We #SeeDV at the Intersection of HIV/AIDS and IPV

dvam-blog-4This post was written in partnership with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Greater Than AIDS initiative

According to recent studies, one in three women experiences intimate partner violence (IPV). For women with HIV, it is one in two.

While IPV is a major issue for many women in the U.S., there is less discussion about the concerning connection with HIV. Women with an abusive partner are more likely to have forced and/or risky sex and may be less able to negotiate the use of protection, putting them at increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The depression that often accompanies abuse can make it harder for women living with HIV to keep up with medications or stay connected to care. For some, sharing one’s status may increase abuse or bring on violence.

In most cases, deciding to tell someone that you have HIV is a personal choice. However, in the case of sexual relationships, it is a legal requirement in many states. There is no one best way to tell someone. Similarly, there is no sure way to know how those you tell will react.

The Well Project, a leading organization supporting women living with HIV, has some advice for disclosing safely:

  • Share your status with your partner before becoming intimate. If a person feels they were put at risk or lied to, the risk of violence may be greater.
  • Choose a public place with many people around. Find a spot that is private enough to have a conversation, but public enough to get help if you need it.
  • Consider having a friend with you.
  • Bring your partner to meet with your health care provider.

To bring more awareness to this issue, The Hotline, the Well Project and several other organizations have partnered with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Greater Than AIDS initiative to launch Empowered: Women, HIV and Intimate Partner Violence. For this campaign, Tonya Lewis Lee, lawyer and women’s health advocate, moderated a conversation with five women living with HIV, all of whom have experienced abuse from a partner.

Their conversation explores issues like understanding risk, getting help, finding love again and strategies for staying healthy. Campaign materials such as posters, flyers and a discussion guide are available for download here.

Watch the full video here.

We hope that this campaign brings wider awareness to this issue and lets women living with HIV in abusive relationships know that they are not alone, and that help is out there.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, we can help. Call The Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central.


I #SeeDV As an Issue We Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Talk About: Cameka Crawford

dvam-blog-2One of the defining moments in my career happened just a few short months ago. I was speaking to a group of young women in college about healthy relationships and how to recognize the signs of dating abuse. The conversation became a little personal, and I began talking about a past relationship. While the relationship was not abusive, my partner exhibited unhealthy relationship behaviors. By telling my story, I opened the door for the women in the room to share their own to stories and support each other.

After the event, one of the women approached me and thanked me for being honest about my relationship. What stood out for me wasn’t the fact that she thanked me. It was that she said that I looked like I had the “perfect” life and wouldn’t be the “type” of person who would be in an unhealthy relationship. That single moment showed me the power of sharing our stories.

By openly talking about domestic violence and dating abuse, we can dispel the myth that there is a “type” of person who experiences abuse. Domestic violence does not discriminate. It affects all types of people – no matter their race, gender, age, education or income. There is not one “type” of domestic violence victim or survivor. Every situation is unique.

Also, when we speak out, we are acknowledging that domestic violence is a widespread issue that affects every community. Seeing a story play out every once in a while in the media can make it seem like domestic violence doesn’t happen that often. Well, it does. Domestic violence affects more than 12 million people each year in the U.S. With so many people in our country affected by abuse, we can begin to see the real and urgent need to expand resources, education and prevention efforts.

Finally, sharing our stories helps other victims and survivors feel less alone. Talking more openly about our experiences, when we feel safe doing so, might encourage others to come forward and find support. After all, abuse is never the victim’s fault, and no one ever deserves to be abused. The only person to blame is the person who chooses to be abusive. When we as a society understand this, we will go a long way in helping to erase the shame and blame that can keep victims and survivors from seeking help.

Today, and every day, I am committed to speaking out about healthy relationships, domestic violence and my own experiences. I hope you will join me and share how you #SeeDV with your friends, family, classmates and coworkers. By doing so, we can work together to create a society that doesn’t stay silent about domestic violence or ask why a victim would stay in an abusive relationship. We can shift the conversation and eventually create a world where domestic violence doesn’t exist.

Cameka Crawford is the chief communications officer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline and its youth-focused program, loveisrespect. For more than a decade, she has been committed advancing the communications and marketing efforts for corporate and nonprofit organizations.


This October #SeeDV with The Hotline

dvam-blog-1October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM)! This month serves as a reminder for people in communities across the country to renew their commitment to preventing and ending domestic violence, which affects more than 12 million people in the U.S. each year. Although domestic violence is an important issue year-round, DVAM is an opportunity for all in the movement – from organizations and coalitions to survivors, friends and family members – to come together, amplify our stories and help the world #SeeDV.

Over the past year, the conversation about domestic violence has expanded and, in many ways, become more nuanced. People are learning more about the complexities of abusive relationships, including why it’s so difficult for victims to leave and how our society can better support people who have been abused.

