Tag Archives: intimate partner violence

Suffering in Silence

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Photo credit: BreaktheCycle.org

Guest Post by Nkenge Burkhead, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

Often the media portrays domestic violence as a married heterosexual couple or partners living together. They have usually been together multiple years and may share bills, expenses, cars, and children. If teens are mentioned at all they are usually witnesses that experience violence second-hand. However, the unfortunate reality for many teens is that they are already experiencing violence and abuse in their relationships, and are suffering in silence.

Intimate partner violence is an umbrella term that covers domestic violence and dating violence. While domestic violence and dating violence are similar, there are differences in the way power and control techniques are carried out. In order to provide adequate resources, we must first acknowledge that teen dating violence exists and include teens in the discussion. Secondly, we must understand and recognize the signs and tools used to perpetrate abuse.

The Prevention Education team at HAVEN conducts interactive presentations with high school students. These students are of various identities, racial, and economic backgrounds. One of the questions we pose is “can texting or calling constantly be a sign of controlling behavior?” I’m still surprised at the number of students who answer “no”, and further shocked at the number of students who identify this behavior to be at least normal and caring.

Social media invites us to publicly announce where we are and who we’re with, discuss our happy and sad moments. It also allows partners to have constant access. We know that stalking has always been used by abusive partners. However, with the invention of smart phones and social media, stalking has redesigned how it presents itself. Accessibility is greater and it has become easier for abusive partners to utilize and control. They no longer have to come to where you are to interrupt your feeling of safety, they can do it from home.

Teen dating violence statistics tell us that there is a need for education, intervention, and resource availability. 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. 1 in 10 high school students has been purposely hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a partner. Girls and women between the ages 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of dating violence. These are the statistics that have been collected through reporting. But most people, teens included, never report experiencing intimate-partner violence. There are no statistics for teens who don’t report because they do not identify what they’re experiencing as abuse, or may be afraid to tell their parents because they don’t know they’ve been dating, or might be afraid to get someone in trouble.

We recognize abuse can show up in many ways that aren’t physical. Through our prevention presentations, we are able to ignite conversations that allow teens to explore their personal beliefs and boundaries in relationships. We identify signs and abusive tactics. We also offer tools on how to respond to a friends’ disclosure in a way that is empowering and supportive.

HAVEN’s Prevention Education team is able to provide youth with a space to acknowledge and discuss the prevalence of teen dating violence. In addition to the presentations our counseling services are also available to youth.

Talk to the teens in your life. Listen and learn where they are. Offer advice and support when asked. Offer HAVEN as a resource when any type of abuse is suspected. To schedule HAVEN Prevention Education presentations in your school or community group contact the Prevention Education Program Director at (248) 334-1284 ext. 352.

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Filed under Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Altered Books, Altered Self-Compassion

Guest Blog by Anne Sutton, MA LPC, HAVEN – Counseling Program

“Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.” – Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion

Self-Compassion as a daily practice can be very difficult for survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. Trauma alters our inner self-talk, increasing our critical voices and muting our loving compassionate voices. The negative voice can become so strong it becomes a bully. It bellows and overwhelms our quieter, loving voices.

art1 art2Survivors’ representations of the “inner bully,” their negative self-talk

It is important to train our compassionate self because that’s the part of us that is most helpful. If we only listen to the anxious/angry/self-critical part of ourselves, we get a biased view.

We all want to be more loving to ourselves but HOW? What are the tools? What can help us to remember to have self-compassion for ourselves? What can help us quiet our inner bully?

The group members in HAVEN’S on going trauma support group, Surviving and Thriving through Trauma began a lengthy group project focused on increasing feelings of self-compassion and developing a daily self-compassion practice. Each group member developed a personal handbook of self-compassion by creating an Altered Book.

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Four of the group members with their completed Altered Books. 

Altered books are an art therapy technique that takes an old hard cover book, destroys it and transforms it into something completely different, something amazingly beautiful and personal.

 

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Wisdom

The group started on this project in early May, 2016 and had a final celebration of their hard work in September. The women started by destroying the original books (most were brought from home or garage sales) to craft pages to create upon. We ripped out pages in the books, leaving large gaps in the books and filling the group room with discarded pages.

We then glued the remaining pages together leaving 10-12 thick and solid pages. These became our foundation to paint, draw, write and collage upon. The group members spent the next 10 weeks reflecting upon and making creative representations of ten key aspects of self-compassion:

  • May I be kind to myself
  • My inner bully
  • Compassionate people in my life
  • A compassionate place
  • A compassionate color
  • Wisdom
  • Strength
  • Responsibility
  • Warmth
  • My perfect nurturer

Here are some more amazing creations:

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May I be kind to myself

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My compassionate color

 

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My perfect nurturer

 

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Warmth

The project became a fun, messy and very creative way to address a difficult issue for trauma survivors, learning to be loving to ourselves.

