FVPSA Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

While we’re raising awareness on the important issue of domestic violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re also celebrating the 30th anniversary of a vital piece of legislation: The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA).

FVPSA’s passage in 1984 marked the first time in U.S. history that federal resources were specifically dedicated to domestic violence shelters and programs. The Hotline, first established by the Violence Against Women Act (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary!), is now made possible in part by FVPSA funding.

To commemorate these 30 years, the Hotline team collaborated with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, the Family & Youth Services Bureau, and other key organizations to create a short video about FVPSA and what it has done for victims and survivors of domestic violence. To learn more about FVPSA and domestic violence, visit




I #SeeDV as Where Good and Evil Still Exist: Abe Clabby

DVAM-clabbyI’ve been told that some men are monsters, and I’ve heard that there’s a monster in every man. In most of my life, I can hardly say either is true. The people I’ve known all my life all have some way they can be looked at and not seem that different from most of us. Aggressive people have weaknesses they’re covering. Manipulative people have deep insecurities they’re rushing to protect. The fiercest tantrums come from kids who just want to be loved.

The rules are different when you know an abuser.

Whatever you think is wrong in society is wrong in a person who does this. Selfishness, inconsideration, demands for instant gratification, all are found in the life of a domestic abuser. When life and marriage offer some give and take, an abusive partner takes everything they can and gives their captive hell. They can focus an untold amount of energy on staying in someone’s head, telling them they’re weak, crazy, and unloveable. No chains can shackle a woman like motherhood and joblessness, to keep a person powerless to pay her way out. No cage can trap someone like the threat of someone’s anger, when there’s no telling what they’ll do to keep that control.

And somehow, they manage to add a trait so dangerous it sounds fictitious: malice. I’ve heard women tell me that their ex, or even their husband, has literally told them, “I want to make your life miserable.” They have destroyed a woman’s electronics upon entering a room, and left haunting messages to let her know that he’s still following her. They have cut people off from every friend and all the family they ever had, damning them to isolation, or even spreading the fiercest rumors imagination can concoct to get her greatest supporters “on his side.” One sentence above all I have heard used word for word so many dozens of times: when a victim tells me he told her “you’ll never see your kids again.”

The engine behind this cruel machine is the want for power and control. Everyone has a voice in their mind saying, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” But as we grow older, the voices of reason and compassion learn to talk over it. In an abuser, their self-righteous voice remains a never-ending roar.

Of course, there are some women abusers as ruthless as the men. The screaming fits may be a higher pitch, but they can still grab a knife, drain the bank account, file the restraining order against the victim, and split the family like any man could. Even then, they can hide that side of them from everyone else who thinks they’re “close” to them, as two-faced as an abusive man.

There’s a strange continuum from the most emotionally or verbally abusive victims to the most physical. Daily accusations of infidelity would be bad enough without the injury to insult by cyber-stalking them, and scrutinizing or threatening everyone close to their victim. Words alone can poison the soul with fear and doubt and shame. But to haunt a woman with the threat of pain is monstrous. A single push, or throw, or strike of the hand changes the way a woman sees him for years after, if he ever crosses that line.

But to many, one kind of abuse seems to be no worse than the other. Both kinds of pain can leave a person scarred and afraid they cannot trust, or left expecting that a relationship like that is as good as they will ever get.

Domestic violence is proof to me that the word “evil” isn’t just in stories. Whatever else there may be to a person, when they turn abusive, it ravages the people closest to them too much to overlook.

But while there is evil in anyone’s heart, there will be good to care for its victims. People’s friends, family, and countless thousands of domestic violence workers rise up to take care of the wounded hearts. They hold hands with them and share their strength, promising them a life outside of the pain. They share what they have to give back what an abuser has taken.

And there is the good in the heart of every victim. The good that endures. The good that defies. The good that escapes.

And from where I stand, I see the good in their hearts that inspires.

This post was written by Abe Clabby, an advocate at the Hotline. Abe is a Graduate student at St. Edward’s University. He is majoring in Counseling, and serves other members of the helping professions in the Austin area.


How I #SeeDV: Nicole Warner


Domestic violence is an intimate version of the power plays we see played out in the rest of our daily lives, from Boston to the Middle East, from politics to the grocery store. No matter if it’s in a romantic relationship, in one neighborhood or on a world-wide scale, we’re talking about variations on a theme–violence.

Violence wants us to believe there is some kind of difference between intimate partner violence, where a man slaps his partner, and a loud mouth in the bar who picks a fight. It is still physical violence.

Violence wants us to believe that there is a difference between a Ponzi scheme and that “check” your Grandma got in the mail (the one that’s actually a big scam). The only real difference between a $100 Million Ponzi scheme and that fake check your Grandma got in the mail for $500 is the amount. It is still financial abuse.

