The Resolve:VOCA Fix is Headed to President Biden for Signature

Thanks to you—your emails, calls, meetings, and tweets—today, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) applauds the U.S. Senate passage of H.R. 1652, the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 (“VOCA Fix”), with an extraordinary vote of 100 to 0. The bill, which will secure billions in victim services funding, and is one of NNEDV’s top legislative priorities, is now headed to President Biden for his signature.The VOCA Fix will make a world of difference for more than 6,000 local domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, legal services programs, and child abuse treatment programs in every state and territory. VOCA is the largest source of federal funding for domestic and sexual assault services in the country and is not taxpayer funded. VOCA funds come from federal criminal fines and fees that are deposited in the Crime Victims Fund (CVF). Today’s action will stave off more drastic cuts and help local programs as they work to meet the growing demand for services. We are deeply grateful for your advocacy. The strength of our collective voices and efforts are a cause for celebration. More than 1,700 victim rights organizations, government agencies, and 56 Attorney Generals supported this legislative fix.We applaud the bill’s lead sponsors, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), as well as Representatives Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ann Wagner (R-MO), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and John Moolenaar (R-MI) for their leadership and commitment to lifesaving services for victims of crime. We commend the bipartisan leadership in both chambers for taking swift action to pass the VOCA Fix, and thank all of the Representatives and Senators who voted for this important legislation. We are looking forward to President Biden taking swift action. As an author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, President Biden has a legacy of over 25 years moving the country forward on domestic violence issues. The VOCA Fix bill advances the work he initiated and will be the first major piece of legislation he will sign that builds on this legacy. In gratitude and celebration,

Deborah J. Vagins
NNEDV President and CEO 
 
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Independence Project:NNEDV

Independence Project

Credit Building through Micro-Lending

What is the Independence Project?

The Independence Project, a credit building program of The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), was established in partnership with Verizon and with seed funding from Thirty-One Gifts, and is supported in part by generous funding from The Allstate Foundation.

Through the Independence Project, advocates and local domestic violence programs across the nation can support survivors of domestic violence in improving their credit scores through micro-lending.

Loan Qualifications:

  1. Be a survivor of domestic violence
  2. Meet with a domestic violence advocate 3 times

The Independence Project is open! To apply please register at the following link: Independence Project Application Sign Up.

Once you sign up and create an account, please complete the Independence Project application. The application consists of the following:

  1. General Information and consent
  2. Borrower monthly income and expenses information.
  3. Method of payment and loan disbursement information
  4. A completed form by an advocate with contact information and confirmation that the borrower has met with the domestic violence advocate at least three times

Note: As a result of ongoing COVID-19 precautions, we are currently unable to mail paper applications for the Independence Project.

How can financial abuse impact a survivor’s credit score?

Almost all survivors who have experienced domestic violence have also suffered financial abuse; a tactic used by an abuser to gain and maintain power and control over a victim. Financial abuse may involve the abuser preventing the victim from accessing or using a bank account or a credit card; exploiting the victim’s economic resources through job sabotage, identity theft, or credit ruin; and more.

For a survivor seeking safety, one common setback from financial abuse and overall safety is the ruin of the survivor’s credit score. With a low credit score (typically defined as a score below 620), a survivor may experience difficulty qualifying for a credit card or a loan, securing housing, obtaining a new job, or even purchasing essential goods and services, like a vehicle or a cell phone. On the other hand, with a good credit score (typically defined as a score above 700), some of the most important economic resources, like credit cards and bank loans become more accessible and may offer lower interest rates.

To understand what impacts a credit score and other important credit information, refer to Module 3 in The Moving Ahead Curriculum.

How does the Independence Project work?

Through the Independence Project, a survivor can apply for a credit building micro-loan of $100 and to repay this loan over the subsequent 10 months with no interest. To achieve the best possible credit score improvements through this program, the survivor must repay consistently until the loan matures. NNEDV tracks each repayment made by the survivor and undertakes the necessary reporting to the three credit bureaus. The success of the program is incumbent upon each borrower’s commitment to loan repayment.

How can a survivor or a domestic violence advocate learn more about the Independence Project?

To learn more about the Independence Project, view the printable brochure or contact NNEDV via email.

Independence Project

Credit Building through Micro-Lending

What is the Independence Project?

The Independence Project, a credit building program of The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), was established in partnership with Verizon and with seed funding from Thirty-One Gifts, and is supported in part by generous funding from The Allstate Foundation.

Through the Independence Project, advocates and local domestic violence programs across the nation can support survivors of domestic violence in improving their credit scores through micro-lending.

Loan Qualifications:

  1. Be a survivor of domestic violence
  2. Meet with a domestic violence advocate 3 times

The Independence Project is open! To apply please register at the following link: Independence Project Application Sign Up.

Once you sign up and create an account, please complete the Independence Project application. The application consists of the following:

  1. General Information and consent
  2. Borrower monthly income and expenses information.
  3. Method of payment and loan disbursement information
  4. A completed form by an advocate with contact information and confirmation that the borrower has met with the domestic violence advocate at least three times

Note: As a result of ongoing COVID-19 precautions, we are currently unable to mail paper applications for the Independence Project.

How can financial abuse impact a survivor’s credit score?

Almost all survivors who have experienced domestic violence have also suffered financial abuse; a tactic used by an abuser to gain and maintain power and control over a victim. Financial abuse may involve the abuser preventing the victim from accessing or using a bank account or a credit card; exploiting the victim’s economic resources through job sabotage, identity theft, or credit ruin; and more.

For a survivor seeking safety, one common setback from financial abuse and overall safety is the ruin of the survivor’s credit score. With a low credit score (typically defined as a score below 620), a survivor may experience difficulty qualifying for a credit card or a loan, securing housing, obtaining a new job, or even purchasing essential goods and services, like a vehicle or a cell phone. On the other hand, with a good credit score (typically defined as a score above 700), some of the most important economic resources, like credit cards and bank loans become more accessible and may offer lower interest rates.

To understand what impacts a credit score and other important credit information, refer to Module 3 in The Moving Ahead Curriculum.

How does the Independence Project work?

Through the Independence Project, a survivor can apply for a credit building micro-loan of $100 and to repay this loan over the subsequent 10 months with no interest. To achieve the best possible credit score improvements through this program, the survivor must repay consistently until the loan matures. NNEDV tracks each repayment made by the survivor and undertakes the necessary reporting to the three credit bureaus. The success of the program is incumbent upon each borrower’s commitment to loan repayment.

How can a survivor or a domestic violence advocate learn more about the Independence Project?

To learn more about the Independence Project, view the printable brochure or contact NNEDV via email.


POLITICS 06/09/2021 08:00 am ET Updated 4 days ago

Home Isn’t A Guarantee For Survivors Fleeing Domestic Abusers During COVID-19

Survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence experience housing insecurity at disproportionate rates and as a direct result of the violence they’ve endured. The pandemic has made it unimaginably worse.

