Are Mental and Emotional Abuse Considered Domestic Violence?

When you hear the term domestic violence, what comes to mind? Perhaps images of battered women, bruises, or other signs of physical abuse.

But in reality, domestic violence encompasses a whole lot more than physical violence. Domestic violence — or DV — refers to any form of abuse, including financial abuse, stalking, mental abuse, and emotional abuse.

A perpetrator of DV doesn’t actually need to make physical contact with the victim to have committed the crime — and mental or emotional abuse is no less serious or harmful than physical abuse.

What Is Mental Abuse?

Mental abuse and emotional abuse are similar, and there’s debate between experts about whether or not they’re the same thing. In truth, mental abuse and emotional abuse do overlap and may occur at the same time, but there can be slight differences between the two.

Also referred to as psychological abuse, mental abuse occurs when an abuser manipulates a victim into thinking a certain way or makes attempts to control what they think.

A common form of mental abuse is gaslighting. Abusers gaslight their victims when they use tactics to make them question their own reality or whether their version of events really happened.

For example, an abuser might gaslight their victim when they say things like “You have a terrible memory — that’s not what really happened” or “You’re making a big deal out of nothing. You’re just being overly sensitive.” Repeated over time, statements like these can cause a victim to lose trust in their own sense of reality or their own sanity.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

As stated above, emotional abuse is similar to mental abuse, but emotional abuse may include a wider variety of behaviors than mental abuse. For this reason, mental abuse might be considered just one form of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse occurs when an abuser tries to manipulate a victim into thinking they’re not worthy of love, have no intrinsic value, or have no way out of the relationship. Emotional abuse can include any behaviors or statements that try to control you, isolate you, or threaten you. Some common forms of emotional abuse include:

  • Threats to hurt you, your children, your pets, or other loved ones
  • Threats to leave you; threats of suicide; threats of taking your children
  • Insults to your appearance, intelligence, or behavior
  • Monitoring of your behavior or actions — online or in-person
  • Excessive jealousy, including jealousy of time you spend with friends or family
  • Humiliation or embarrassment
  • Dismissiveness of your needs and/or feelings
  • Intimidation
  • Name-calling

Keep in mind that the list above isn’t exhaustive — abusive partners can attempt to hurt or control their victims emotionally in all kinds of ways.

What Are the Effects of Mental and Emotional Abuse?

Mental and emotional abuse can have serious effects on victims and their children, especially if the children witness the abuse or are also abused.

Emotional abuse can result in long-term psychological or self-esteem issues, and victims may have a hard time regulating their emotions in the future or developing healthy relationships with others. Additionally, emotional abuse can lead to physical stress, illness, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Victims of emotional abuse have a hard time trusting their own feelings and intuition — which is one of the goals of the abuser. This self-doubt can make it even more difficult for victims to leave an abusive relationship.

Plus, because emotional abuse can occur without physical abuse, victims may feel afraid that if they talk about the abuse to loved ones, they may not be believed. They’ve already been tricked by the abuser to believe that they’re over-sensitive or over-reactive, and that they may be “making up” the abuse to get attention or for other reasons.

Emotional and mental abuse is incredibly dangerous, and it isn’t uncommon for emotional abuse to lead to physical abuse down the road.

How to Tell If Emotional or Mental Abuse Is Present in Your Relationship

If you fear your relationship is unhealthy or that you may be a victim of mental and/or emotional abuse, you can use the following red flags to help you determine if you might be in an abusive relationship:

  • Your partner threatens to leave you; threatens suicide; threatens to take your children
  • Your partner makes threats against your safety or the safety of others
  • Your partner makes you question your own reality
  • Your partner says that something didn’t happen even though you know it did
  • Your partner tries to embarrass you in front of others
  • Your partner is overly jealous and tries to control the time you spend with other people
  • Your partner is constantly monitoring your actions or communications with others
  • You have to ask permission from your partner to do things like spend time with others or leave the house
  • Your partner pressures you or tries to make you feel guilty for not wanting to have sex
  • Your partner calls you names or otherwise insults you to make you feel bad about yourself
  • Your partner is dismissive of your feelings and/or your needs in the relationship

While these red flags certainly don’t encompass all forms of emotional abuse, they can be a good starting point to help you recognize if you’re in an unhealthy relationship.

If you do recognize any of these signs, remember that emotional abuse is never your fault. You don’t deserve to be treated this way and there are people willing to help you.

Get Support From Mental and Emotional Abuse

At Safe Shelter, we take all forms of DV seriously, including mental and emotional abuse. Physical abuse does not need to be present for you to take advantage of resources and legal support against DV. Mental and emotional abuse is never your fault, and the effects of mental and emotional abuse are serious.