Violence wants us to believe the market crash and its ripple effects are improving rapidly as long as we pinch our pennies and watch our gas mileage—as if our single-income pocketbooks could ever redeem the global misconduct of others. Violence wants us to get lost in the details, in the pennies; violence doesn’t want us to be looking at the dollars, the pounds. Violence doesn’t want us to see the big picture.

Violence wants us to get lost in its confusion, in the cognitive dissonance.

Violence wants us to believe there is a difference between a person navigating the toxic, constantly shifting labyrinth of a volatile relationship and that manipulative, intimidating colleague you have who makes you feel like you’re going off the deep end. Do you see how these are two corners of the same big picture? This picture is of psychological abuse.

Violence wants to divide us and conquer us. Keep us busy with the finger-pointing and the blaming and scapegoating. Keep us questioning, trying to decide if violence is different if it’s large- or small-scale, near to us or far from us, if it happened to a family member or “someone else.” Violence wants us to think more-than/less-than, better-than/worse-than. Violence doesn’t want us to see the huge writing on the wall, look it straight in its beady little eyes and call it out for what it is:

Toxic, destructive, and deadly for far too many.

But violence doesn’t get what it wants when we refuse to give in. As we learn to listen to what is said and to what is not said, we tune in to the big picture. We begin to see if someone is walking the walk or just talking the talk. We become more aware and speak up more often. Every time we stand up for what is right, violence loses. Every time we reach out and help our neighbor whose wife talks down to him, we build him up so he can make his own decisions. When we use our religions to serve others, to be assistive in times of need, to share our joys, we pay respect to our neighbors, to our religious communities, to ourselves. We create a different kind of ripple effect.

Our ripple effect now includes technology that allows us to film, to write, to publish, to connect, to network, to support, to learn, to heal. We gather knowledge and courage and get to the root of the issues when we make our voices heard.

Every time we make heard that violence knows no race, no religion, no country’s borders, we spread courage and this has an incredible effect on others. Courageous behavior is what destroys violence at its roots.

Courage also knows no race, no religion, no sex or gender, no country’s borders. Courage knows only how to grow.



In praise of toll-free numbers for victims of Domestic Violence
and those who choose not to look away.

I am a victim of crime, yet my scars are unseen.
I am a victim of crime, and with a phone call you helped me save myself.

My name is your name
and I look just like you.
You are my neighbor, my colleague,
my customer, my boss.
I am the cashier, the mom, the teacher,
the corporate executive degraded in private.

Did you see him call me stupid?
Did you see him complain yet again?
Did you hear me cry myself to sleep?

Your name is my name
and you look just like me.
I am your neighbor, your colleague,
your customer, your boss.
You are the cashier, the mom, the teacher,
the corporate executive degraded in private.

You are a victim of crime, yet your scars are unseen.
You are a victim of crime, and with a phone call I helped you save yourself.
Copyright 2014 Nicole Warner

warner-125Nicole Warner is a professional classical singer with an active performing career, having sung solo on 3 continents. In her other life she’s a private instructor for voice and German as a Foreign Language. This year marks her 6th year as a survivor of domestic violence and the 2nd year she’s been human to a handsome orange tabby named Connor. Find out more about Nicole and read her survival story at


#SeeDV This October

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and the 30th anniversary of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act – two vital pieces of legislation that led to an increase of resources and support for victims and survivors of domestic violence.

In the last month, we’ve watched as the conversation about domestic violence in this country made a huge shift. Media outlets are talking about it, people on Twitter are talking about it, the NFL is talking about it, government leaders are talking about it.

But there is still work to be done. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it’s more important than ever for your voice to be heard. That’s why this year, we’re asking again:

How do you #seeDV?

We’re asking because domestic violence should be talked about.

We’re asking because it shouldn’t be something shameful or hidden.

We’re asking for every person living with abuse, for every survivor, for every family, for every community affected.

Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing different perspectives and stories from people around the country on how they see DV. Some are survivors. Some are activists. They all “see” domestic violence as something we can end together. But we have to speak up.

So let’s start talking. How do you #seeDV?

Want to get involved? Click here.



Happy New Year From The Hotline!

It’s been an amazing year of milestones for the hotline, and we couldn’t have done it without the kindness and generosity from all of you. We are so grateful to our supporters who helped us create healthier families and communities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The hotline saw growth and change in 2013:

  • This summer we answered our 3 millionth call, a somber milestone that allowed us to reflect on the people we’ve been able to help and the work that still needs to be done.


  • In October we revamped our website… and launched online chat services! Victims, friends and family now have a new way to interact with an advocate and get help safely, quickly and anonymously from any device with internet access.

  • In October we asked, “How do you see DV?” and the responses were more than could’ve imagined. We featured blog posts by everyone from Denver Broncos’ Chris Harris, Jr., to Jasmine Villegas.

  • Our loveisrespect advocates have seen a record number of young people reaching out for help via text (“loveis” to 22522) and chat.