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By Alanna Vagianos

Angela estimated that she and her four children have moved 10 times since they fled her abusive husband in 2017. She doesn’t always have the money to move, but when he finds out where they live, she has no choice. One time when he found Angela, he showed up with a handgun, threatened to kill her and the children, and forced her back to their old home. 

The couple separated in 2017 after he was charged with spousal abuse and multiple counts of child endangerment. Angela filed for divorce at the beginning of 2020, just as COVID-19 began spreading in the U.S. Family courts across the country shut down, making it impossible for her to finalize the divorce and cut ties with her abusive husband for good. 

“The day he was arrested and charged is the day me and my children ran,” Angela said. “We’ve been running ever since.”

When pandemic-related shutdowns hit, Angela lost her job. She and her children first lived in a domestic violence shelter where she was terrified they would contract COVID-19. Later, they moved in with friends before relocating to another state to live with family. Last year, Angela’s children went to three different schools.

“It breaks my heart when I have to tell my kids we have to move again, somewhere completely different and they’ll have to make new friends,” she said. “But I constantly have to look over my shoulder to make sure he doesn’t find us. When he does, we have to pick up and move. We don’t always have the funds, but it doesn’t matter.”

Since Angela (which is not her real name) spoke with HuffPost in May, her now-ex-husband found out where she and the kids are. They’re set to move again in July. 

Domestic violence survivors like Angela experience housing insecurity at a disproportionate rate and as a direct result of the violence they’ve endured. From an inability to pay rent because of economic abuse to a violent partner causing property damage, there are many reasons victims find themselves on the brink of losing their home. Situations like Angela’s, where a survivor is no longer in an abusive relationship but is still fleeing an abuser, also contribute to unstable housing situations, even if money is no object.

The day he was arrested and charged is the day me and my children ran. We’ve been running ever since.Angela, domestic violence survivor

As with so many things, the pandemic only made a bad situation worse and widened already-deep cracks in the system meant to protect survivors. Experts believe the isolation of stay-at-home orders exacerbated situations of intimate partner violence. Meanwhile, living in a congregate setting like a shelter came with the threat of contracting COVID-19. Add in the economic downturn that left many victims and abusers unemployed and an eviction moratorium that could likely create a financial cliff for renters once it lifts, and any semblance of stability survivors had before quickly vanished during the pandemic. 

“COVID has created this additional layer of life or death choices that women are often trying to navigate on behalf of themselves and their kids that can feel impossible to figure out,” said Julia Devanthéry, an attorney and lecturer at Harvard Law School who founded the Housing Justice for Survivors Project at Harvard’s Legal Services Center

Devanthéry trains law students to represent tenants experiencing housing insecurity due to domestic violence or sexual assault, with the goal of preventing homelessness by offering free legal services to people who need to get out of abusive situations but might not have the financial means. Her entire caseload right now is made up of survivors; 98% are mothers who are the head of their households.

“Relocation is a huge life event. It’s hard under the best circumstances to pick up and move,” Devanthéry said. “But under the worst possible circumstances you can imagine: where you’re scared for your life, the well-being of your kids, you don’t have a lot of choice and resources, and there’s a bureaucratic challenge around every corner? It’s terrifying. Especially during COVID.” 

There were many things working against survivors of domestic and sexual violence long before COVID-19 arrived. To start, the sheer lack of affordable housing in the U.S.: Only about 1 in 4 families who would qualify for subsidized housing actually have it. Affordable housing is especially important for survivors of domestic or sexual violence who often need to move quickly and don’t have many resources. 

Even if a survivor has the means to pick up and move immediately, often the housing they’re in limits their ability to leave. A voucher tenant has to go through the bureaucratic process of getting a voucher, finding a home and getting that new place approved. A tenant who lives in public housing has to get the housing authority to sign off on their transfer, which can take years. Project-based housing may not be able to transfer a tenant at all. A private tenant has a little more control, but breaking a lease can be very costly and be an additional hurdle to a survivor’s ability to just pick up and go. In some areas, like Philadelphia, there are protections that allow survivors to break their lease without punishment if they are experiencing domestic or sexual violence, but those protections are the exception, not the rule. 

Left with few choices, many victims’ only option is to move into a temporary shelter instead of long-term stable housing. Shelters can only house people for so long, though, and victims are eventually forced back into their initial bad situation: choosing between homelessness or moving back in with an abuser. 

Relocation is a huge life event. It’s hard under the best circumstances to pick up and move. But under the worst possible circumstances you can imagine: where you’re scared for your life, the well-being of your kids, you don’t have a lot of choice and resources, and there’s a bureaucratic challenge around every corner? It’s terrifying. Especially during COVID.Julia Devanthéry, attorney and lecturer at Harvard Law School

It’s a constant feeling of being stuck, said Rachel Garland, the managing attorney of the Housing Unit at Philadelphia’s Community Legal Services. 

“That’s what this level of violence is ― whether it’s domestic violence or sexual assault,” she said. “You’re facing an emotionally traumatic event or series of events in which in order to get out you need to be able to think very clearly and have all of your resources available to you. And yet because of the trauma of the event, it often can make someone incapable of figuring out any of the stuff needed to be able to get out.”

When Poverty And Abuse Collide

While not all victims of domestic and sexual violence are women, the vast majority are. And women experience higher rates of poverty than men and they earn less due to the gender wage gap.

Because women are more likely to be poor, they’re more likely to face housing insecurity ― whether that means getting evicted or losing housing subsidies like a Section 8 voucher. Women of color experience eviction at higher rates. In poor Black and Latinx neighborhoods, “eviction is to women what incarceration is to men,” Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond wrote in his 2016 book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.” 

The pandemic has only exacerbated these inequalities. As of April, over 4 million women in the U.S. are unemployed; some were laid off, while others were forced to leave the workforce to take care of children or elderly parents at home. Child care and hospitality — two industries where women of color are overrepresented — have experienced the deepest job cuts. Additionally, women of color who remained employed throughout the pandemic were more likely to be working as essential workers, and were therefore more at risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Now, add in that many of these women are also experiencing intimate partner violence or sexual assault, and housing options become even more limited. Nonpayment of rent is the main reason victims experience housing insecurity, according to Devanthéry and several other attorneys who spoke with HuffPost. But why they can’t pay rent is due to their situation: For example, they have a financially abusive partner, or they’ve moved into a home they can’t afford but needed to flee an abuser. Often, a victim is splitting rent with her abuser and if she wants to file a restraining order against him, she has to also weigh the possibility of not being able to pay rent without him.

“You often have survivors making these life or death choices: Do they keep a roof over their heads with their abuser because they know for sure they can’t afford rent on their own? Or do they call the police and get a restraining order?” Devanthéry said. “Often when survivors choose their safety, they are effectively choosing homelessness.”Subscribe to the Politics email.From Washington to the campaign trail, get the latest politics news.

