I’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!
As frustrating as it is to know that so, so many people in our communities are hurting, physically and emotionally, on a daily basis, for me the most rewarding part of being let into a sliver of people’s personal lives is seeing how strong, creative and loving survivors of abuse are. The huge majority of survivors I’ve talked to don’t want their abusive partner to be punished, or even to leave. Most survivors of abuse just want the abuse to stop. I’ve talked to survivors who forgave things that would be considered crimes against humanity in a Hague tribunal but were still so fierce and so resilient they blew me away.
Abusive people typically do anything and everything they can to gain and maintain power over their partners, including manipulating the full force of the legal system in their favor. But, in my experience, survivors are just the opposite. They’re so caring and considerate that they hesitate to get a restraining order if they think it might hurt their partner’s career. When I started this job, I admit I thought that was ridiculous. But I’ve learned so much from survivors about what it means to maintain your humanity in the face of terrible violence and disrespect. Now I know that no matter which choices they make for themselves, survivors are the folks who are going to come out on top. They’ve got the heart, the brains, the courage and the fire to live through hell and still love. Can we make #SurvivorStrong go viral?
Since I spend so much of my week talking to survivors and their friends and family, I #SeeDV at every intersection of people’s identities.
In my time at The Hotline, I’ve talked to survivors who are female, male, non-binary, genderfluid, transgender, agender and everything in between.
I’ve talked to survivors who are white, black, Latinx, Asian, Native American and mixed.
I’ve talked to U.S. citizens, both native-born and naturalized, and immigrants, both documented and undocumented, from all over the world who have come to the United States.
I’ve talked to people in English and Spanish, and over the phone our advocates talk to folks via translators in more than 200 other languages, too.
I’ve talked to people in cities, suburbs and rural areas of all 50 states, plus Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I’ve talked to both servicemembers and civilians on U.S. military bases around the globe.
I’ve talked to straight folks, gay men, lesbian women, bisexual folks, queers, people who are questioning their sexual orientation and people who are asexual.
I’ve talked to people of all ages– teens, adults, elderly folks, parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, cousins and neighbors.
I’ve talked to people with disabilities both visible and invisible, lifelong and acquired.
I’ve talked to people of all faiths, and agnostics and atheists.
I’ve talked to cancer survivors (and fighters), folks who are HIV positive, pregnant people, caretakers, individuals who are suicidal and tons of people battling other mental health concerns like addiction, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, and many, many people with PTSD.
I’ve talked to teachers, doctors, artists, lawyers, homeless folks, social workers, bus drivers, athletes, sex workers, farmers, hair stylists, waiters, engineers, felons, librarians, truckers, chefs, musicians, cops, celebrities, soldiers and students.
I’ve talked to people who’ve been abused for years and know that how their partner is choosing to treat them is wrong, and I’ve talked to people who are in their first relationship and don’t know that it’s never acceptable for a partner to talk down to them.
I’ve talked to a lot of people since I joined The Hotline, and I’m proud to say we treat each and every individual who contacts us with dignity. No one ever wants to believe that abuse can happen to them, but it can and it does happen to people like you every day. I know, because I’ve talked to them. That’s why we’re committed to providing compassion, resources and safety planning to survivors, their loved ones and even people who are abusive, 24/7/365. Every minute of every hour of every day advocates are staffing The Hotline. So, no matter who reaches out to us and when, they are met with the respect that every human being deserves. Do you hear the phone ringing?
Heather is a digital services manager and advocate at The Hotline and is originally from California. She has lived in Austin for five years and has been with The Hotline since 2012. Her passions include intersectional feminism, political activism, travel, reading, learning new languages and cuddling with her dog.