  • Vice President Joe Biden stopped by our Austin, TX headquarters during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Check out this great recap of his visit.

  • We launched the 24/7/365 Society. A pledge of $1,000 a year for three years secures a place as a founding member of the society, recognizing your constant support of victims of domestic violence.

  • We participated in Giving Tuesday for the first time ever. On December 3rd our advocates and staff joined together to build a Gingerbread Hotline. With each donation we added a fun item to the hotline, representing how each gift builds and strengthens our ability to help more survivors, families and friends.

  • In December, the Avon Foundation for Women offered to match any gifts we received, up to $200,000. This was a great opportunity, because each gift did twice the good.

It’s been a great year of change, and we’re looking forward to what the coming year will bring. From all of us here at the hotline, we’re so appreciative to have a strong community of supporters and friends working to build a world of healthier relationships. Thank you for helping us serve 24/7/365.

Remember that we’re always just a phone call or chat away. 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy new year.



I See DV As An Important Public Health Issue

This is our final How I See DV (#SeeDV) post to wrap up our 2013 Domestic Violence Awareness Month campaign. We are so grateful to everyone who participated and supported our efforts in October.

Today’s How I See DV perspective is written by Cora Harrington, the founder and chief editor of The Lingerie Addict. The Lingerie Addict is a fashion blog dedicated to lingerie, and has been featured on the websites for CNN, Vogue Italia, Forbes, and Time. Cora is a former domestic violence advocate, sexual assault crisis line worker, and family advocate for victims of violent crime. She currently lives and works in Seattle, WA.

coraIn the last few decades, issues affecting health, and, in particular, women’s health, have taken center stage. From Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to American Heart Month in February, people are talking more and more about ways to get healthy and stay healthy. That’s a wonderful thing, and I’m glad these conversations are happening. But there’s still one issue that is all too often ignored in the discussion about health…and that’s domestic violence.

While anyone of any gender can be affected by intimate partner violence, 85% of domestic violence victims are women, and 1 out of 3 women in the United States will experience domestic in her lifetime. For African American women and Native American women, those percentages are shockingly higher; almost 50% of Native American women have been beaten, raped, or stalked by their partners, and intimate partner homicide is one of the leading causes of death for African American women aged 15 to 35.

More women require medical attention for domestic violence than for rape, muggings, and accidents combined, and domestic violence during pregnancy is the #1 cause of maternal mortality (maternal deaths) in America. Imagine. If we had these kinds of numbers for any other disease – heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes – people would be protesting in the streets demanding an immediate solution. But since the issue is intimate partner violence (a “personal matter” or a “domestic dispute”), the response, all too often, is just more silence.

I’m not a medical professional or a first responder, so I don’t see domestic violence on the “front lines,” so to speak. Nor am I a Domestic Violence Advocate (though I used to be). So if you’re someone like me reading this, who has a job that has nothing to do with intimate partner violence or sexual assault or the healthcare field, how is thinking of domestic violence as a public health issue possibly relevant to you?

Because a public health perspective helps to give a framework for both understanding DV and for talking with and being supportive of survivors of DV.

Sometimes, when a victim of domestic violence attempts to confide in a friend, that friend is less than supportive.  Often, victims of domestic violence are asked why they don’t “just leave,” and have to cope with people implying that enjoy or even like the violence because they’re still in the relationship. However, those kinds of statements would be unthinkable for any other health issue.

No one would ask a cancer patient if she liked having cancer because she needed time to explore treatment options, make a treatment plan, or because she chose to reject one treatment in favor of another. No one would tell a PTSD survivor that he enjoyed having PTSD because he took awhile to find a therapist, tried multiple therapists, or even stopped and started therapy more than once. No one would tell a stroke survivor that she must have enjoyed having a stroke because she was concerned about her physical limitations or because she had financial worries. So why are these assumptions okay for survivors of domestic violence, many of whom have been physically and verbally battered into physical and emotional injuries? They’re not.

I’m not saying survivors of domestic violence are sick or unwell. Nor am I encouraging others to adopt a patronizing attitude towards them. I just think it’s worth thinking of other ways to frame this problem…and its solutions. After all, you probably know someone who’s dealing with domestic violence right now.



I See DV as an LGBTQ Issue

We know that today is November 1, but really, shouldn’t every month be Domestic Violence Awareness Month? We have two more #SeeDV posts, including today’s thought-provoking piece from Tasha Amezcua and Ursula Campos-Johnson of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

avpJulio was scared to call the police.  Last time he called, they refused to take the report.  His partner Jim’s violent tactics were escalating.  Jim made Julio feel isolated and ashamed of being gay, often reminding him of how his family kicked him out. Julio couldn’t reach out to his friends for help because all of his friends were Jim’s friends, too.  Jim told Julio he would kill him if he tried to leave.  Julio called a few domestic violence shelters.  Most turned him away because he was a man.  Finally, after many calls he was accepted to a shelter that had very little experience sheltering LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV).