A report published by the Me Too organization last fall found that female survivors of domestic and sexual violence who lacked financial resources during the pandemic were more likely to return to their abusive partner. Women who reported a high likelihood of returning to abusers had access to an average of only $3,700; survivors who reported no likelihood of returning to their abusers had more than double that amount.

“What we found, while sobering, wasn’t shocking,” Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, told HuffPost in November. “COVID-19 illuminates the ways in which our social and economic safety net catches some while allowing those who are most vulnerable to fall through the cracks.” 

COVID-19 illuminates the ways in which our social and economic safety net catches some while allowing those who are most vulnerable to fall through the cracks.Tarana Burke, Me Too founder

Domestic violence victims can also experience housing insecurity because of their abuser’s actions: Some face eviction due to criminal activity by the abuser, or because the police come too often and disturb neighbors. Sometimes abusers intentionally sabotage a victim’s home by damaging property.

If Section 8 housing vouchers are terminated for victims, it’s usually because police executed a search warrant at their home related to their abuser’s criminal activity. In subsidized housing, landlords can evict tenants for a domestic violence incident, and victims can only keep their housing if they can prove in court that they are the victim, not the abuser. (It’s worth noting that tenants rarely get to court to prove their status without legal help. And even then, a victim has to first acknowledge to themselves they are in an abusive relationship and then be able to prove the abuse and stand up in court to tell a judge about it.) 

Although sexual assault and domestic violence fall under the same umbrella, victims of sexual violence often have different needs. Sexual assault survivors do sometimes need to move out of their homes due to an imminent threat from a perpetrator who knows where they live. More often, however, the trauma of having to live in the house you were assaulted in forces victims to move. 

“Survivors of sexual assault oftentimes have unique needs that are not addressed in systems that are set up to serve survivors of domestic violence,” said Renee Williams, a senior staff attorney at the National Housing Law Project. 

And for some, sexual assault isn’t a singular incident by an existing partner. Much of the sexual violence that can jeopardize a person’s housing happens between a landlord and tenant. If a tenant can’t pay rent, a landlord or property manager might ask for sexual favors for himself or even friends or family members. These situations may start consensually but can quickly turn abusive.

“Tenants who for the past year have been in a pandemic and are worried about rent. There’s no prospect for gainful employment any time in the near future,” Garland said of sexually exploitative landlord-tenant relationships. “Where is the tenant going to go? How are they going to get out of that? Especially if the landlord lives in the building or neighborhood.” 

The Looming End Of Eviction Moratoriums

Domestic violence victims and survivors of sexual assault and stalking are afforded housing protections under the Violence Against Women Act. Congress failed to reauthorize VAWA in 2019, but the law’s housing protections, among other things, are still in place. 

The 2013 reauthorization of VAWA included robust housing protections for gender-based violence survivors. A survivor cannot be denied housing because of the abuse they experienced and they cannot be evicted or have their Section 8 voucher terminated if the reasons they’re facing eviction are due to the abuse. Survivors are protected under VAWA if an attorney can prove that nonpayment of rent, property damage, disruption to the neighborhood or any other issues that often spark an eviction notice is related to domestic violence. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development created another protection under the 2013 VAWA that allows survivors to self-certify their status as a victim of gender-based violence. 

“Not everybody has a paper trail of their abuse, whether it’s a police report or restraining order. These are often highly private experiences that people feel a lot of shame about and they don’t always report,” Devanthéry said. 

“Moving away whenever possible from this idea that law enforcement gives credibility to victims is really important,” she added, pointing out that the police are often not a safe option, especially for survivors who may be undocumented or a person of color. “We should never be tying house protections or benefits to contact with law enforcement or the criminal legal system.”

When the eviction moratorium lifts, it will just make it more difficult for these tenants. There might be a lot of uncertainties, but now at least there’s a certain level of stability around the eviction piece.Rachel Garland, managing attorney at Philadelphia’s Community Legal Services

Federal and state eviction moratoriums created during COVID-19 have saved lives and kept people in their homes during a devastating pandemic. But such protections will likely lift as more and more people get vaccinated and the country opens up. Millions of tenants, many of whom like Angela are survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, are bracing for the impact. 

“When the eviction moratorium lifts, it will just make it more difficult for these tenants. There might be a lot of uncertainties, but now at least there’s a certain level of stability around the eviction piece,” said Garland, the attorney at Philadelphia’s Community Legal Services. “Lifting the moratorium will turn that stability into a question mark. Will they be evicted? How soon will they be evicted? Is there anything they can put in place before the eviction happens to try to protect against it?”

As many experts emphasized to HuffPost, there are a number of resources and protections available to survivors. The biggest hurdle is getting those resources into victims’ hands and educating them about the protections available to them. Nationally, more than $45 billion has been allocated toward pandemic-related rental assistance for tenants and landlords, both now and when the eviction moratorium lifts. But so much of the impact of those federal dollars will be contingent on how effective the distribution of that money is. 

In Angela’s experience, getting rental relief has been extremely slow and frustrating. She only just received the money she applied for back in February. And the delay has set her back even further: Her landlord is still threatening to turn off her water and sending her eviction notices because she now owes money for late fees.

“They promise you this money but they don’t send it when they say they will,” Angela said, adding that she wishes she could work instead but “there was no way to make money” during the COVID-19 shutdowns. “There’s no timeline they can give you on when the money will be sent out.”

But Angela, her new husband, and her four kids won’t be there for much longer anyway, since her ex found out where they live. The move isn’t without its own financial hardships: Her husband has to completely restart his business, and they’ll be moving in with family because they can’t afford their own place. At least in this new place, Angela noted, she won’t have to apply for rental assistance. 

Devanthéry, who works with survivors like Angela every day, said it’s been bleak when she’s stepped back and assessed all the obstacles victims have faced during the pandemic — but she finds solace in recognizing what they’ve collectively survived. ADVERTISEMENThttps://22c40e531f1d1b00a51463e116d2de6a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“It’s important to focus on what’s been hard and really damaging for survivors during the past year, but honoring survival is also important,” she said. “So many of the folks that we represent are surviving ― whether they’re still in abusive relationships, years out of them or just weeks. Getting out of this pandemic alive, in addition to surviving the experience of being tortured by your intimate partner, is something to take a moment to recognize and honor.” 

RELATED…

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence HotlineIn the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline. Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

The difference between healthy and unhealthy love

Search:ShareAdd to listLikeRecommend12:05Katie Hood|TED2019

The difference between healthy and unhealthy love

DetailsAbout the talkTranscript33 languagesReading ListFurther learning

In a talk about understanding and practicing the art of healthy relationships, Katie Hood reveals the five signs you might be in an unhealthy relationship — with a romantic partner, a friend, a family member — and shares the things you can do every day to love with respect, kindness and joy. “While love is an instinct and an emotion, the ability to love better is a skill we can all build and improve on over time,” she says.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.ABOUT THE SPEAKERKatie Hood · Relationship revolutionaryBy educating young people about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, Katie Hood hopes to derail abusive behavior before it starts and impact the relationship health of an entire generation.