At The Hotline, we #SeeDV every day. We’re seeing that domestic violence intersects with a variety of issues, including HIV/AIDS, firearms policy, law enforcement response and corporate social responsibility. During DVAM 2015, we will be shedding light on these issues with a few of our partners:

  • The Hotline is one of several organizations partnering with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Greater Than AIDS initiative to explore the intersection of HIV/AIDS and intimate partner violence (IPV). The campaign launching this month will include resources, a discussion guide and a video of four IPV survivors sharing their stories of living with abuse while HIV positive.
  • The Hotline will partner with Americans for Responsible Solutions for a joint webinar at 2 p.m. CT on Oct. 27. The webinar, entitled “A Deeper Conversation: The Intersection of Firearms and Domestic Violence,” will take a look at how the presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship intensifies the fear of abuse victims. It will also explore what can be done to provide greater protections to domestic violence victims and survivors. To register, click here.
  • For many years, Verizon has been committed to bringing attention to domestic violence and supporting survivors through its HopeLine program. Throughout October, Verizon will offer an exclusive line of purple accessories and will donate a portion of each sale, up to $100,000 to The Hotline. To learn more about HopeLine, visit their website.
  • Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is launching a second Pass the Peace campaign, which seeks to raise awareness and funds for The Hotline. Learn more about the campaign and how you can participate here.

We hope you’ll share how you #SeeDV with your friends, family and community this October. Be sure to follow The Hotline on social media for DVAM 2015 updates and ways to get involved!

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I #SeeDV as Something We Can All Work to End: Troy Vincent

Troy Vincent with Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones and Hotline advocates

Troy Vincent with Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones and Hotline advocates

My recent visit to the National Domestic Violence Hotline reinforced that ending domestic violence should be a personal priority for everyone. The stories of real people in painful real-life situations further underscore the dire need to plead the cause of victims, empower them and provide them with lifesaving tools, safety planning and most importantly, hope. We need advocates who connect with victims and help them take action, find safety and live without abuse.

Family members, faith leaders, educators and advocates, corporations and government–we all have a role to play and a responsibility to speak boldly to end domestic violence.

Domestic violence was a way of life in my home. As boys, my brother and I watched helplessly and in pain as our mother struggled to find her voice, seek help and have the courage to say “no more.” As a result, the fear, the powerlessness and all the complexities that accompany that kind of violence are as real for me today as when I was a child. They are always with me.

As a husband, father, mentor and friend, my lifelong conviction is to set an example and help others never experience this horror. There are many teachable moments with my children where we talk openly about the impact of domestic violence. My wife and I look for opportunities to challenge our children, stressing that there is never an excuse for violence and teaching them to find their voice on this issue.

As a former athlete, I have chosen to share my story and taken every opportunity to bring attention to this important issue and help drive change — in the locker room and the community.

As an executive, I continue to advocate for programs and resources to care for victims, educate players, and support family members around the issue of domestic violence. The NFL’s mandatory domestic violence and sexual assault education assists players and staff in building healthy relationships. It teaches us to identify off-field challenges that might lead to abuse and gives us skills to help prevent and end domestic violence and sexual assault.

The NFL Life Line provides current and former players, family members and team and league staff with a secure, confidential and independent resource for any personal or emotional crisis.

Our Player Engagement programs and NFL Legends Community are building a national network of former players trained to support players and their families, during their playing experience and after they transition away from the game.

Our Personal Conduct Policy — developed with more than 100 domestic violence and sexual assault experts, advocates and survivors, law enforcement officials, academic experts, business leaders, current and former players and the players’ union — establishes clear standards that apply to all NFL personnel.

We must talk openly about domestic violence and teach our children how to build healthy relationships. We must raise awareness and remove the shame and stigma that prevent victims from seeking help. We must support organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline that help make sure everyone who needs assistance can get it.

There is still much more work to be done. My faith has helped me end the cycle of domestic violence in my family, and it’s what sustains my work to end domestic violence. We must make our voices heard and turn our words into actions.

Troy Vincent Sr. played in the National Football League for fifteen years for the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, and Washington Redskins. From 2004-2008, he served as president of the NFL Players’ Association. He is currently the NFL executive vice president of Football Operations.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional resources:

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


How I #SeeDV: Crayton Webb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of those who answered the survey:

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

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

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

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

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


How I #SeeDV: Christopher Gandin Le


And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why
we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women
-Tupac Shakur

The song Keep Ya Head Up by Tupac was what made me realize I had to care about violence against women, and for me, caring meant to fight. I know that this anthem is over-simplifying a complex set of issues, and that referring to women as “our women” is inherently problematic. But this song was part of my wake-up moment. I reference it here because I’m very interested in that thing that changes a man from a bystander (or worse, a perpetrator) of violence against women into a man that instead sees it as his duty to make the world safe for women (and men! And everyone!) to live in without fear of physical, verbal or emotional abuse.

I want to frame this post on the next few lines of the song:

I think it’s time we kill for our women

Kill for me meant: tear down.

We have to tear down rape culture. When I was a teenager and first heard the statistics of rape, I promised myself that if anyone ever did rape one of my friends I would kill the rapist. And then one of my best friends was date raped, and instead of becoming a raging vigilante I chose to do as much as possible to end the systemic problems that lead to rape and to provide caring and healing services to victims. There is still that fight impulse though, the anger that some d-bag hurt someone that I love – knowing what to do with that impulse is vital. Activism > Jail-time.