Once in shelter Julio began attending mandatory group counseling for shelter residents.  The group’s theme was “women supporting women,” so he felt out of place.  When he finally spoke up in group about the violence he experienced, the residents mocked him.  He tried to make friends in the shelter, but was greeted with homophobic remarks by staff and fellow residents. Julio looked to his caseworker for support, but all she could offer was that he should practice empathy, since he and the residents have similar experiences.  Despite the homophobia of the residents and staff, Julio continued to attend group because he really needed the support and the shelter, and it was nearly impossible for him, a young gay man, to find another DV shelter that would accept him.

The anti-violence movement, and society at large, often make assumptions about the identities of IPV survivors.  The assumption is that women are victims of IPV and men are abusive partners.  For Julio and many LGBTQ IPV survivors, these personal biases result in institutional barriers that can lead to a survivor disengaging with services, if they are even able to receive services in the first place.  Without full access to safe IPV services, including shelters and counseling, an LGBTQ identified survivor may feel as unsafe in the shelter as in their abusive relationship.  In accessing services like shelters, many LGBTQ survivors of IPV experience secondary trauma, by service providers, shelter staff, and other shelter residents, either through overt homophobia and transphobia, or through more subtle barriers to critical services, like women-only support groups or heteronormative intakes.

The stakes for LGBTQ IPV survivors are high.  It’s often difficult to imagine the deadly reality of IPV in LGBTQ communities when we’ve been socialized to believe that all the victims are ciswomen (cis or cisgender is a term used to describe people who, for the most part, feel that their gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.  Cis is often used as a prefix, i.e. ciswoman) and all the abusive partners are men.  So, here are the facts: IPV occurs within same sex relationships at the same rate as in heterosexual relationships, with a 25% to 33% prevalence rate.  People of color, transgender, gender non-conforming people, and young people are disproportionately affected by IPV in LGBTQ relationships.  The 2012 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence found that people of color made up the majority (62.1%) of IPV survivors.  Transgender survivors were two (2.0) times as likely to face threats/intimidation within violent relationships, and nearly two (1.8) times more likely to experience harassment within violent relationships.  The 2012 report also found that youth and young adults were close to two times (1.8) as likely to face anti-LGBTQ bias in IPV tactics as compared to non-youth.

LGBTQ people are dying as a result of IPV at a higher rate than ever before.  2012 saw the highest recorded number of LGBTQ IPV homicides: 21 in 2012, 2 more than in 2011, and 15 more than in 2010.  Nearly half of LGBTQ IPV murder victims last year were gay men.

Key to reaching and providing effective support services to all survivors of violence is understanding that IPV survivors can be queer, transgender or gender non-conforming, straight or gay men, lesbian or bisexual women, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual transgender people.  The people who harm are as diverse in gender and sexual orientation as the survivors we serve.

At the New York City Anti Violence Project (AVP), we collaborate with many IPV/DV service providers who historically serve heterosexual cisgender women.  Making the transition to all gender and sexual orientation inclusive can seem like a daunting task.  To offer support, AVP coordinates the New York State LGBTQ Domestic Violence Network, in which AVP staff and other network members support each other toward a shared commitment to “work towards the inclusion of LGBTQ survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence, specifically regarding LGBTQ shelter access and inclusion.”

Expanding accessibility to services for LGBTQ survivors is only possible because of the legacy of the battered women’s movement, feminism, and the hard work of domestic violence service providers. This is where we came from.  This legacy opened shelters, insisted on visibility, and increased safety for many women survivors.  Now it’s time to broaden access to ALL survivors of intimate partner violence, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.  This is a call to action for all of us, but especially service providers, to shift our understanding of who can and does experience intimate partner violence.  With the reauthorization of an LGBTQ inclusive VAWA, it is time that all DV service providers realize the deep impact IPV has on all people, including LGBTQ survivors and victims.  Only when we can expand our understanding of who can be a victim or a survivor can we begin to expand our services, including shelter, to all survivors of intimate partner violence.

Please note that the National Domestic Violence Hotline works hard to find a solution for all of our callers. Please call us if you need support or help at 1-800-799-7233.

About Our Contributors

Ursula Campos-Johnson is a New York City native, mixed race Latina, and survivor of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Ursula has worked with LGBTQ survivors of violence for over five years. Ursula is dedicated to promoting social justice within and outside of systems for many marginalized communities, especially Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, HIV-affected (LGBTQH) survivors of IPV, and youth impacted by violence. Ursula has done this through program development, direct services, and training and education. As an Intimate Partner Violence Counselor Advocate at the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), Ursula has created a unique support group model for LGBTQH survivors and victims of IPV and has lead an initiative at AVP to create a culturally competent IPV assessment model, inclusive of intersecting identities and free of assumptions around a binary understanding of gender identity. Ursula has provided workshops and trainings on intimate partner violence, sexual violence, hate violence and gender-based violence and their intersection with other forms of oppression, including poverty, sexism, heteronormativity, heteropatriarchy, and racism for service providers and community members. Ursula has presented at the Columbia School of Social Work, Columbia School of Nursing, CPS, the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter and has provided trainings to youth service providers at The Door, and Ali Forney Center. Ursula is currently an MSW candidate at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.