Domestic abuse during lockdown:it’s all about control, not Covid

Domestic abuse during lockdown: it’s all about control, not Covid

By Janey Starling

“Stay home, stay safe” doesn’t work if your home has never been safe. For women trapped at home with violent partners, lockdown is proving to be incredibly dangerous.

In the first month of lockdown in the UK, the number of domestic abuse killings almost tripled. Calls to domestic abuse helplines have increased by 120% and demand on refuge space has skyrocketed.

Now is a vital time for journalists to remember to uphold homicide victims’ dignity by following Level Up’s press guidelines on reporting fatal domestic abuse. Whilst reporting such traumatic events, accuracy and dignity should be at the centre.

When someone kills their partner, whether in a global pandemic or not, it is usually the endpoint to a sustained period of coercive control. Intimate partner homicides are never an isolated, out-of-the-blue incident. Extensive research has shown that fatal domestic abuse is underpinned by a longstanding pattern of controlling and possessive behaviours.

When journalists report fatal domestic abuse, they should avoid including speculative or sensationalised “reasons” or “triggers” for a man killing a woman that over-simplify the case. Where possible, journalists should seek to understand the character of the relationship. If no information is available, as with breaking news stories, keep to the very basic facts rather than seeking explanations.

Forensic criminologist Jane Monckton-Smith has dedicated her career to understanding why people kill their partners. She has spent years studying hundreds of fatal domestic abuses cases, and recently published the 8-stage homicide timeline. She explains the spike in fatalities:

“Lockdown means that people who were already controlling and abusing their partners are now even more controlling and volatile. The lockdown has not created abuse, it has just made it more visible and dangerous”.

After all, pandemic or not, what could be more controlling or possessive than the act of taking someone’s life?

Coronavirus does not create men who kill. It just gives them an excuse. Sadly, the press reporting on fatal domestic abuse has frequently reinforced this excuse. From reports citing “serious financial difficulties” to “late-night argument in coronavirus lockdown” to “worries about coping with coronavirus lockdown”, the press are failing to report on fatal domestic abuse accurately.

With headlines like this, journalists are showing more sympathy to killers than victims. Monckton-Smith says, “If journalists are peddling myths like this, they put people in more danger and people can’t spot the warning signs and do what they need to do to protect themselves”.

She continues: “Failing to report from the perspective of the victim actually just empowers killers and those who are going to be the next killers.”

Often, fatal domestic abuse headlines follow a lazy template of “Man kills wife after [her actions]”. Journalists must refrain from seeking an explanation, trigger or excuse for the homicide. Monckton-Smith describes how this inaccuracy can be incredibly upsetting for victims’ families:

“We have to recognise that a homicide is one of the most traumatic events that anyone can ever experience. It is incredibly traumatic for families, and adds an extra layer of grief to the life that’s been lost. Journalists must remember not to talk about it as an episode in a detective series: you’re reporting on someone’s life.”

The Level Up guidelines on reporting domestic abuse, ‘Dignity for Dead Women’, were developed by domestic violence experts and bereaved families who were retraumatised by the press coverage of their loved-ones’ deaths. The intention behind them is to report fatal domestic abuse with dignity and accuracy, in order to spread awareness of domestic homicide risk factors.

In an online world, today’s news is no longer tomorrow’s chip paper: it’s a lasting public record of someone’s life. And for families who have lost loved ones to domestic homicide, that public record is incredibly important.

If someone has been killed by their partner or ex-partner, it’s essential to name this for what it is: domestic abuse. It’s vital for journalists to signpost to resources (included at the bottom of this article), for any readers who may have received death threats from their partner, or are in fear of their life or worry about threats to family members or friends.

With more frequent domestic abuse fatalities, and therefore more frequent news reports, it’s vital for the press to report on these killings with accuracy and dignity. If the trend continues at the rate it has since the start of the Covid pandemic, 40 more women will be murdered by their partners before the end of June.

As a society, we should be doing all we can to reduce this number, and the press have a huge role to play. Maybe, if the press start reporting on fatal domestic abuse more accurately, we can stop more women dying.

Read the Level Up ‘Dignity for Dead Women’ guidelines here.

If you are in the UK and your partner makes you feel unsafe, call the free National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247.

If you or someone else is in immediate danger please call 999 and ask for the police. Silent calls will work if you are not safe to speak – use the Silent Solution system and call 999 and then press 55 when prompted.

Author photo

Janey Starling is Campaign Director at Level Up. Janey is a domestic abuse expert and wrote ‘Dignity for Dead Women’, the UK’s first guidelines for reporting fatal domestic abuse.

In The Wake Of COVID-19,Many Are Experiencing Escalating Domestic Abuse.Here’s How To Help A Loved One

In The Wake Of COVID-19, Many Are Experiencing Escalating Domestic Abuse. Here’s How To Help A Loved One

Watching this play out can be terrifying—and frustrating—if you have no idea what to do. Take a breath and read on for an actually beneficial guide to making an impact.

BY LAUREN KROUSE AND ILLUSTRATED BY JACKSON JOYCEAPR 22, 2021

The saying “timing is everything” has particular significance when it comes to getting out of a relationship involving emotional or physical abuse. An abuser’s tactics, a survivor’s complex feelings of shame or guilt, and factors like children or finances, or even pets, can all impact when and why someone feels ready to make their exit.

It’s a process that friends and family and the person in the difficult situation can’t rush—or craft a completely flawless plan—to fix.

Still, when you hear or suspect someone you care about is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, the knee-jerk reaction is often “Why can’t you just leave?” or “We’re ending this now.” Despite your best intentions, experts caution that what your instincts tell you to do is not always the most effective route in the long run. Especially in uncertain times like the present, when there are even more hurdles complicating the road to safety and healing.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is about one person in the relationship (or a former significant other) trying to take control and power away from the other. And abusers use a slew of strategies to do that, from threats to digital harassment. “A victim is experiencing a lack of control over their own decisions,” says Deborah J. Vagins, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). “The last thing you want to do is take more power away from them by making choices on their behalf.”

In the wake of COVID-19, many are experiencing escalating violence or abuse for the first time for a variety of reasons, including skyrocketing stress, financial struggles, unemployment, and alcohol use, says Nancy Glass, PhD, a community-based intervention researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and associate director of the university’s Center for Global Health. While rates of IPV are notoriously difficult to track—those impacted may forgo seeking outside help in order to stay safe, or carefully weigh the pros and cons of asking—calls to help lines and the police have recently gone up in many U.S. cities and around the world, per a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. (Right after states across the country issued shelter-in-place orders last year, however, many hotlines reported an initial downtick in calls, likely because survivors stuck at home had fewer opportunities to seek help.)

“The more you understand the dynamics of intimate partner violence, the better able you will be to offer support.”