No one deserves to be mentally or emotionally abused for any reason. If you or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time.

VAWA 2022: The Recent Re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act 

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. Celebrating its 28th anniversary this year, VAWA created protections and established important programs, funding, and resources for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. (In this article, we will collectively refer to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking as intimate partner violence.)

In 1990, then-senator Joe Biden, who helped write and advocate for VAWA, stated that VAWA had “three broad, but simple goals: to make streets safer for women; to make homes safer for women; and to protect women’s civil rights.”

Stemming from decades of research on violence against women, the Act was passed as a response to courts’ shifting views that instances of domestic violence were not, in fact, private family matters—but criminal ones.

What Is VAWA?

VAWA was passed under the broader Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and created legislation to protect women from intimate partner violence. The Act outlines how different stakeholders in a community—including law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, healthcare providers, and more—should work together to prevent and address instances of intimate partner violence.

VAWA was the first major legislation to pass that improved legal responses to and heightened awareness of domestic and sexual violence against women. It also created the first federal criminal law against battering. VAWA aimed to tackle violence against women in three ways:

  • To prevent instances of intimate partner violence
  • To increase investigation and prosecution of intimate partner violence
  • To provide better support for victims of intimate partner violence

The first version of VAWA included legislation for mandatory arrest. This means that when law enforcement is called to the scene of an incident involving intimate partner violence, they must arrest one of the involved parties if they believe they have probable cause.

Among other things, VAWA established the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) within the Department of Justice. VAWA also improved education and training programs on gender-based violence for health professionals, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges, and victim advocates.

Additionally, VAWA includes a grant program to provide funding to states, local governments, and tribal governments to combat intimate partner violence incidents with better resources for investigation and prosecution. Nonprofits and universities can also apply for VAWA grants to help prevent, address, and research intimate partner violence, as well as provide support services to victims.

Reauthorization of VAWA in 2022

VAWA has been reauthorized four times since 1994: once in 2000, once in 2005, once in 2013, and most recently in March of 2022. Each time VAWA has been reauthorized, lawmakers have expanded, updated, and improved its provisions. This year’s reauthorization of VAWA provides for the funding of all existing grant programs through 2027.

In 2022, a number of strengthened provisions have been included, especially for underserved and marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ survivors and Indigenous communities.

Prior to this reauthorization, Tribal courts could do little against non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other criminal activities outlined by VAWA, even if the crimes were committed on Tribal land. Groundbreakingly, this iteration of VAWA expands the criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to prosecute non-Native perpetrators.

Protections against cybercrimes have also been expanded to include victims of intimate image distribution. Under this protection, victims whose intimate visual images have been shared without their consent can sue those who have distributed the images to recover damages and legal fees.

Training for law enforcement members, healthcare professionals, and sexual assault forensic examiners will be improved under this reauthorization as well. Training programs will be revamped to provide training that is trauma-informed and victim-centered.

For a complete list of improvements under this VAWA reauthorization, you can review the VAWA fact sheet distributed by the White House on March 16th, 2022.

Impacts of VAWA

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, rates of intimate partner violence against both males and females declined by over 50% between 1993 and 2008. The rate of intimate partner homicides also decreased for both men and women.

Additionally, the University of Kentucky found that as a result of mandatory arrest, reporting of intimate partner violence increased by 51%. Still, there is some debate about the effectiveness of mandatory arrest. Some women may be less inclined to report incidents of intimate partner violence due to fear for their partner or fear of repercussions to themselves when their partner returns home.

Celebrate the Reauthorization of VAWA with Safe Shelter

At Safe Shelter, we recognize the huge impacts VAWA has had on communities’ responses to domestic violence. Although no legislation is perfect, we know that VAWA provides critical resources, support, and protection to all victims of domestic violence, and we are excited to celebrate the most recent reauthorization and improvements to VAWA.

We are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time.

Why Domestic Violence Affects Women at Higher Rates Than Men

Domestic violence can happen to individuals of any race, any socioeconomic status, any education level, and of course, any gender. But there’s no denying that domestic violence rates against women are higher than they are for men. Additionally, women are also more likely to be seriously hurt or killed as a result of intimate partner violence than men.

(Trans and nonbinary folks also experience higher rates of intimate partner violence, but unfortunately, there is less data for these communities and more research needs to be conducted.)

So why are women more likely to experience domestic violence—and more severe incidents of violence—than men?