Tasha Amezcua, the Intimate Partner Violence & Sexual Violence Community Organizer in AVP’s Community Organizing and Public Advocacy department, supports coordination of statewide and local community organizing, public advocacy and policy programming related to LGBTQ intimate partner violence and sexual violence. Tasha develops and coordinates intimate partner violence and sexual violence programming and survivor-informed campaigns, conducts outreach to LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities in New York City, and develops the leadership of LGBTQ and HIV-affected community members and survivors to participate within organizing and advocacy campaigns. Tasha works to maintain and grow the work of the New York State LGBTQ Domestic Violence (DV) Network and provides technical assistance, training, and recruitment to the DV Network and serves as a liaison between AVP and the DV Network. She attended Columbia University, majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies, with a concentration in Queer Theories. Tasha, a femme-identified queer Chicana survivor of violence, is originally from Santa Ana, CA, but has called New York City her home away from home since 2003.


How I See DV: Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen

Today’s How I See DV perspective comes from Barbara Van Dahlen, named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Dr. Van Dahlen is the founder and president of Give an Hour. A licensed clinical psychologist who has been practicing in the Washington, D.C., area for over 20 years, she received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland in 1991. We’re excited to have her share her voice during our DVAM campaign.


Please help us understand what post traumatic stress is and how it differs from post traumatic stress disorder?

When a human being is traumatized, whether it’s due to combat, physical violence, natural disaster or something else, there are certain reactions that we expect people to have. Many of those are the symptoms that are now captured in the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress.

So if I’m in a car accident, we would expect that for quite some time I might be more jumpy, hyper-vigilant when pulling out of my driveway, I might have flashbacks of what happened, I might have bad dreams, I might get depressed…  so all of these reactions are what we expect for the situation that I’m in following my accident. It only becomes a disorder if it doesn’t get resolved, if I don’t heal, if I don’t receive the support I need to address all of my understandable reactions and symptoms  associated with this trauma.

What are some misconceptions around post-traumatic stress in the military and domestic violence?

Most people assume that PTS looks the same for everyone – many think of the Rambo version of PTS. That’s not the typical reaction at all. People who have experienced trauma, whether its due to combat or another event, can experience trauma differently from other folks who may have experienced the exact same event.

You might have two people who were in the same firefight — one person might become withdrawn and depressed, the other might become very anxious, agitated. A third person in the same fight might show no indication of stress – no interference  with their functioning. People assume that PTS looks similar and in fact, the manifestation of PTS really varies. In addition it exists on a continuum. What it looks like today is not what it necessarily looked like six months ago and not what it will look like in six months.

Another misconception is that most soldiers/service members come home with PTS. That is not true either. Depending on the studies you look at — 18%, 20%, high is 35% depending on what we are assessing or measuring. Not everyone comes back with PTS.

Even if someone has PTS that doesn’t mean that they’re an ineffective partner, parent, employee, student. Many people function with the aftermath of trauma. There are some people with severe and possibly disabling PTS – but that’s not the case all of the time.

Also, domestic violence is not a symptom of PTS. That’s really important. PTS, especially when it’s very severe, might, in some people, make them more likely to be violent towards a partner if they’re already agitated and aggressive, if they’re not sleeping or if there’s substance abuse. PTS can be one unfortunate risk factor that may make violence more likely.

It depends on who the person is with PTS. We all carry around our predispositions, our tendencies, our personalities, our view of the world. And that will be compounded or affected by PTS. If someone was already a fairly controlling person, or tended to be hot-tempered but wasn’t ever violent before… if they become distressed and aggressive as a result of trauma, they may be more likely to engage in domestic violence.

Returning servicemen and women may experience PTS and exhibit violent behaviors when they didn’t before they left for duty. What do couples in this situation need to know?

PTS for both the person experiencing it and their partner can be very unnerving and scary because the person who has PTS may not know when a trigger may elicit a reaction, anxiety or aggression. So both partners need to come to understand what PTS is going to look like in themselves or their loved one. It doesn’t mean that the person cant be a good partner. It’s like being diagnosed with diabetes — if you don’t recognize what that means, if you don’t take it seriously, you can get yourself in serious trouble.