But experts say this data is the tip of the iceberg. After all, emotional abuse is the most common form of IPV—and it’s challenging to chart. The initial signs are easy to minimize, like increased isolation, personal jabs (being called names as a “joke”), tests of loyalty (such as insistence that passwords be shared), or gaslighting.

Worse yet, it’s hard to identify and address what’s going on from the outside, even if you suspect something’s amiss. While at home, “if a survivor wants to connect, they aren’t able to do that easily without their abusive partner knowing about it,” says Katie Atkinson, director of survivor services for LGBTQ people of all genders at The Network/La Red in Boston. The people they confide in most often are friends and family, though, so it’s critical to think proactively. (This is especially true for multiracial, Black, Native American, disabled, low-income, bisexual, and trans women, who face higher rates of domestic violence and greater barriers to receiving aid.)

One of the most helpful things you can do is help someone recover a sense of agency over their life. But you have to step up to the plate carefully. This advice from advocates with decades of know-how will guide you to get it right.

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Research on Your Own First

“The more you understand the dynamics of intimate partner violence, the better able you will be to offer support,” says Anna Nicolosi, operations manager at StrongHearts Native Helpline. Expressing concerns about someone’s relationship is super-dicey territory, so learn the red flags and the different forms of offense before starting a conversation. This will help you avoid common mistakes that could jeopardize the situation. (Not what you want.…)

How to do this? Contact a trained advocate via the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) or live-chat at thehotline.org. Or find contact info for a local organization and give them a rundown of the situation. A common misconception is that hotlines are *only* for the person in the situation—but Glass says family and friends often call in too. Take a few notes about the nature of the relationship and any concerning behaviors you’ve witnessed or heard about so you’re ready to share them when asked why you’re calling. Also, make a list of questions you want to cover, says Atkinson, such as “Is it okay if I say or do X?” and “What local resources are available if they want to leave, find housing, or get legal aid?” And to ensure they’re comfortable potentially calling on their own behalf in the future, “How do you handle confidentiality?” Clarifying what you should (and shouldn’t) do in your role can give you the confidence you need to tackle what comes next.

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A Way to Connect One-on-One

Ask your loved one if you can chat sometime (but don’t mention abuse, and do let them choose how to connect—socially distanced in person, over the phone, via Zoom, or on FaceTime, for example—since their partner could be monitoring communications). Start with not-so-invasive questions such as “Where’s so-and-so today?” or “I want to talk to you about something personal—can we chat privately?” suggests Atkinson.

Then, when you’re sure you’re both in a safe place, simply ask how they feel about the relationship. Let them know you’re concerned about something you’ve witnessed or heard about, and encourage candidness by listening reflectively. For example: “I’m worried when [name] says things like that to you. How does it make you feel?” or “What you’re describing sounds like an example of gaslighting. What do you think?” Prime questions with phrases to emphasize that they’re in control (e.g., “There’s no pressure to answer any of my questions”) and be truthful about your own uncertainties (“I don’t know exactly what to say, but I want to support you however you need. May I ask you some questions about this?”).

You might feel the urge to disparage their partner, but this can backfire fast. The person is still a key part of their life and someone they may love deeply. They might become defensive, blame themselves, or stop confiding in you entirely. Focus on behaviors and their impact instead, says Nicolosi. At the same time, be firm, emphasizing that it’s never okay to treat someone that way, no excuses. If they don’t want to talk to begin with? Do not push it. Let them know you care about them very much and are concerned, and that you respect their boundaries and are available anytime they want to discuss. Then let them change the subject.

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No-Strings-Attached Support

While it’s important to be honest about your concerns, keep your tone calm and avoid gushing about how worried you’ve been (experts call this centering your own feelings), which could cause unnecessary drama or fear, says Nicolosi. Thank them off the bat for trusting you with this information. “What survivors need most is someone who will believe them and listen to them,” says Linley Beckbridge, communications and outreach director at Doorways, a domestic violence shelter in Arlington, Virginia. Let them know you’re in their corner, and never give ultimatums or unsolicited advice.

Also good to know: Going back to the relationship is a normal part of the process. They might be facing obstacles they can’t tell you about, like feelings of denial or guilt. Pressuring them to “get out” before they’re ready is dangerous. The hope is that *they* know best how to stay safe until they can carefully exit.

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Resources

Once they’re (possibly) ready to move forward, you can help sort priorities with an open-ended question like “Are there any options you’ve been thinking about?” Assure them, once they’re on board, that there are people who care and programs that can help, says Doreen Nicholas, survivor engagement and systems change specialist at the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (ACESDV).

Know of a service for their needs? Offer to set it up for them. For example, if they are interested in connecting with an affordable or free therapist, support group, or other mental health service in the area so they can talk through coping methods or have an objective person help unpack an upsetting interaction, search for professionals who are trained in trauma-informed care and regularly work with survivors of sexual and domestic violence, says Nicholas. In that case, you would search their state or city and “Coalition Against Domestic Violence” to find the local coalition. (Call or email; a rep should be able to direct you to mental health resources.)

If they’re not there yet, don’t jump into problem-solving mode; continue to lend an ear and unconditional support, says Nicolosi. Money troubles are one of the most common reasons victims stay or return to partners. (The majority experience financial abuse—e.g., their person controls all finances or prevents them from working.) What you can do is spot them on childcare, necessities, or an Airbnb.

Pro tip: Advocacy centers sometimes help cover immediate needs or can point them toward other opportunities.

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All Lines of Communication Open

Abusers of any kind use isolation to deepen their control, dominating a person’s time to keep them from spending it with loved ones. So continue to reach out, offering a space to talk, to feel validated, or to just know they’re not alone. Ask how they prefer to stay in touch and check in often-—as long as it’s safe for you both, says Nicolosi. Connect over phone calls, texts, video calls, virtual games—even grocery deliveries or socially distanced meetups.

Just be sure to find ways to maintain your comforting presence and encouragement, even if you have to get creative. It may be lifesaving.

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A Deeper Look Into Gaslighting:National Domestic Violence Hotline

A Deeper Look Into Gaslighting

What is gaslighting? Gaslighting is when your emotions, words, and experiences are twisted and used against you, causing you to question your reality. This can be a very effective form of emotional abuse, because once an abusive partner has broken down your ability to trust your own perspective, you may be more vulnerable to the effects of abuse, making it more difficult to leave the abusive relationship.

We’ve talked about the types of gaslighting techniques, and the signs to look out for, but what does it look like in a real situation? How can one stay safe in this situation or work to prove that what happened, happened?