Time to heal our women

This doesn’t mean what Tupac thought it means. We can’t heal someone in the same way that we can’t empower them to become stronger. Healing and power come through time, through self-care. What we can do is to create a culture where women’s voices are heard and amplify those voices wherever possible. Projects like I Believe You | It’s Not Your Fault are amazing examples of what happens when people don’t try to explain or excuse an incident. This is where true healing begins, and our role as men is to know when to rally around someone and help and when to just say I believe you, I’m here to hold that truth for you and not to judge or try to fix anything.

Be real to our women

Being real, not just to women in our lives, but to men and to ourselves. This one might be the most important, and the thing that we as men actually have the power to change. Men account for 2/3 of the suicide deaths in the U.S. 85% of murder-suicides are perpetrated by men, it’s men that have committed virtually all mass shootings in America.

We can no longer afford to ignore our emotions; being silent and strong is deadly. In 2015, I’m launching a nonprofit with the mission of creating safe emotional spaces for men. The goal is not to reduce stigma of seeking mental health care, but to design and create interventions and programs that are stigma-free by design. I believe that men are much more in touch with emotions than people give us credit for, but that we don’t have a place to express them in safe, open and real ways. It’s exciting, and it’s scary because I don’t have any answers, just questions that will hopefully lead to a new way of being a man in this world.

So, that song, now 21 years old, was what made me realize that I had to do everything in my power to reduce domestic violence and rape culture. What was your wake-up moment?

gandinle-125Christopher Gandin Le has helped launch basically all of the national suicide prevention programs. These include the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the National Suicide Prevention LifelineVeterans Crisis Line and He established the initial Facebook/Suicide prevention partnership and co-wrote the Facebook policy on suicide in 2005, and has since helped Google, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest create similar policies. Chris is on the boards of Connect Safely and the Lifeline and Crisis Text Line, and through his company Emotion Technology he continues to link social media companies and non-profit organizations. He was an Aspen Institute Scholar and an Aspen Challenge presenter. Having launched these national and international programs, he’s now looking to fill in the gaps, to find what’s missing in our mental health system and create tools through which communities can support their own systems of healing and care.


How I #SeeDV: Dr. Wendy Walsh

Dr. Wendy Walsh, how do you #SeeDV?

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

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

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



I #SeeDV as an Intergenerational Epidemic: Jo Crawford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How I #SeeDV: Jon Root


Six months into my PTSD, I was still digesting the repercussions from being named as an aggressor in a drunken 911 call by a live-in girlfriend. I was mired in the aftermath of recovering from a very debilitating domestic violence charge. Arrested without questions yet completely innocent, nary an opportunity to speak towards what didn’t happen, what I didn’t do.

As a decorated Olympian, father, author, and sports coach in the U18 space, having a felony arrest on my record was beyond a set back. It took 2 years to personally heal, then 1 year to find an attorney who was willing to navigate the nuances. Finally, a Superior Court judge heard my case, but not without a rep from the City Attorney’s office. The court did decide in my favor, restoring my ‘innocence’, records destroyed. But I lost three years of being in the world. Job offers were rescinded, restrictions placed against coaching minors, let alone subsequent alienation from my daughter. No one wanted to hear, nor seemed to care, about the physical and emotional abuse I suffered. No way around it.

Evolving from a background riddled with emotional abuse, I rationalized away red flag behavior. I thought things would change; she stated things would change. So, I believed her and not my gut instinct. It all happened so fast. Bail was higher than any professional athlete story involving domestic violence I have seen. It started with her drinking, going through my phone, then my computer, followed by accusations of infidelity, then volatile behavior manifesting blind rage. She did what the Rage and Anger told her to do.

Having done a lot of personal growth work prior to the incident, again I dug into my past, analyzing what remnant energy attracted this twisted, dark energy. It happened to me as a kid from 7-12 and lo and behold, it happened again later on in Life. Same tape different expression. From many introspective angles, I see where I was not strong in setting boundaries, but also where I couldn’t separate from toxicity. The lessons were many.

Invisible shame on my shoulders, I held my head as high as I could, but it has taken years to move on, rebuild. Forgiveness came very slow, both to me and my aggressor. Four years out, the episode still lingers in the shadows. While I respect my healing process, I have a greater appreciation for all those that have suffered this kind of physical and emotional oppression. For what I know and what I don’t know, I remain centered in my Heart, in Truth, knowing that Life is a Spiritual Sport.

root-125Jon Edward Root is a former American volleyball player and Olympic Gold Medalist. He was a member of the United States men’s National Volleyball Team that won the 1986 World Championships in Paris, France, and the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. A spiritualist, urban hippie, sports coach, animal lover, teacher, preacher and screecher of all things mystical, magical, and mindful, Jon lives and works in Northern California as a Development Consultant focusing on performance and transformational coaching for young athletes, adults, and professionals. He is the author of Life, The Spiritual Sport, which is part memoir and part manifesto on key metaphysical and physical attributes that affect performance and personal transformation. Learn more at