If the spouse/ partner reacts angrily to the PTS, because they’re hurt and miss the person they love and they’re angry that the person is having trouble sleeping, doesn’t seem to be the same, etc., it’s like throwing gasoline on the fire. The partner’s reaction can exacerbate a difficult and potentially volatile situation. It’s the same for the person experiencing PTS. I’ve heard soliders say that they learned to be aware of what triggered them and their  reactions. They can also learn how to be more careful with their spouses – learn to be understanding of the feeling their spouses may have that are in reaction to the PTS.  Couples can learn together – to decrease the risk of violence. But they have to work on it.

It’s important to take PTS seriously because under the wrong combination of circumstances, that can really lead to a very dangerous and very upsetting situation … especially if you add alcohol to one or both of the partners. A fight or anger that would normally dissipate with them going off to their own corners, may turn into something far more violent than it ever would have before.

And just because we can understand how/why the violence occurred, that doesn’t mean that we can – or ever should – tolerate it.

What are some behaviors that a person who experienced trauma might exhibit?

There are many ways a person might show that they are processing trauma, especially if they are a victim of domestic violence. Their self-esteem may deteriorate. You can see that both in what they say – they say negative comments about themselves, negative perceptions of themselves – and also how they take care of themselves or don’t. Their self-care will start to be affected, falter, fail. They’re not dressing the way they used to, with care. They’re not working out, they’re not eating healthy. Or maybe there’s substance abuse. So anything that is a self-care clue that somebody is suffering, we can often see those in people we care about and notice them.

We all go through ups and downs in our lives, but if you see people who don’t seem like themselves for extended periods of time, several days or weeks, it may be a reaction to trauma.

What are some myths around mental health and domestic violence?

One myth about mental health is that someone with mental illness is having mental illness makes you more likely to be violent. In fact, having a mental illness makes you more likely to be the victim of violence.

People with severe mental health issues, maybe schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are more likely to be the victim of domestic violence because they are often less able to take care of themselves, they are more vulnerable, their thinking is not always as clear.

In addition, mental health issues place a person at risk in other ways. Someone who is severely depressed may be less likely to step out of or seek help to get out of a domestic abuse situation. They may get more entrenched, and feel like “I’m worthless” because low self-esteem is part of the depression, so they see abuse as confirmation of how they feel. Or if someone has severe depression and is prone to being abusive, they might be more likely to become violent because of their mental health issue.

Those conditions — depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse — they don’t create domestic violence, or victims. They’re just risk factors on both sides .

About Our Contributor

Concerned about the mental health implications of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr. Van Dahlen founded Give an Hour in 2005 to enlist mental health professionals to provide free services to U.S. troops, veterans, their loved ones, and their communities. Currently, the network has nearly 7,000 providers, who have collectively given over $9.4 million worth of services. 

Dr. Van Dahlen, a featured speaker at the October 2012 TEDxMidAtlantic “Be Fearless” event, has joined numerous panels, conferences, and hearings on issues facing veterans and has participated in discussions at the Pentagon, Veterans Administration, White House, and Congress. She has become a notable expert on the psychological impact of war on troops and families and a thought leader in mobilizing civilian constituencies in support of active duty service members, veterans, and their families. Working with other nonprofit leaders, Dr. Van Dahlen developed the Community Blueprint Network, a national initiative and online tool to assist communities in more effectively and strategically supporting veterans and military families. 

Dr. Van Dahlen and Give an Hour have received numerous awards, including selection as one of the five winners of the White House’s Joining Forces Community Challenge, sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.


I See DV As Complex, Even For Celebrities

Today’s How I See DV perspective is by writer Alex Iwashyna who blogs at Late Enough is a humor blog, except when it’s serious. Alex is a freelance writer, poet and media consultant who writes about about her life intermixed with important ramblings on her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, her kids outsmarting her, and dancing like everyone is watching. We are very excited that she lent her voice — and support — to our campaign. 

blog-posters-alexCelebrities seem to have it all — fame, fortune, the ability to get a book published that is poorly written and yet makes the best-seller list – not to mention the chefs, personal trainers and trips to exotic locales.

They are paid to look and act certain ways at certain times so I don’t mind the commentary on their dresses and hair and ability to act or sing. But I draw the line at holding celebrities to higher standards when it comes to domestic violence. I don’t think being famous gives people magical powers to escape abusive relationships quicker because, while they may have the financial means to leave, abuse is not a basic socio-economic problem. The women and men in these relationships are human beings who are going to respond like abused partners.

Take Rihanna and Chris Brown’s relationship. Almost everyone supported Rihanna when she left Chris Brown after the abuse went public, but when she forgave him and went back to spending time with him, people were mean and angry and ignorant. Ignorant because it takes seven times ON AVERAGE for a woman to leave her abusive partner. Maybe she could’ve been an anomaly and left the first time around, but she’s not. That doesn’t make her a bad role model. That makes her not yet even average. And the public’s reaction to this — the vitriol, the hate — makes it even harder for people to leave again. We set people up to not want to admit the abuse is happening again, to not be willing to seek help. Being kind, thoughtful and understanding is not condoning abusive behavior. Plus, what does an I told you so attitude even achieve?