Here is an example of a survivor’s story, who shared what it was like to experience the abuse of gaslighting. This story is especially powerful because it blends emotional, digital, sexual, financial, and physical abuse:

“I don’t know what’s real anymore. I saw him hit me, and I try to talk to him about it, but he tells me that it never happened. The bruise I got I thought came from him, but he told me I fell down. But how did I fall down? I thought I saw exactly what happened. I ask him about it again, but he says, ‘You fell down, I saw you fall down. I would never hit you that hard. You’re crazy, it’s all in your head.’ I started doubting my sanity. I really thought I saw him raise his fist…”*

*While this story uses he/his/him pronouns, anyone is capable of abuse, and anyone can be the victim of it

It’s important to note that gaslighting may not happen right away. It can happen very gradually in a relationship. After experiencing these abusive patterns, you can find yourself feeling more confused, anxious, isolated, and could lose all sense of what is actually happening.

Here are a few ways to combat gaslighting:

Proof

Since gaslighting can make it difficult to feel like you truly remember what happened, it can be helpful to keep proof of the incident(s) so you can rely more on the evidence. Here are some examples of what proof you can document:

  • Keep a journal — Every time you encounter something, write it down in a secret journal your partner doesn’t know about. Write down the date, time, and what happened.
  • Speak to a trusted friend or family member — If you have a trusted friend or family member, telling them what happened or talking out what happened can help you clear your head, and someone else will know what is going on.
  • Keep voice memos — If the abusive partner doesn’t have access to your phone, escape to a room by yourself and record yourself speaking with your phone on what just happened. If your phone isn’t a secret, tape recorders will still record sounds, and you can hide those tapes away.
  • Take pictures — If the abuser doesn’t have access to your phone, take pictures of what happened to you, your child, your pet, or your stuff. The pictures will have a date and time on them in your photo gallery. If your phone isn’t a secret, you can buy a cheap disposable camera at discount stores, and hide the film from your partner.
  • Email — Send your experience, voice memos, pictures, or videos to a trusted friend or family member for safekeeping.

Why do you need this proof? First and foremost, evidence of what occurred can help with your mental health. Recovering from gaslighting that you experienced, for weeks, months, even years, can be difficult to do; seeing proof that it happened, validates your experience, challenges the effects of your partner’s abuse, and can help you determine reality. Proof can also be useful when taking legal action* against the abuser.

*Make sure to check your state’s recording laws before you present the proof in court

No matter the form of documentation, always keep your proof safe and secure by hiding it or sending it to someone you trust. If you are afraid that the proof may be found by your partner in your hiding spot or on your phone, send it to a safe location or a friend and destroy/delete the copies you have. If you have questions, please reach out to an Advocate about ways to document proof while staying safe.Safety Planning

While documenting your proof, safety planning is also a great way to recognize and heal from gaslighting.

safety plan is a personalized plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. It involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action, and more.

The more isolated you are from friends and family; the more effective gaslighting can feel. When you are completely isolated from anyone else, you may find yourself relying on your abusive partner to define reality, which creates a very difficult situation to escape.

One way to safety plan against isolation is speaking with a trusted friend or family member. We know that this can be very difficult to do while in an abusive relationship. One thing you could consider is prefacing your conversation with something like, “I don’t have a lot of options right now, and I feel like my partner may be gaslighting me and I want to be able to talk to someone and process what is actually happening,” or “I know that this isn’t a situation I want to stay in nor is safe for me, but for right now one of the things I know my partner is doing is gaslighting me.” Talk about what happened actually happened to get your experience validated. For people who care about you, it can be difficult to learn what is happening.

If you are planning to leave your relationship, make a plan for how and where you will escape quickly. If you do have to leave in a hurry, make sure you take your documented proof of gaslighting with you, and this list of important items.

Another way to safety plan after leaving a relationship is to reach out to a local domestic violence program or join a support group. There, you can talk to each other and share experiences with others who were in a similar situation. Gaslighting is a way that abusive partners minimize and/or dismiss what they did, so talking it out with others will validate your experience and recognize that what the abuser did is not ok, and it is emotionally abusive.Self-care

Combating gaslighting also involves self-care. Whether you’re still in the abusive relationship or after you’ve left, healing your mind is an important step. To put it simply, self-care is really about taking care of yourself in ways that feel best to you and bring you comfort.

Self-care may mean taking a moment to think and process happened to you, which can look like working hard to not accept responsibility for their behaviors. You can practice recognizing when your partner is trying to manipulate the situation, by blame-shifting and putting the problem on you. Abusive partners shape the narrative the way they want it. They want you to think you caused it, but you didn’t (“If you hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have done that.”).

You don’t have to argue about the truth with your partner, you’ll waste energy trying to convince them. Know your truth — there’s no use in trying to convince them. They are denying your reality for a reason and can end up arguing with someone who is refusing to accept responsibility for their behaviors.

Practice trusting your instincts. Give yourself permission to trust your feelings, your thoughts, decisions, and intuition; know that what you felt was true, and you do not need to convince anybody of it. Listen to what your gut is telling you. It can take some concerted effort to remember how to trust your gut after experiencing gaslighting for a while. Have patience with your own process.

You could also try to seek therapy, preferably someone with a domestic violence background. Gaslighting can lead to paranoid thoughts and affect your mental health long term, so seek support if you recognize that gaslighting has been happening.

In order to overcome this type of abuse, it is important to recognize the signs, and trust yourself again. If this situation sounds familiar to you, or you are questioning what’s happening in your relationship, reach out to an advocate. They are here to support you 24/7/365. Reach out by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 TTY, or chat online at thehotline.org.

Remember— you are not alone!

Take the confusion out of reporting abuse,online harassment with this app

Take the confusion out of reporting abuse, online harassment with this app

DocuSAFE  collects, stores, and shares evidence of abuse, as a way to keep abuse-related incidents separate from the platforms survivors use for other parts of their lives.

BY NATALIE PATTILLO8 HOURS AGO

Survivors of abuse are used to hearing, “What evidence do you have to back that up?” or “Have you documented these incidents?” when they turn to a police officer or the legal system for safety. 

Create a timeline of the violence. Screenshot the harassing emails in which they threaten to hurt or report you. Transcribe the threatening voicemails. Photograph the burning red marks on your wrists after they twisted your arms. Save all the Facebook posts publicly spewing lies about your character. Write down the names of everyone who saw the abuse and see if they’d be willing to go on the record. For survivors, the list goes on and on. 

The act of documenting all of the above and more can be traumatic on its own, says Annie Seifullah, a survivor and lawyer at C.A. Goldberg, a New York law firm that “fights for people under attack and against the abusers – whether person, school or company – who think they can get away with it.”  

But there’s an app called DocuSAFE that can help collect the data and keep abuse-related incidents separate from the platforms (such as Google drive) survivors use for other parts of their lives. With technology-facilitated abuse, the harassment and terror comes from all directions: text messages, emails, and multiple social media accounts, making it cumbersome for a survivor to organize it all. While the app might not necessarily relieve the survivor from the burden of having to document the violent trauma they’re being subjected to (because everyone responds to trauma differently), it offers an additional option outside of keeping a few notebooks or storing the documentation in various places like your Notes app or cellphone camera roll. This lets survivors organize evidence of the abuse into one central space so they have the choice to access it when they’re ready, giving a survivor more agency in the process.