It’s not because women are inherently more submissive or that men are simply stronger and more violent than women. Instead, it’s because women face greater societal inequities that perpetuate domestic violence against women and support systems that prevent women from getting help or making a change.

Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes play a huge role in the perpetuation of domestic violence against women. Stereotypes arise as a result of cultural or societal values and, unfortunately, are an inherent part of any community.

Left unexamined, stereotypes lead to prejudice, discrimination, and systemic inequities that are layered into every aspect of society, such as access to job opportunities, housing, equal pay, access to education, and more. While progress can be made to equalize opportunities, the persistence of stereotypes will always result in more barriers and deeper levels of inequality.

Examples of Gender Stereotypes

One stereotype attributed to women in many cultures is that women are more submissive than men, especially in the context of marriage and family. This stereotype fosters the belief that women should obey their husbands and other male family members—not to mention male coworkers, bosses, and other authority figures. If they don’t obey or comply, this belief promotes the idea that women should be punished.

Additionally, men are stereotyped to be aggressive, powerful, and dominant in their relationships. This stereotype makes it more likely that men (and women!) automatically believe men have the right to make decisions for women, control their behaviors, and normalize violence against them.

It’s important to understand that stereotypes are general. Of course, we can all think of many men and women in our lives who do not fit these stereotypes. But not every person has to conform to stereotypes for the stereotype to be meaningfully baked into society. And unfortunately, there are real consequences for those affected.

The Persistence of the Wage Gap

As a result of centuries-old stereotypes, the wage gap between men and women persists into the 21st century, despite decades of progress toward more equality in the workplace. As of 2020, working women still only earned $0.84 for every dollar that men earned. For women of color, the wage gap is even larger.

Earning less has several implications for victims of domestic violence. For instance, a woman who earns less than her partner may have less bargaining power in the home, since she doesn’t contribute as much money to the household. Additionally, a woman who earns less than her partner and relies on his income will be less likely to be able to—or want to—leave an abusive relationship.

Care-taking Responsibilities

Women are disproportionately responsible for care-giving duties than their male partners. They are more likely to leave their jobs (temporarily or permanently) to care for children, elderly family members, and disabled loved ones. The pandemic only exacerbated this inequity as schools and childcare centers all over the country were forced to shut down.

Even if a woman leaves her career temporarily to provide care for her family, she may experience permanent consequences. Women who leave the workforce are more likely to earn lower wages when they return to work and have fewer opportunities to be promoted in the future.

Expectations of care-taking responsibilities also play a role in higher rates of violence against women. By leaving the workforce to care for children or other loved ones, she sacrifices her ability to remain independent—both financially and socially. Without her own earnings, a woman may be more likely to be dependent on her partner and less likely to leave an abusive relationship.

Poverty Rates

Systemic inequalities mean that women are more likely to live in poverty than men. In 2018, 12.9% of women lived in poverty compared to 10.6% of men. The fact that more women live in poverty means that more women may have to make the decision to enter into or stay in abusive relationships.

Historically, one-quarter to more than one-half of women experiencing homelessness cite domestic violence as the reason they were homeless. Clearly, the stakes of leaving an abusive relationship are high for women.

Get Help and Support at Safe Shelter

At Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, we recognize that while people of all genders can experience domestic violence, women, trans, and nonbinary folks are more likely to experience more frequent and severe instances of violence than men. Unfortunately, societal and systemic pressures make it more likely that women will be abused. These same pressures make it more difficult for women to escape abusive relationships.

We are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time.

Recognizing Teen Dating Violence

Each February, teen advocates, teenagers, and their loved ones come together to raise awareness about teen dating violence through Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). Throughout the month, teens and teen advocates provide education and awareness programs about the prevalence of teen dating violence and the warning signs that indicate dating violence is happening in a teen relationship.

This year, the theme for TDVAM is Talk About It, a call to action for teens “to engage in meaningful conversations about healthy relationships and navigate what may be unhealthy or even abusive.” By having these conversations, teens and their loved ones are empowered to seek more support from one another, as well as to increase their awareness of what teen dating violence looks like and how often it happens.

What Is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence—also known as intimate partner violence among adolescents, intimate relationship violence among adolescents, or adolescent relationship violence—can include physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, harassment, or stalking between individuals aged 12 to 18 who are or have been in a consensual, romantic relationship.