Another very common reaction to abuse is to normalize it. “He’s just trying to make me better.” “I egged him on.” We rationalize because the truth that someone I love is also hurting me can be difficult to process or understand. “Real Housewife” Melissa Gorga recently wrote a book about her marriage, Love Italian Style. I have only read excerpts, but I noticed warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Men, I know you think your woman isn’t the type who wants to be taken. But trust me, she is. Every girl wants to get her hair pulled once in a while. If your wife says “no,” turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated. (an excerpt from her book, which is a quote of her husband ignoring consent. More quotes can be found on Jezebel)

In the book, she also shares how she is not allowed to go on overnight trips, get a job or say no to sex more than once a day. Most of the public response to her book is how terrible and gross and awful they are as a couple and she is for writing this as an advice book. But, setting her husband aside, Melissa Gorga is just human. She may have more reach than the average person but that does not make her immune to a very human reaction to unhealthy behaviors: normalizing it so she can survive. Instead of demonizing her, we can react by saying, “If your relationship looks like this, know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are places to find help.”

These same relationships are happening every day to people we know. Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience abuse over their lifetime. While I would never want anyone to go through domestic violence, seeing complex relationships play out in celebrities’ lives could help us comprehend our own experiences or to be more understanding of our friends and neighbors in similar situations. Will those we care about read how disgusted we are with people being abused or see someone they can turn to and trust to not be judged?

About Our Contributor

Alex Iwashyna holds a medical degree and a political philosophy degree and became a writer, poet and stay-at-home mom with them. She uses her unique perspective on her blog,, to write funny, serious, and always true stories about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion, and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity. While Alex believes Domestic Violence Awareness Month is every month, she’s grateful to be participating in How I #SeeDV this October.

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How Hotline Advocates #SeeDV

Every day, our hotline advocates take calls from all over the country. They speak to victims, survivors, individuals identifying as abusive, concerned friends and family members and others. They talk to people wondering how to leave, and others wondering how to rebuild their lives after they already have.

This past month, our advocates answered the hotline’s 3 millionth call — a milestone that represents those who have been positively impacted by our advocates but also the increasing need for lifesaving services. Help us recognize this moment by pledging 3 minutes of your time to talk to someone you know about healthy relationships and the resources available at the hotline.

This month for DVAM, we turned to our advocates and asked them to tell us how they #SeeDV. Here are some of their responses:

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October is coming to an end but it’s not too late to get involved. This past week we continued to have an outpouring of responses and participation — check it out below, and don’t forget to tell us how you #SeeDV.

We’re approaching the final week of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the participation and support continues to be amazing. From re-tweeting our own content, to creating your own images and messages tagged with the #SeeDV hashtag, you’ve all shared powerful words throughout the month.

We’re approaching the final week of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the participation and support continues to be amazing. From re-tweeting our own content, to creating your own images and messages tagged with the #SeeDV hashtag, you’ve all shared powerful words throughout the month.


I See DV as Unacceptable

Today our special How I See DV guest is Tonya Turner, Director of Legal Services at Break the Cycle. In this position, she oversees the legal services program that represents young domestic and dating violence survivors between the ages of 12-24 in civil protection proceedings and custody matters. Tonya is an expert on LGBTQ dating abuse and has provided key trainings on the issue to law enforcement and the American Bar Association.

blog-posters-ttTonya, can you tell us a little about the service you provide to LGBTQ youth?

I provide holistic legal services to young LGBTQ survivors of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. I also train young people about healthy relationships so that they can better identify unhealthy or abusive ones.

Why did you get involved with this work?

I believe dating violence, stalking and sexual assault are often normalized and minimized and I wish to help shape a world where dating violence is not acceptable or tolerated.

What sustains you in this work?

The fact that I genuinely believe that helping one person actually makes a difference. I believe the impact of my work can really shape the way young people view relationships and assist them in making healthier choices.

What are some of the unique struggles people in abusive LGBTQ relationships face?

Many LGBTQ teens are not yet “out” to their parents or friends and may be afraid that an abusive dating partner will “out” them to friends or family. Also, many young LGBTQ survivors are afraid to ask for help because bullying or harassment may start or increase.

Many LGBTQ teens also are afraid that they will be not believed or taken seriously. Often adults believe that abuse between LGBTQ partners is always mutual, does not occur in lesbian relationships, or that the abuser is only the more dominate partner.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to get help about their relationship because they are afraid of getting outed?

I would stress that everyone deserves to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Next, I would discuss their concerns about speaking to their parents. If they are not ready to come out, I would encourage them to safety plan and connect them with LGBTQ resources so that they could get additional support.

How do you define a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship involves two people who can laugh together, talk about anything, encourage each other and respect each other’s differences. In a healthy relationship, your partner makes you feel like nothing is impossible and they will be right there with you.

