Greetings, fellow Butterfly Ninjas, fellow survivors, and all of the wonderful supporters of The Choose Courage Foundation; welcome to the Holiday Season! October was Domestic Violence Awareness month. I intended to write this during that month but found myself very introspective and stunned by the stories and pictures of the eight survivors featured throughout the month. Their courage bolsters me to write about a complex topic. So!!! Marian’s disclaimer: 1. This is a topic with no exact correct answer. 2. This topic gets overlooked because it is delicate and potentially upsetting, and disruptive. 3. We have to talk about this, even if it is messy. There is absolutely no shame, so let’s kick the stigma to the curb. So, I’m ripping off the bandaid that I keep on my discomfort, and I will share only well-intentioned ideas.
When talking about these tips, remember these are tips that are solely related to the actual people involved, not Domestic Violence hotlines and organizations. Statistically, there is a rise in domestic violence during the holidays. The contributing factors are stress, financial strain, travel, familial tensions, drinking/drug usage at holiday parties, and many more.
If you are in a domestic violence situation, here are ways to reach out to family, friends, co-workers, etc.? (This is a tricky one, and only ever reach out to regular citizens if you feel safe from immediate harm. If you fear for your safety, contact 911.)
- Ask someone you trust to have coffee. You don’t have to tell your entire story until you are ready, but bringing the darkness of your situation out in the light of day will bring relief. This act is the first step in gathering the courage to change your situation.
- Contact your boss or HR representative at work. Reaching out to authorities at work is a safe route to getting assistance and guidance, and your company might have programs in place to handle domestic violence.
- Send a letter to a family member expressing your desire for assistance. Snail mail is an extremely safe way to communicate and outline precisely the steps you are ready to take.
- If you are a member of a church, reach out to your minister. A clergy member is a confidential and safe person to begin your conversation about what is happening in your home. Even if you do not belong to a church, find one you feel comfortable with and speak to the minister.
- Reach out to a co-worker to have lunch and discuss your relationship in the privacy of your office space.
- It is much more difficult if you are isolated, watched, and kept away from loved ones. I will give a few suggestions, but if your safety feels compromised, never put yourself in danger and call 911 if able. Write a letter from the library to a family member or friend, speak to your minister (or a minister), if you have children talk to their principal, and tell your doctor only if you are certain HIPPA protects your privacy.
Let’s tackle how family, friends, co-workers, etc., can support someone in an Intimate Partner Violence relationship. If someone struggling trusts you enough to confide their worst secrets to you, please listen non-judgementally. Listening without judging is the resounding sentiment that the survivors shared as the best way they were supported by those they trusted.
A significant aspect of an IPV relationship revolves around the abuser asserting power and controlling their partner. One hugely impactful measure the listener can take is to help the victim begin to reclaim power and control. Actively listening gives Here are examples:
- Remember that your goal is not to rescue them from the situation. That is an impossibility. Your goal is to help the person save themselves from the abusive relationship.
- Do not bash or insult the abusive partner. Doing so is counterproductive, so it is better to listen while the person works through their feelings.
- Verbally recognize that their relationship is complex, frightening and that they are brave and strong to share their situation with you.
- After listening, it is crucial to recognize that you fully believe the person. Remember to reserve no judgment as everyone deserves safety, reassure them that you will continue supporting them no matter what decision they make, and reassure them you will keep the information private.
One of the first steps to reclaiming power is for the victim to speak their truth. By listening, you are helping them to gain control over their situation. Explaining their circumstance is often the first transfer of power between the abuser and abused.
Once the person is ready to start the process of leaving the abusive relationship, here are tangible ways to help:
- Have national and local resource information available.
- Help them create a safety plan.
- Offer to keep a bag or box containing essential documents or sentimental items in case of an emergency.
- If a victim has pets, this is often a reason they stay, as shelters often do not allow animals. Help them arrange care for their pets.
- Offer to help them move or help them find able people.
- Help them create a support network utilizing local resources for housing, food, childcare, employment, and more.
- Small gestures are vital, too. Take them to coffee, spend time together, check in periodically, and extend your friendship to them.
These suggestions are a small sample of ways to advocate for people experiencing DV and survivors of domestic violence. I utilized my own experience and additional research to offer these tips, so I encourage you to consult professional organizations to assist you.
One in three women and one in seven men will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. CCF advocates for courage in the face of this travesty through survivor photoshoots, events and spreading a message of hope and courage throughout the community. If you are in a domestic violence situation, please reach out to someone. There is help, and it is not shameful to seek help because nobody deserves to live in pain. One anonymous phone call to 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) will put you immediately in touch with support.One in three women and one in seven men will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. CCF advocates for courage in the face of this travesty through survivor photoshoots, events and spreading a message of hope and courage throughout the community. If you are in a domestic violence situation, please reach out to someone. There is help, and it is not shameful to seek help because nobody deserves to live in pain. One anonymous phone call to 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) will put you immediately in touch with support.