Still, the app might not be for every survivor, especially if their abuser controls their technology by monitoring their devices or iCloud or Google account, says Erica Olsen, the director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net, the lead organization that created DocuSAFE.

For years, Olsen heard stories from survivors about the fear of having their abuser use technology to harass, stalk, sabotage, or control them virtually and in-person. Often, to cope and as a survival tactic, those who are subjected to these violent acts feel a sense of urgency to delete the sinister text messages and voicemails and/or block the person on social media, she says. Or sometimes, victims might forget some details of how or when the abuser terrorizes them. It might even be difficult to identify what they went through as abuse.

Research suggests that overwhelming trauma can fragment someone’s resulting memories. That means it might be unreasonable to expect some victims to recount the abuse with accuracy and specificity.

“Victims are told it’s their fault or ‘why didn’t you leave?’ [by society]. Survivors are already dealing with all of that and then having to go back and comb through their text history or their camera roll or whatever to document it.”

Because we live in a culture that tends to blame and discredit victims of abuse, survivors fear that they won’t be believed, which explains why there’s an added layer of stress when it comes time to document and report, says Seifullah.

“Victims are told it’s their fault or ‘why didn’t you leave?’ [by society]. Survivors are already dealing with all of that and then having to go back and comb through their text history or their camera roll or whatever to document it. This is new trauma, this is secondary trauma, this is retraumatizing you,” Seifullah explains, adding that telling a survivor to “just get off of social media or to not use the Internet” is the wrong message.

“Finding their own housing, moving themselves to a safe place, getting off of social media. Stopping all of their tech. All of these ways take away their freedom, economic opportunity, isolate people from their communities and support networks, and all of it is the burden and the cost we put on the victim’s shoulders for having been a victim of abuse. It’s like an added tax that the victims have to carry,” she says. 

Over the past few years, to create more practical options for survivors, Olsen worked with her team members at Safety Net to develop DocuSAFE. The free app helps collect, store, and share evidence of abuse. Survivors using DocuSAFE can document an abuser’s behaviors by storing photos, screenshots, or videos of menacing messages, harassing social media posts, and unrelenting phone calls and, if they choose, can share that with court officials and law enforcement. The app can’t recover any lost evidence, but it can provide survivors with a place to start wherever they might be on their journey towards healing and justice, especially if the abusive behavior is still happening and they’re worried about being doubted by law enforcement or court officials.

After downloading the DocuSAFE app on an uncompromised device (meaning one that’s not monitored by the abuser) a survivor sets up a security pin, like the kind you use to open a locked phone, to use every time they get on the app. There are specific folders for documenting social media, emails, captured videos, and messages. In each folder, a survivor can date and label an incident, provide additional narrative, and attach the documentation. If they want to share a link to the file with a trusted friend, attorney, or law enforcement, they can click “share,” then add the person’s name and email address. The app even goes an extra step and encrypts the data, which means a passcode is created for the survivor to provide the recipient in order to access the documentation. NNEDV’s Safety Net Project has zero access to the data and information a survivor logs in DocuSAFE. 

With support from loved ones, victims are more likely to build resilience after being subjected to abuse, according to research. The app’s features make it easier and safer for victims to share abuser’s behaviors with a trusted friend, family member, mental health counselor, lawyer, or local advocate, lessening the feeling of isolation sometimes associated with surviving and documenting violence. 

One of the most important things for Olsen and her NNEDV team was that survivors felt like they could use the app with or without engaging the legal system, especially if that’s not a safe avenue for them to take. That’s why, with DocuSAFE, users can collect, contextualize, and categorize each incident with the help of the glossary, resources that help identify the abusive behaviors, and a “Get Help” button so survivors can easily reach organizations like National Domestic Violence Hotline to speak to an advocate. They can then take that information to a lawyer, police officer, or victim advocate to assess next steps if they decide they need to. 

“Documentation helps identify the escalation and help survivors see the patterns and help them make decisions [about safety planning] based on that.” 

In addition to providing a safe platform for survivors to share documentation with their support system, NNEDV’s Safety Net team felt that the app could help with identifying clues in an abuser’s behavior. A few years ago, a survivor who Olsen knows was being harassed online by someone who was finding ways to hide their identity by creating fake accounts and email addresses. The survivor had a feeling the person was her ex. By keeping track of the abusive messages she was receiving on multiple platforms, she saw a consistent pattern: The abuser was only ever sending them on certain days of the week during a specific timeframe. Then, when she went to law enforcement to pursue charges, they looked at the notes she had collected, and through that, discovered that the abuser (who was, in fact, her ex) was sending the menacing messages to her from his work. This opened up a door for investigation. In working with the perpetrator’s employer, the investigators used the security cameras to see he was using an office computer during his breaks to harass the survivor. 

Olsen says hearing about the survivor’s experience was part of what sparked the idea to create the app. “Documentation helps identify the escalation and help survivors see the patterns and help them make decisions [about safety planning] based on that.” 

Seifullah says safety planning, which is the process of considering options and making decisions about next steps for a future crisis, involves taking stock of what technology the survivors use and what the abuser might have access to. She says after that, the next step is to document and collect evidence, which has to be determined through a case-by-case analysis of what is safe for a particular client.

Unlike most apps that measure positive results based on download numbers and usage stats, the creators behind DocuSAFE have a very different way of looking at success, especially in a world where options can be limited for survivors who are often being talked down to about the “right” or “wrong” way to report the violence they’re being subjected to. If a survivor sits down with an advocate and decides that it might not be safe for them to use the app because they’re still with an abuser, that’s a sign that the survivor is making an informed decision based on what’s best for them, Olsen says.  

“Having multiple tools and safe spaces to document timelines of abuse is the most important next step for a person to come to terms with what they’re going through,” says Seifullah. 

As it looks towards the future, Olsen says that NNEDV is spreading the word about DocuSAFE and exploring the possibilities of creating a Spanish version. They are also looking into ways to get feedback without compromising users’ identities or well-being.

“We really want the app to work for people and we want to make it better and better,” she says. “Even if they just use it themselves, they can recognize escalation for their own safety planning. That’s wonderful. We really want to give that opportunity to survivors.”

If you’ve experienced domestic or intimate partner violence, you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Additional resources are available on its website

50 Obstacles to Leaving:National Domestic Violence Hotline:800-799-7233

50 Obstacles to Leaving

“It would take me yet another year of planning, forgiving, calling, reaching for help, before I could leave.” —Sarah Buel

Leaving is not easy. On average, it takes a victim seven times to leave before staying away for good. Exiting the relationship is most unsafe time for a victim. As the abuser senses that they’re losing power, they will often act in dangerous ways to regain control over their victim.

