“There Were Children in That House.” How I #SeeDV: Danna Lewis

dvam-2016-blog-4My boyfriend goes into the kitchen, and there are dishes in the sink. I’m sitting on the couch, aware that this is one of his only pet peeves. The instantaneous trigger reaction begins, and my whole body begins to pump adrenaline. Then I take a breath, then another deeper one, and remind myself that this is now. This is my boyfriend, the most gentle, loving man I have ever known. The trigger reaction, locked deep within my molecules, comes from living with a man whose reaction to dishes in the sink very likely could have been screaming anger, dishes being thrown and broken or even physical violence – all of this inflicted on my mother. I lived with that man for the first eleven years of my life.

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I #SeeDV at Every Intersection: Heather F.

dvam-2016-blog-2I’ve been with The Hotline for four years, and in that time I’ve learned a number of lessons. The one I want to share with you today is that everyone, every kind of person, is affected by domestic violence and relationship abuse. There are a lot of myths out there, like that only poor people get abused, or only people of that race deal with domestic violence. But, the heartbreaking truth is that severe intimate partner violence will affect one in four women and one in seven men at some point in their lives. There’s no question that everyone knows someone who has been affected by domestic violence. And, relationship abuse doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s not like if someone has an abusive partner, nothing else in their life can be difficult. If that were the case, it would be so much easier for survivors to get help!

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Help Others #SeeDV in October

dvam-2016-blog-1October is here, which means it’s time to raise awareness about domestic violence! Although domestic violence is an important issue year-round, Domestic Violence Awareness Month serves as a reminder to all of us that our stories and our voices matter. We must come together and help the world #SeeDV.

This year, we want people to know that there is no “typical case” of domestic violence. It can affect anyone, regardless of who they are or where they can from, and every person’s story is unique. With more than 12 million people affected by intimate partner violence in the U.S. each year, chances are you know someone who has experienced abuse. That’s why it’s important to understand the issue and know how to help someone you care about.

How Can You Get Involved During DVAM?

Share How You #SeeDV
Why is domestic violence an important issue to you? This October, let everyone know how you #SeeDV. Be sure to follow this blog as we share different perspectives on domestic violence from survivors, advocates and others in the field.

Attend Our Webinar
Domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or background, and the experience is different for every survivor. In this webinar, survivors will share their unique stories and experiences, as well as what helped them and what did not. We’ll also discuss ways to support the survivor in your life. Reserve your spot for Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT!

Pass the Peace!
Join Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as he raises awareness and funds for domestic violence and dating abuse prevention. Learn how to participate here.

Wear Purple on Oct. 20
Show your support for domestic violence survivors and raise awareness by wearing purple on Oct. 20. Organizations and individuals around the country will be participating, including The Hotline. Go purple for DVAM and share your pictures on #PurpleThursday!

Tune in to Our Facebook Live Event
We’re often asked what people can expect when they reach out to The Hotline. In this Facebook Live event, Hotline advocates will be sharing their experiences and answering questions about their work. Join us on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT.

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 2016 updates and ways to get involved!

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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.