Guest Series -- Stories of Courage, Hope, and Support.
October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (#DVAM). DVAM works to connect advocates across the nation who are working to end intimate partner violence. The goal is to increase awareness and educate others so that we can all stand together and ensure that those affected by domestic violence have a voice and are heard.
This month, we will be utilizing our blog to share real stories of bravery, courage, and support. These stories are personal, real, and raw. Using their first-hand experience, our guest posts can be triggering to some. Their stories include sensitive topics and language surrounding intimate partner violence and this should be considered before reading them.
Our first guest will share her experience of dating violence that began in high school. Most people have their first relationships while in high school or college. It’s new, exciting, thrilling, sometimes sexual, and perfectly normal. Unfortunately, this can also be one of the most dangerous times in a woman’s life. Women ages 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence. In fact, nearly 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year. In Allegany County, one in ten high school and middle school students have experienced dating violence.
Dating violence is domestic violence. It is the use of power and control over one individual by someone who is supposed to care about her or him. Dating violence is not only just physical but can also be emotional and psychological abuse and include behaviors such as stalking, isolation of friends and family, and being possessive. Since this is often their first love or serious relationship, many young people may not know the red flags or identify problematic behaviors.
“I was a junior in high school when I started dating my first boyfriend. He seemed like the perfect guy at first, but I could feel things slowly start to change. He would get mad and upset when I wanted to hang out with my friends or family. He would blame me for everything that went wrong in our relationship, compare me to other girls, and flirt with other girls in front of me. I would accuse him of cheating on me and he told me I was crazy, that I was accusing him of not loving me or that I didn’t love him anymore. He never hit me, so I thought that what he was doing and saying was okay.
In school when we would learn about abusive relationships, we were mostly taught about physical abuse. He never hit me or held me down, so I thought it was normal. We never learned that coercion can also be a form of abuse. My boyfriend at the time would coerce me into doing sexual things that I didn’t want to do. He made me feel bad about not wanting to do those things or said that because I didn’t want to do those things that I didn’t love him. He would get so angry when I said no, and he was scary when he was angry. I eventually gave in because I didn’t want him to be angry and possibly escalate to physical abuse. He would get into physical altercations with his mom, so he could easily do those things to me as well.
Even after the relationship ended he found ways to mentally abuse me. He had his friend stalk me at the beach, threatened to vandalize my car, came to my college campus and sent me a picture of my car, and had his family post horrible things about me on social media. After he threatened to vandalize my car I went to the courthouse and got a peace order. The judge granted the order for six months and the option to renew it after those six months were up. The day my peace order expired he messaged me on a fake social media account...
If you are reading this and can relate to it at all, you do not deserve that. If you’re reading this and are thinking of a friend that this relates to, don’t walk away from them. Watching a friend go through something like this is never easy, but I promise you that they need you now more than ever. They may not show it or say anything is wrong, they may have withdrawn from hanging out, but they still need you."
*Regan’s name has been changed for her protection.
Survivors dealing with intimate partner violence face a multitude of barriers when trying to end the relationship and find safety or support. The offender in the relationship often holds a great deal of power and control over the victim and thus limits freedoms and increases isolation from the outside world.
If you have never called a crisis support line, it can seem a little intimidating. Speaking with a stranger about your most intimate and personal issues can be unsettling and make a person feel very vulnerable. However, we want to use this post to give you (or someone you care about) a better understanding of what to expect and hopefully alleviate some fears about reaching out for support.
What Will Happen When I Call?
It is estimated that it may take at least seven attempts for a person to leave an abusive relationship. Reaching out to our crisis support line can be the first step to creating a plan to live a life free of violence.
For some, they may prefer to speak with an advocate via text, for others, it may not be safe to make a phone call. Accessibility is about choices - and survivors who are managing their safety need choices. That is why we have three options to reach crisis support staff.
24/7 Hotline: 301.759.9244 Text: 301.970.4242 Webchat: rc.chat/fcrc