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police

Someone I Know is Being Abused. Should I Call the Police?

This post was contributed by Alexander, a Hotline advocate

policeHere at The Hotline, we have conversations with family members, friends, coworkers and caring neighbors about what to do when someone they know is being abused. Knowing that someone in your life is being hurt is really difficult, and it’s normal to feel unsure about how to best approach this challenging situation. Many people feel like calling the police can be a way to help. In a moment of a crisis, it’s natural to want to reach out for support from local law enforcement; however, you may be surprised to hear that it’s not always the best response for an individual in an abusive relationship. Let’s examine several perspectives to figure out what the safest course of action could be to help support a person that you’re concerned about.

Before calling the police, consider these key points:

  • If a person experiencing abuse has not created a safety plan with you about when to contact police on their behalf, doing so without the person’s consent can limit their opportunities to make choices based on what they personally know to be most beneficial to support their safety and well-being.
  • The person experiencing abuse may not be in a place to speak honestly with law enforcement about the abuse. If law enforcement does show up, it might be safest for the person being abused to deny or downplay the abuse, particularly if the abusive individual is present.
  • Having police involved could upset the abusive partner. When the police leave, the abuser might harm their partner more because police were involved.
  • The police might not believe that abuse is happening. It’s common that the abusive partner will lie or manipulate the situation to police to get them to go away.
  • The abusive partner might have connections to the police department. This can create a very difficult situation for the victim because the abusive partner is in a position of power outside of the relationship.
  • If the victim is in a LGBTQ relationship, the police might hold the common (though incorrect) belief that abuse isn’t possible in these types of relationships.

One thing we always encourage is being mindful and respectful of what the person who is experiencing abuse wants in their situation. In an abusive relationship, the victim rarely (if ever) has their wishes or boundaries respected. Honoring boundaries and being respectful of what the victim wants can be a great way to show them what a healthy and supportive relationship looks like. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that it is not your responsibility to rescue someone or “fix” their situation. A person who is in an abusive relationship has the right to decide if/when they leave and how, and there are many reasons why a person might stay in an abusive relationship.

Aside from calling the police, there are many other ways you can help someone who is in an abusive relationship. Below are some alternative ways to help someone experiencing abuse:

  • If you are a person the victim knows and trusts, talk to the victim about what they want. Try to find a safe time and place to speak with them (away from the abusive partner) and ask how you can best support them. They may not be ready or able to discuss the abuse with you; if this is the case, just let them know that you are there to support them in any way you can.
  • Every time you hear abuse happening, keep a journal about the events. Mark the day it happens, the time it happens and what you heard or witnessed. This record can provide evidence if the victim does choose to approach law enforcement.
  • Help the victim create a safety plan when you’re able to find a safe time and place to communicate. You can always contact one of our advocates to help you brainstorm.
  • If you live next to the person and hear abuse happening, you could knock on the door and ask to borrow an item as a way to interrupt what’s happening.
  • Reach out to a local or state domestic violence agency. Learn more about what abuse can look like, understand what the victim is going through and get more information on how you can offer support.
  • If you live in a community with communal areas, like a mail room or laundry room, posting a flyer from The Hotline with contact information could be a way to help a person experiencing abuse reach out for support. You can click HERE to print contact information for The Hotline.

While we know that calling the police may not always be the safest option for a victim, there could be circumstances in which it might be necessary, for example, if the the victim is in imminent physical danger. Keep in mind that if at any point you personally feel in danger or unsafe, you have every right to contact police for yourself. Your personal safety and well-being is very important as well.

If you’re still struggling with how to support someone you know that’s experiencing abuse, you can check out our page on Help for Friends and Family Members. You can also reach out to one of our advocates by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) any time or chat online with us from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. CST.

G4G-blog

#GingerbreadForGood: Spotlight on Hotline Advocates

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Identifying details have been changed or omitted.

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

DVAM-heimanswegman

We #SeeDV Going Unrecognized: Heather Heiman & Casey Swegman

DVAM-heimanswegman

Radhika came to the U.S. as a refugee when she was 3 years old. At age 18 her family began exerting tremendous pressure on her to get married. Radhika refused, telling her parents that she wanted to attend college before getting married. In response, her father told her she had no choice and that a wedding was planned that summer to a cousin overseas. Alarmed that she might be facing a marriage she did not want to a husband she did not choose, which would likely force her to end her education, Radhika confided in her school counselor about her situation. Her counselor, unsure of how to help, told Radhika that this was a private matter best handled within her family. Feeling dismissed by the one person she hoped would understand, Radika decided not to ask anyone else for help.

Meanwhile, Sarah was facing a similar situation. Born and raised in the U.S., Sarah had just graduated college and was planning to start her career when her parents informed her that they had found a husband for her and that she would be moving to another state to live with him and his family after the wedding. Sarah’s older sister had tried to avoid a marriage two years earlier; however, their parents took away her cell phone and confined her to their home until she agreed. Wanting to avoid the same fate, Sarah reached out to local domestic violence agencies for support, but since she had not experienced any physical abuse or threats, they told her they were unable to help. Having been turned away by the only agencies in her area, Sarah felt hopeless and that no one understood the risk she truly faced.