We know victim’s frustrations with feeling like the abuse is somehow their fault. If only they’d leave, right? Wrong. We know better. In fact, we’re taking a closer look at 50 reasons why it may be near impossible to leave. To answer the often-asked question “Why don’t you just leave?” we’ve adapted Sarah M. Buel’s “Fifty Obstacles to Leaving, a.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay” — 50 different reasons that she has encountered throughout her 20+ years of work in the domestic violence field.

50 Obstacles to Leaving

Advocate

The victim doesn’t have an enthusiastic supporter on their side so may feel discouraged or hopeless.Batterer

The batterer is wealthy, famous, powerful in the community, etc., and can afford to hire private counselor and pressure decision-makers.Believes Threats

The victim believes the batterer’s threats to kill them and the children if they attempt to leave.Children’s Best Interest

The victim believes it is in the children’s best interest to have both parents in the home, especially if the abuser doesn’t physically abuse the children.Children’s Pressure

The children put pressure (independently or by the abuser’s influence) on the abused parent to stay with their partner.Culture and Race

Because of differences in race or culture, the victim worries about being treated unequally by the justice system if they come forward, or believes stereotypes about acceptable actions in their own culture.Denial

The victim is in denial about the danger, instead believing that if they could be better partners, the abuse would stop.Disabled

Victims who are disabled or physically challenged face obstacles in gaining access to court and social services, and may be isolated from basic info about resources.Elderly

Elderly victims may hold traditional beliefs about marriage and believe they must stay, or are dependent on the batterer for care even in the face of physical abuse.Excuses

The victim believes the abuser’s excuses to justify the violence, blaming job stress or substance abuse for example.Family Pressure

Family members exert pressure if they believe there’s no excuse for leaving a marriage or if they’re in denial about the abuse.Fear of Retaliation

The batterer has shown willingness to carry out threats and the victim fears harm to themselves or the children if they leave.Fear of Losing Child Custody

The batterer has used the threat of obtaining custody to exact agreements to their liking.Financial Abuse

Financial abuse can take many different forms depending on the couple’s socio-economic status — ex. If victims have been forced to sign false tax returns or take part in other unlawful financial transactions.Financial Despair

The victim realizes that they cannot provide for themselves or their children without the batterer’s assistance.Gratitude

The victim feels gratitude toward the batterer because the batterer has helped support and raise their children from a previous relationship, or take care of them if they have health, medical or other problems.Guilt

Batterers have convinced victims that the violence is happening because it’s their fault.Homelessness

Homeless abuse victims face increased danger, as they must find ways of meeting basic survival needs of shelter, food, and clothing while attempting to elude their batterers.Hope for the Violence to Cease

This hope is typically fueled by the batterer’s promises of change, pleas from the children, or family’s advice to save the relationship.Isolation

The victim has been cut off from family, friends and colleagues and lacks a support system or people to stay with.Keeping the Family Together

Victims believe it is in their children’s best interest to have their father or a male role model in the family.Illiterate Victims

Illiterate victims may be forced to rely on the literate batterer for everyday survival.Incarcerated or Newly Released Abuse Victims

Such victims often don’t have support systems to assist them with re-entry to the community. Parole officers may require that they return home if that appears to be a stable environment.Law Enforcement Officer

If the perpetrator is a law enforcement officer, the victim may fear that other officers will refuse to assist or believe them if they come forward.LGBTQ+ Victims

Victims may feel silenced if disclosing their sexual orientation (to qualify for a protective order) could result in losing their job, family, and home.Low Self-Esteem

Victims may believe they deserve no better than the abuse they receive.Love

Since many batterers are initially charming, victims fall in love and may have difficulty altering their feelings with the first sign of a problem.Mediation

Mediation can put the victim in the dangerous position of incurring the batterer’s wrath for disclosing the extent of the violence.Medical Problems

The victim must stay with the batterer to obtain medical services, especially if they share insurance.Mentally Ill Victims

Victims face negative societal stereotypes in addition to the batterer’s taunts that the victim is crazy and nobody will believe anything that they say.Mentally or Developmentally Challenged Victims

These victims are particularly vulnerable to the batterer’s manipulation and are likely to be dependent on the batterer for basic survival.Military

If the victim or the perpetrator is in the military, an effective intervention is largely dependent on the commander’s response. Many commanders believe that it is more important to salvage the soldier’s military career than to ensure the victim’s safety.No Place to Go

Victims can’t find affordable housing or there is no shelter space.No Job Skills

Victims without job skills usually have no choice but to work for employers paying minimum wage, with few, if any, medical and other benefits.No Knowledge of Options

Victims without knowledge of the options and resources logically assume that none exist.Past Criminal Record

Victims with a past criminal record are often still on probation or parole, making them vulnerable to the batterer’s threats to comply with all of their demands or be sent back to prison.Previously Abused Victims

Sometimes previously abused victims believe the batterer’s accusation, “See, this is what you drive your partners to do to you!”Prior Negative Court Experiences

Victims don’t believe that they will be given the respect and safety considerations that they need in court.Promises of Change

The batterer’s promises of change may be easy to believe because they sound sincere. Victims are socialized to be forgiving.Religious Beliefs

Beliefs may lead victims to think they have to tolerate the abuse to show their adherence to the faith.Rural Victims

Victims may be isolated and simply unable to access services due to lack of transportation, or the needed programs are distant and unable to provide outreach.Safer to Stay

Assessing that it is safer to stay may be accurate when the victim can keep an eye on the batterer, sensing when the batterer is about to become violent and, to the extent possible, taking action to protect themselves and their children.Students

Students in high school or college may fear that untrained administrators will deny their requests for help. If the perpetrator is also a student, the victim often does not want them to be expelled from school.Shame and Embarrassment

The victim doesn’t want to disclose the abuse or may deny that any problem exists.Stockholm Syndrome

The victim may experience this syndrome and bond with the abuser.Substance Abuse or Alcohol

Either the victim or offender’s substance abuse may inhibit seeking help, often for fear that the children will be removed.Teens

Teens are at greater risk for abuse in their relationships than any other age group. Peer pressure, immaturity, no knowledge of resources, and low self-esteem all factor into the decision to stay.Transportation

A lack of transportation condemns victims to a choice between welfare and returning to their abusers.Unaware that Abuse is a Criminal Offense

This can occur often if family, friends and community professionals minimize the crimes.Undocumented Victims

Victims facing complex immigration problems if they leave are often forced to stay with the batterers who may control their INS status.

Every person’s situation is unique, and you may be unable to leave a situation for a complex combination of different reasons. If you’re contemplating leaving an abusive relationship or struggling in one that you cannot leave, consider contacting The Hotline to speak confidentially with an advocate, and take a look at our resources on leaving safely.

*Sarah M. Buel is Clinical Professor, University of Texas School of Law (UTSL). She was founder and co-director, UTSL Domestic Violence Clinic; co-founder and consultant, National Training Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence; and a former domestic violence, child abuse, and juvenile prosecutor and advocate. She graduated cum laude from Harvard Extension School and Harvard Law School.