speak with someone knowledgeable about abuse who will listen and provide perspective without judgment. They do this work because they are truly devoted to helping domestic violence victims and survivors get the help they deserve.

Each day, advocates at The Hotline and loveisrespect speak, chat online, or text with the hundreds of people who contact us; some of these contacts are currently in abusive relationships, some have left abusive relationships, some are friends and family concerned about a loved one and some identify themselves as abusive partners. All are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their situation. Today, we wanted to share a few stories from our advocates about what they do.*

“I chatted with the friend of a woman in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. The friend was doing research because the abusive partner monitored all the victim’s calls and computer use. The victim was financially dependent on the abuser because of school loans and had two young children, so she was feeling very stuck. Her abusive partner was trying to convince her that he was not physically abusive because he never actually hit her, though he had thrown her across the room and choked her. After doing some assessing to figure out the victim’s needs and goals at this point, I connected the friend with a local shelter and provided information on crime victim’s compensation and custody concerns. We also talked about ways that the friend and victim could safety plan together, and discussed places the victim could go to safely use phones and computers.”

“I recently spoke to a woman leaving an abusive relationship who found a shelter to house her, her child and her pets. The only obstacle was transportation. After contacting several DV agencies, I decided to contact faith-based organizations in the area. I spoke to a priest who had a few minutes to spare before church service. I explained the situation and the priest was more than willing to help. He offered to pay transportation to get her to the shelter approximately 80 miles away.”

“A man called in because he was going home to a verbally abusive wife and verbally abusive children. He had told no one in his life about this for years after once confiding in another family member, who immediately told him she didn’t want to hear about it. He was afraid people at work wouldn’t respect him if they knew, and that he might lose his job. I talked about that with him. The caller admitted that he’s afraid of the consequences of opening up and sharing his weaknesses with anyone – after all, when he’s with his wife, she’s aggressive and will exploit his weaknesses. But he realized other people could be more trustworthy than her, and he resolved to tell someone at work on Monday. This was a huge step for him.”

Your gift to The Hotline during our #GingerbreadForGood campaign helps ensure that our highly-trained advocates are here to answer these important calls, chats, and texts. Don’t forget, your donation does twice the good thanks to a matching grant from the Avon Foundation for Women!

*Identifying details have been changed or omitted.

Read more about what Hotline advocates do:
What to Expect When You Call
What Can the Hotline Help You With?
A Day in the Life

how-to-help

Helping a Parent in an Abusive Relationship

how-to-helpWhen abuse is happening in a relationship, it can affect whole families, including children who are witnesses to the abuse and violence.

Watching your parent deal with an abusive relationship is extremely tough and can cause a range of emotions, like resentment, guilt, fear, grief, and anger. It can be especially difficult if you are still living at home or have younger siblings still living at home. Having feelings of love and attachment to our parents is very normal, even if one of them is abusive in some way. If you feel like something isn’t right in your family, but you also have those feelings at the same time, the situation can become confusing, complicated, or overwhelming.

We are often contacted by people of all ages whose parents are in abusive relationships. Like anyone who witnesses the abuse of someone they love, these callers and chatters want to know how to help the abused parent. They are understandably focused on making the situation “right” and ending the abuse. While every situation is unique and there is no “one size fits all” approach, we try to emphasize a few things:

It’s not your fault!
Above all, you need to know that the abuse is never your fault, and it’s never the victim’s fault. The choice to be abusive is the abusive person’s; only they are responsible for their behavior, and only they can change it. It is also not your responsibility to “rescue” your parent(s). It’s normal to spend a lot of time and energy looking for a way to fix something that’s causing so much pain, but you don’t deserve to be under this kind of pressure.

Why does a person become abusive? That’s a really tough question to answer, because every person is different. What we do know is that abuse is about power and control; an abusive person wants all the power and control in their relationships. Their abuse might be directed toward just one person, or their whole family. No matter what, no one deserves to live with abuse.

Leaving can be very difficult for a victim, for a lot of reasons
Leaving might seem like the best decision, but often a victim has many reasons for staying in an abusive relationship. Since an abusive person will do anything to maintain his or her power and control in the relationship, we know that leaving can also be a dangerous time for a victim. Leaving could be something your parent might want to plan for and work towards, but in the meantime it’s important to focus on staying as safe as you can and taking good care of yourself.

What can you do to help?

It’s really great that you want to help your parent, but something to remember is that we all have boundaries and that those boundaries should be respected. If your parent is being abused by their partner, their boundaries are not being respected by that person. Even though you may have the best intentions in helping your parent, it’s important to be respectful of them not wanting to talk about it at that moment. If that happens, you can work on the following suggestions:

Offer loving support
It’s hard to know what to do in situations like this, but what many victims need most is support without someone telling them what they “should” do. You can be a source of support for your parent if they are experiencing abuse. Finding ways to spend time alone with your parent – like watching a movie at home together, going to lunch, or doing an activity together – can give you the opportunity to talk safely and let them know you love them. You can remind your parent that you are concerned about them, and that they don’t deserve to be treated badly. If you don’t live with your parent(s), you could send your mom or dad funny or loving texts or emails, or call them to say you are thinking of them and you love them. It may not seem like much to you, but letting your parent know that you care about them can be incredibly validating and supportive for them. (Communicating directly about the abuse, especially through text or email, may not be safe.)

If you feel comfortable doing so, you might give your parent the number to a local resource or encourage them to contact the Hotline. Remember, though, that your parent has to take these steps for him or herself only if/when they feel safe and ready.

Encourage self-care, and practice it yourself
By self-care we mean taking care of yourself in any way that feels good to you, supports your well-being, and brings you comfort. People who experience abuse often don’t do self-care because they are made to feel like they don’t deserve love or care. It’s normal to lose sight of ourselves when we’re dealing with very stressful and scary situations. But self-care is just one healthy way to cope. Remind your parent that self-care is important for everyone – and try to practice it yourself.

Why is taking care of yourself so important? Because by doing what you can for your own well-being, you can enable yourself to continue being a source of support for your parent or siblings. Being able to create a safe mental space to help you stay grounded when things get tough not only helps you, but also the people around you.

Create a safety plan together
A safety plan is a personalized plan that includes ways to remain safe while in an abusive relationship, planning to leave, or after a person leaves. Safety planning can involve how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action and more. Whenever you can, sit down with your parent and your siblings, away from the abusive parent, and make a plan together about how you all can stay safe. If you need help brainstorming or finding resources in your area for your safety plan, you can always call the Hotline or our friends at loveisrespect.

If you are living with an abusive parent and they ever become abusive toward you, you have the right to seek help. If you are under 18, you can call the Child Abuse Hotline to speak directly to a hotline counselor.

We understand that this is such a difficult thing to experience and that you know your situation best. These tips are very general, and you should never follow any advice that makes you feel unsafe. Looking for support, help, or information is a huge step and shows incredible strength. Remember, you do not have to go through this alone. Our advocates at the Hotline are here for you 24/7 if you need to talk to someone; just call 1-800-799-7233. You can also chat online here on the website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time. Just be sure to call or chat from devices that your abusive parent doesn’t have access to.

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!

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. 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) or chat via our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time. 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.