We know you were involved with the creation of Can you tell us about that project?

Many LGBTQ people do not feel supported or know their legal rights. Show Me Love was a campaign created to celebrate healthy LGBTQ relationships, and to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community about legal rights and resources available to people in unhealthy or abusive relationships.

Please complete this sentence. I see DV_______.

I see domestic violence not being tolerated as we empower people to have healthier relationships and they stand up and say violence is not acceptable.

About Our Contributor

Tonya Turner is currently the Director of Legal Services at Break the Cycle. In her position at Break the Cycle, Tonya trains Metropolitan Police Department Officers and adult service providers about domestic violence laws that impact young people and how to better help young people experiencing abuse. She has provided substantive and skills training with such programs as the ABA’s Commission on Domestic Violence Custody Institute, the National Institute on Civil Representation of Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Sexual Assault Who Are D/deaf, Hard of Hearing and/or with Disabilities, and Best Practices for Lawyers Assisting Pro Se Victims of DV with Civil Protection Orders. Tonya also does outreach and education on LGBTQ domestic and dating violence. She is a board member of Rainbow Response Coalition (RRC). RRC is actively committed to informing LGBT people in the Washington Metropolitan Area of their legal rights and ensuring that law enforcement officers respond to dating/domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking calls involving LGBT people appropriately. Tonya is also on the advisory board for Show Me Love- a local campaign to raise the awareness, inform survivors in DC’s LGBTQ communities about their legal rights, and direct people to resources about maintaining healthy and violence-free relationships. Tonya received her advanced degree from Rutgers School of Law.


I See DV in the Red Flags

This post is by a very talented writer and brave survivor, Courtney Queeney. We were moved by Courtney’s article in the New York Times “The View From the Victim Room” which detailed her experience of renewing an emergency protective order. Today, she shares with us how she saw domestic violence red flags in her past relationship. 

blog-posters-courtneyAfter my ex-boyfriend punched, choked and kicked me one night, I spent a few days in shock. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten into such a relationship in the first place.

When I reflected on the span of our relationship, the red flags were glaring.

Red Flag: He pursued me for months before I eventually said yes, because after all, I’d met him through a mutual acquaintance and he was a certified yoga instructor. With those credentials he must have been safe, although I was uncomfortable as early as our second date, when he professed his love.

Red Flag: He isolated me from my friends, family, and favorite activities. At first, he was sad to see me go home; then I was staying away from him too long, depriving him of my company so I could write, look for jobs and feed my cat. If I went out with friends, he’d text during the night to tell me how much he missed me. He didn’t want me to have a job, because that would have subtracted from his time, and allowed me greater financial freedom.

Red Flag: He sulked when I didn’t want to sleep with him, like a child who had just been sent to bed without his dessert. Post-breakup, his objectification of women as sexual objects became even more disturbing in both his art and his writing. He’d written about a fantasy he had of flaying an ex so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the death threats he sent me involved him raping me, then attacking the body parts specifically identifying me as female; he didn’t, for example, want to kick me in the shins.)

Red Flag:  The messages he sent after I broke up with him were even more transparently disturbing: I was clearly responsible for his behavior. Why did you provoke me? he wrote. (For the record, I had knocked on a bathroom door, worried he was going to pass out.) He wrote I’m sorry for the way things went down that night. He used the passive tense; he didn’t write: I hit you. Or: I was on drugs. Or: I choked you. Or: I kicked you. In the same message, he wrote: Can you somehow get beyond it? Please find a way to forgive me. Somehow, as a woman, it was my job to make the situation better for him.

Red Flag: He was irrationally jealous of my male friends. When I went to visit two of them for a week, he refused to get out of bed, texting me pitiful messages about how he couldn’t wait until I came home. He set his computer up so I had my own desktop, though I repeatedly told him not to bother. I later learned that monitoring someone’s computer and phone are classic red flags.

Red Flag: After he’d hurt me so badly my ER doctor kept looking at the scans of my face and repeating I can’t believe nothing is broken, I was still responsible for his weight loss, his family asking about my abrupt disappearance, his loneliness, his insomnia and panic attacks.

Red Flag: He repeatedly wrote that he couldn’t live without me. One night, he cut himself badly with a knife and couldn’t staunch the bleeding. When his incessant attempts to contact me suddenly stopped, I knew he’d acted on these threats, probably on my birthday. If he’d succeeded in his suicide attempt, it would have been the ultimate punishment: I would have to carry that guilt for the rest of my life. I don’t think he meant to succeed; it was a play for my sympathy.

I was lucky. I glossed over red flag after red flag, but when it was my relationship or my life, I chose life. I just wish I’d done it sooner.

About Our Contributor: 

Courtney Queeney is the author of Filibuster to Delay a Kiss (Random House). She lives in Chicago.