 

Self-compassion is an important part of ALL of our lives. The group and I would like to share with you one of our favorite self-compassion meditation practices (from Kristen Neff) to use when your inner bully shouts at you or life is just hard:

This is a moment of suffering

                  Suffering is a part of living

                  May I be kind to myself

                                    May I give myself the compassion I need

                                    May I learn to accept myself as I am

                                    May I be strong

                                    May I be safe

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My Compassionate Self – cover art

 

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Strength and Wisdom

If you’d like to learn more about the HAVEN Counseling Program, click here.

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Looking Back to March Forward

Rosie

Guest post by: Nkenge Burkhead, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

March is a month of many celebrations. The March celebration that is most dear to my heart is the observation of Women’s History Month. A time to acknowledge our fore-mothers who made noise, made progress, made room for change, and made herstory! When you celebrate the fortitude of a community of people you must also recognize the forces they are up against.

Sadly, one of the factors that give women a similar connective experience is the constant threat of sexual and physical violence. Women are disproportionately targeted (1 in 3 women) and have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. When over 33% of a single community report surviving intimate partner violence, and then we consider the number of women who are not in a position to report their experiences, we can assume that at some point in our lifetime we will either become a victim or know and love a woman who is a victim of gender-based violence.

This is an unavoidable plot in our story. Women are at risk of being preyed upon by abusers in dark alleys near our jobs, but also in well-lit hallways near our kid’s room. Intimate partner abuse (wife beating as it’s been called) wasn’t against the law in the United States until 1920. There were no legal consequences in place until the 1970’s, and The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994. The statistics are appalling. The response survivors have received from police, medical staff, and even friends and family are often injurious and insensitive.

It is a time to proclaim that yes women have been victimized, but that women have also been on the front lines for the progression of services and support concerning intimate partner violence. March is a time to celebrate Women’s History! We celebrate women and their contribution to raising awareness, providing support, and challenging social attitudes around violence against women.

This month we have been motivated by Oleta “Lee” Abrams, who co-founded the first rape crisis center in the U.S. In response to her daughter’s rape and lack of support from the doctor who treated her daughter after she was attacked. Oleta and two friends opened Bay Area Women Against Rape. This center is still open today.

We are encouraged by Erin Pizzey. Erin established the first domestic violence shelter in Europe more than 40 years ago (1970). She also wrote one of the first books on the topic “Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear” in 1974.

We are indebted to Maria Macias who was killed by her estranged husband when police failed to enforce her restraining order after 22 calls for help.

Today the U.S. has over 1,900 shelters or support programs for survivors. While the survivors continue to out-number the beds, there are 1,900 places with caring people who will listen and believe survivors. Those same people ask how we can systematically end this and remember the history and attempt to reshape the future for women.

How will you March forward into the rest of the 2016? Will you read more about accomplishments women have contributed? Will you donate to a local domestic violence shelter? Will you teach the boys and men in your life about consent?

If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence or experiencing power and control dynamic in their relationship that feel abusive or unsafe HAVEN is here to help and our crisis and support line is ALWAYS open for you: 877-922-1274.

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Filed under Call to action, Women's History

The power of numbers

By Megan Widman, HAVEN Social Action Program Director

In December, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a 124-page report outlining the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States as measured by phone surveys to over 16,000 households.  For those of us who work at HAVEN, the report was not as noteworthy for its content as it was for the attention it garnered from many media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC – and rightfully so. 

After all, it should be front page news when we discover that nearly 1 in 5 women have been the victim of attempted or completed rape, and that over half of these victims were raped by their intimate partners.   Our country should be shocked when we learn that more than one out of every three women (35.6%) has experienced rape, physical violence or stalking at the hands of their intimate partner.  We should be taking to the streets upon hearing that nearly half (48.4%) of all women in our country have experienced psychological aggression and abuse by their intimate partner.

This extensive report confirmed what we already know – that intimate partner violence is an epidemic in our country.  It is a crime that disproportionately affects women and girls.  Perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault use these tactics deliberately, to gain or maintain power and control.  And, because of this, intimate partner violence and sexual assault are now widely recognized as preventable public health issues.  It is exciting that the CDC is now approaching violence prevention in the same way that they have approached the spread of infectious disease – and understanding the scope of the problem is an important step in approaching prevention in a systematic, informed manner.

But the fleeting attention this report received is not enough.  And we at HAVEN are again reminded of how much work we still have left to do.  And the questions still abound: How can we raise consciousness on these issues every day of the year?  How do we work in our community to change the attitudes and norms that support these crimes?  How do we continue to engage our community members to do this hard work? 

And, so, numbers are powerful.  They paint a picture.  They lend credibility to an issue.  And we are thankful for any public attention that is given to the issues of domestic and sexual violence.  But we brace ourselves as the spotlight fades – because we know the next time the media shines a light on these issues, it will probably be because a tragedy has occurred.  We hope that through our advocacy, counseling, and prevention work in our community that we can perhaps prevent the next murder-suicide or violent sexual assault. 

We believe that intimate partner violence affects all of us.  If you or someone you love has ever experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, you know that even one person is too much.   Isn’t that the only number we need?

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