October 2023 is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a time to help raise awareness of the issues that victims of domestic violence face on a daily basis, and let those who are suffering know that they are not alone. There is a stigma and silence that surrounds domestic violence, and we can all do our part to help end this epidemic in our society.
According to The Hotline:
This year, we’re participating in the #1Thing campaign aimed at meeting people where they’re at. We know that change can start with just one thing. By doing #1Thing to raise awareness about domestic violence, we can all work together to create real social change.
To help raise awareness for victims and let them know that they aren't alone, you can share your own story if you are a survivor (like me) and you feel comfortable doing so. You can also share resources on your social media, and learn how to start a conversation with someone in your life who may be experiencing domestic violence.
The New York Office for Prevention of Domestic Violence has sharable graphics (like the one above) that you can use on your own social media. They ask that,
Follow @NYSOPDV on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn and engage with posts by sharing, liking, and commenting using the hashtags #StartTheConversation and #DVAM2023. You can also post the social media graphics below and show the people who follow you that you’re an ally to survivors. When posting, always include information for the NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline which can be reached 24/7 in most languages: Call 800.942.6909, Text 844.997.2121, or chat at opdv.ny.gov.
By participating in this month's campaign, and sharing these hotline numbers, you are helping anyone who is struggling with domestic violence, so that they know they don't have to suffer alone. Domestic violence can be extremely isolating, so reaching out is critically important. The more we can show our support, we can help victims feel safe in coming forward.
You can read my story about leaving an abusive relationship for tips on what you can do to get out of an abusive home and move on:
Many of us who have experienced domestic violence can have PTSD as a result of the trauma we have been through. If you are a victim, survivor, or advocate, it can be helpful to learn about PTSD as well. This way, you can learn the symptoms, and coping strategies for PTSD.
Learning coping skills for PTSD, as well as speaking to an experienced Trauma Therapist can be extremely healing if you have been a victim of domestic violence. When you are in therapy, you can work to bring your life and your mental health back under control after such a long time of living in survival mode.
Starting a Conversation
If you think that someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, you can start a conversation with them, and let them know that you are here to help.
It is important to make sure you talk to your friend or loved one in a nonjudgmental way, because abuse is never the victim's fault! Be open and compassionate, and believe what your friend is telling you. If your friend does want to leave, you can help them find assistance in getting support services.
When leaving a violent relationship, it is important to make a safety plan first. This is crucial, because when a victim leaves, this is often the most dangerous time for them.
Help Guide provides the following safety tips for leaving, or considering leaving, an abusive relationship:
Know your abuser's red flags. Stay alert for signs and clues that your abuser is getting upset and may explode in anger or violence. Come up with several believable reasons you can use to leave the house (both during the day and at night) if you sense trouble brewing.
Identify safe areas of the house. Know where to go if your abuser attacks or an argument starts. Avoid small, enclosed spaces without exits (such as closets or bathrooms) or rooms with weapons (such as the kitchen). If possible, head for a room with a phone and an outside door or window.
Come up with a code word. Establish a word, phrase, or signal you can use to let your children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers know that you're in danger and they should call the police.
Be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Keep the car fueled up and facing the driveway exit, with the driver's door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get to it quickly. Have emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents stashed in a safe place (at a friend's house, for example).
Practice escaping quickly and safely. Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser. If you have children, make sure they practice the escape plan also.
Make and memorize a list of emergency contacts. Ask several trusted individuals if you can contact them if you need a ride, a place to stay, or help contacting the police. Memorize the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline.
It can also be helpful to have a "go bag" ready in the car with any additional items you may need, such as changes of clothes for yourself and your children. This will help if you have to leave quickly.
As I know from my own experience, it can be difficult and frightening to leave an abusive relationship. An abuser often makes threats about what they will do if you leave the relationship. Always take these threats seriously. If you aren't ready to leave yet, keep a record of the threats that your abuser has made. By having notes available, this will be helpful when you do go to the police.
If you go to the police about your situation, you will need to provide as much detail as possible in your initial report, so that they will have as much information as possible for their investigation. You can also file for a protection order with the court, so that the abuser will not be allowed to contact you, or come into a shared home.
Even if the abuser is in jail, it is important to make sure that you keep yourself safe, by either going to a safe place (like a shelter or a friend's house) or changing the locks on your house as soon as they are gone. This way, they won't be able to get into the house to harass you.
You may also consider changing your phone number, or blocking their number on your phone. Abusers may call to either beg you to go back, or to threaten you if begging doesn't work. There are many tactics that abusers use to try to get you to come back, and cutting off telephone contact is a big help in keeping yourself safe.
Also, if you have a protection order against your abuser, be sure to provide a copy to your workplace with a photo if possible. This way, any of your coworkers can notify the police if they are to come into your workplace.
Enlisting as much help as possible is key to keeping yourself safe in the long-term. Abusers do their best to isolate us from our support system, so that we will stay in the relationship. This is why having people you can rely on makes such a huge impact in getting free.
When you don't have friends or family members to go to for help, you can always reach out to the Domestic Violence hotline in your area. They can help you with safety planning, and refer you to a shelter where you will be safe. Once you have a court case against your abuser, you will often be appointed an advocate by the court as well.
I know it is scary to speak up if you are being abused, but having help and support can make all the difference in the world.
You can find a list of International Domestic Violence Hotline Numbers here.