Teen dating violence is not limited to physical abuse. While it can include actions such as hitting, shoving or pushing, biting, and hair-pulling, physical actions do not have to be present to constitute teen dating violence. Behaviors indicating teen dating violence may also include:

  • Bullying
  • Shaming
  • Intentionally embarrassing
  • Forcing into non-consensual sexual acts
  • Stalking (in person or electronically)
  • Monitoring (in person or electronically)
  • And more

Unfortunately, teen dating violence is common. As teenagers engage in dating relationships, many haven’t fully matured to be able to engage in the complex communication required for healthy relationships. 1 in 3 teens will experience dating violence in the U.S.

Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence

Teenagers who are experiencing teen dating violence may not be forthcoming about what they’re experiencing. They may feel shame, embarrassment, or fear of repercussions from parents or other authority figures if they tell the truth about their experiences. This is one reason why loved ones and adults working with teens must learn the signs of teen dating violence.

Of course, recognizing the difference between normal teen behavior and teen dating violence can be challenging. To help, here are some warning signs to help you discover if a teenager in your life may be experiencing teen dating violence.

Changes in Physical Appearance

Teens are known for experimenting with new fashion trends and changing how they express themselves as they learn more about their own identity. But if a teen suddenly starts changing their physical appearance without explanation, this can be an early warning sign of teen dating violence.

Wearing significantly more or less makeup, baggier clothes, or clothes with long sleeves, skirts, or pants could be a sign of physical abuse taking place. Additionally, the presence of bruises, self-harm marks such as cutting, burning, or hair pulling, drastic changes in weight, or using drugs and alcohol can also be signs of teen dating violence.

Changes in Emotional Behavior

Although most teens experience mood swings (sometimes more often than not), changes in emotional behavior are important to recognize, especially if physical violence isn’t taking place. Teens who are experiencing depression, increased anxiety, or drastic mood or personality changes may be victims of teen dating violence.

Some signs to watch out for include changes in motivation at school or in extracurricular activities. Changes in eating behaviors and sleeping habits may also indicate teen dating violence. And if you notice a teen withdrawing from other relationships and social activities, they may be experiencing abuse from a romantic dating partner.

Abusive Partner Behaviors

Sometimes it can be easier to recognize abusive behaviors on behalf of the partner who is inflicting the abuse. If your teen is constantly having to check in with their partner, prove who they’re with and what they’re doing, or reassure their partner, they may be experiencing teen dating violence. Partners who call or text excessively are not engaging in healthy relationship behaviors.

Additionally, if you notice your teen’s partner putting them down, embarrassing them, or trying to isolate them from other friends and family members, they may be engaging in abusive behaviors.

What To Do If You Think You Recognize Teen Dating Violence

If you think you recognize teen dating violence, there are a number of things you can do to take appropriate, helpful actions.

First, if you are a teen who is experiencing teen dating violence (or you think you might be), trust your intuition. Research shows that abusive behaviors increase in severity over time rather than decrease. It’s important to prioritize your safety and create an action plan before the abuse gets worse. Start by talking about your fears with a trusted family member or friend. You can also call a domestic violence hotline (below) to discuss options that will help you stay safe and protected.

If you are a parent, friend, family member, or another supporter of a teen you suspect is experiencing dating violence, start a conversation with them. Remember they may be reluctant to leave an abusive relationship, and do your best to remain sensitive and supportive, yet firm about the importance of their safety. You can also learn more about how to support teens experiencing dating violence by calling or texting one of the resources below.

At Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, we provide special services to help teens who are victims of teen dating violence. We have a teen advocate on staff who can provide teen counseling sessions for free. We also run a teen dating violence advocacy program called Teens Ending Relationship Abuse (TERA).

For more information, help, or support regarding teen dating violence in our community, please contact Emily at emilyekart@safeshelterofstvrain.org or call her office at 303-772-0432. You can also call our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422 or text the TERA textline at 720-340-8372.

At Safe Shelter, we are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time. All services are available in English and Spanish.

Shelter Myths Debunked: What It’s Really Like to Stay at Safe Shelter

Survivors who are contemplating leaving their abusers are understandably overwhelmed by the unknowns of the future. One of the most overwhelming things can be finding new housing, even if just temporary housing in a shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

Shelters are poorly portrayed in the media, so most people don’t have a realistic idea of what it’s actually like to stay in a shelter for survivors. And because it’s so important to keep our shelter location a secret so our clients and staff are protected, no one knows what the shelter looks like or what to expect from the shelter atmosphere.

To ease your fears, we’re debunking 6 common myths about staying in a shelter and providing a clearer explanation of what you can expect from staying at Safe Shelter. For anyone considering reaching out about Safe Shelter availability, we hope this information will ease your fears and provide you with the confidence you need to take the next step in leaving your abuser.