These are case scenarios that we often see at Tahirih’s Forced Marriage Initiative. Individuals at risk of forced marriage face serious obstacles to getting help; those they reach out to may view forced marriage as a cultural issue or private matter best handled by individual families, or as a problem that only affects certain communities. However, a 2011 National Survey on Forced Marriage conducted by the Tahirih Justice Center found that agencies across the U.S. had encountered up to 3000 cases of forced marriage over a two year period, impacting individuals from widely varying backgrounds and faiths.

In addition, many front line responders, including counselors, advocates, teachers, shelter workers, and law enforcement, are also unaware of what to do or feel they can’t help in forced marriage cases. Less than 1 in 5 respondents to Tahirih’s survey reported feeling equipped to help victims, and we see frustration on both sides – agencies struggling to help and individuals unable to get desperately needed services.

In order to adequately reach and provide assistance to individuals at risk of forced marriage we must all recognize that violence is present in every community and that it can take many forms. Forced marriage is not a cultural or religious issue – the motivations behind forced marriage are complex and vary depending on each individual’s particular situation. Whatever the rationale, a survivor of forced marriage may face severe and sustained harms – including rape, forced labor, domestic violence, and deprivation of the right to education – and needs access to services, shelter, and support.

We need to be ready to truly hear someone when they tell us they are at risk of a forced marriage, and more importantly, we need to be ready to respond. At the Tahirih Justice Center, we are raising awareness about this hidden issue, collaborating with advocates, and coordinating a national response to the problem of forced marriage in the United States. We hope that you’ll join us.

heimanswegman-200This post was co-authored by Heather Heiman, Forced Marriage Initiative Project Manager and Senior Public Policy Attorney, and Casey Swegman, Forced Marriage Initiative Project Associate

Heather Heiman graduated from DePaul University College of Law, where she received a JD and certificate in international and comparative Law. Heather joined the Tahirih Justice Center’s Washington, DC area office in 2009. Heather bridges Tahirih’s legal and public policy departments, and is the principal Tahirih attorney providing direct legal services to forced marriage clients. She also provides technical assistance on a national level, coordinates Tahirih’s National Network to Prevent Forced Marriage and facilitates the Forced Marriage Working Group.

Casey Swegman graduated from Georgetown University with a master’s degree in conflict resolution and certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. Casey joined the Tahirih Justice Center’s Washington, DC area office in June 2013. Casey provides targeted referrals and direct social service to individuals in the VA/DC/MD area, as well as technical assistance on a national level. She also works closely with the FMI Project Manager to build a national coalition, conduct outreach and education, and improve public understanding and response to forced marriage in the United States.

Tahirih Justice Center is a national, non-profit organization that protects courageous immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of violence through advocacy in communities, courts, and Congress. Tahirih’s Forced Marriage Initiative offers assistance to anyone who is facing a forced marriage regardless of age, race, class, gender, immigration status, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion. They partner with survivors and other advocates to end to forced marriage in the United States through direct services, education, outreach, and public policy advocacy. To get involved please visit www.tahirih.org.

how-to-help

Helping a Parent in an Abusive Relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do to help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We understand that this is such a difficult thing to experience and that you know your situation best. These tips are very general, and you should never follow any advice that makes you feel unsafe. Looking for support, help, or information is a huge step and shows incredible strength. Remember, you do not have to go through this alone. Our advocates at the Hotline are here for you 24/7 if you need to talk to someone; just call 1-800-799-7233. You can also chat online Monday through Friday, 9am-7pm CST. Just be sure to call or chat from devices that your abusive parent doesn’t have access to.

mothersday

Honor Mothers This May with the Hotline

mothersdayMother’s Day is a time to recognize mothers for the immeasurable contributions they make every day to better our world. Whether you are a mother, have a mother or know a mother who has impacted your life, you are aware of the many amazing qualities that the finest mothers possess – kindness, self-sacrifice, strength, generosity, courage, love, humor, selflessness, bravery and so much more.

This May, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is inviting you to acknowledge and thank your mom or a special mom you know by sending her a virtual Mother’s Day card and making a donation of $30 to the Hotline in her honor.

The cards were designed by Hotline advocates who provide compassionate, one-on-one support to those suffering from abuse. Our advocates speak daily with domestic violence victims – many of whom are mothers – who go to great lengths to keep their children and themselves safe despite facing numerous cruelties, including:

The need for additional help is great.

In the United States, 1 in 4 women has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. Due to lack of resources, thousands of calls to the Hotline go unanswered each year. Your generous support can help us reach more people who need crisis intervention, safety planning, resources, and hope. This Mother’s Day, please celebrate moms everywhere with the Hotline. You can make a difference!