The 6 most common myths we hear from those who have never stayed in a shelter are:

  1. Shelters have no privacy
  2. Shelters don’t accept pets
  3. It will look bad if I bring my children to a shelter
  4. My abuse isn’t severe enough
  5. Shelters are connected to CPS, law enforcement, etc.
  6. I’m not female, so the shelter won’t accept me

Below, we’ll share why these are just myths and explain what you can actually expect when you stay at Safe Shelter.

Myth 1: Shelters Have No Privacy

The number one myth we hear about shelters is that shelters have no privacy and are like big open dorms. Although we can’t speak for all shelters, Safe Shelter isn’t built like a dorm. In fact, Safe Shelter was custom built for us and thoughtfully designed to try and create the most welcome and comfortable environment.

Our shelter keeps families together in their own rooms, so you’ll never be separated from your kids. If it’ll just be you staying at Safe Shelter, you may share a room with other single folks. Prior to COVID-19, a single person might have expected to share a room with one or two other singles, but usually never more than that. Depending on COVID-19 protocols at a given time, that number may be fewer.

Our common areas do provide a space for residents to socialize and eat together. All our spaces are kept clean and are well-maintained. We’re lucky to live in a community where we have access to nice furniture, kitchen appliances, and kitchen tools for everyone to use. For meals, we all have the opportunity if we so choose to take turns cooking a community dinner for the entire house.

Myth 2: Shelters Don’t Accept Pets

Not all shelters accept pets, but Safe Shelter does! Our shelter is pet-friendly and we accept all pets as long as we have the capacity, including cats, dogs, small animals, and more. We know that one of the hardest things about leaving your abuser is the possibility of leaving a pet behind. And if you fear your pet may be in danger, you may not be able to leave at all.

We’ve endeavored to remove that barrier to leaving by always allowing pets at Safe Shelter. Plus, we think pets at Safe Shelter contribute to a more fun and welcoming environment for everyone. So by all means, reach out to us to see if we have room for your furry (or scaly, or feathery) family member! We’d love to welcome you both. And if we don’t have the capacity for your pet, we can connect you with other options to arrange for boarding if necessary.

Myth 3: It Will Look Bad If I Bring My Children to a Shelter

Many people worry about how their family, friends, or abusers will react if they bring their children to stay in a shelter. In fact, some victims fear that their abuser will contact CPS or use their shelter stay against them in court. For example, some fears we’ve heard include the idea that the abuser will tell the court that the victim has taken their kids to an unsafe or dirty shelter.

We want to ease those fears by reassuring you that our shelter is a safe, welcoming, and clean place for both adults and children. We provide services for children of all ages as well as access to resources for children through the St. Vrain Valley school district and other community agencies.

We know that children are particularly vulnerable to both domestic violence situations and to changes in their routine. However your child is responding to their circumstances, we provide support, resources, and creative activities to help children work through trauma, develop self-esteem, experience normalcy, and heal from abusive situations.

Myth 4: My Abuse Isn’t Severe Enough

Some people think they don’t belong at Safe Shelter because they believe their abuse isn’t severe enough. This is especially common for people who aren’t experiencing physical violence from their abuser. But the truth is, emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse are all very serious.

At Safe Shelter, we provide a safe place for anyone needing to flee these situations for the safety of themselves, their children, and/or their pets. If you’re experiencing abuse that makes you or your loved ones unsafe, you are eligible for a space at Safe Shelter.

5. Shelters Are Connected to CPS, Law Enforcement, Etc.

While we are mandated reporters, Safe Shelter is in no way part of the justice system or other institutions such as Child Protective Services (CPS). All interactions with us are completely confidential and we will never share details of your situation. We can provide support as you navigate these systems, but we are not extensions of the police or legal system.

6. I’m Not Female, So the Shelter Won’t Accept Me

Contrary to popular belief, Safe Shelter is not just a women’s shelter. Safe Shelter space is available to all individuals who are experiencing domestic violence, human trafficking, or elder abuse. We do not discriminate against cultural, ethnic, economic, language, or disability factors and we welcome anyone who identifies as male, female, or gender non-conforming.

Learn More About Staying at Safe Shelter by Giving Us a Call

At Safe Shelter, we are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. We would love to hear from you and answer your questions about what it’s like to stay at Safe Shelter.

You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time. All services are available in English and Spanish.

Safety Planning Around the Holidays: How to Create a Safety Plan That Works For You

The holiday season can be a time of joy, celebration, and a chance to spend time with loved ones. Festivities are frequent and family gatherings are common in communities all over the country.

But for survivors of domestic violence, the holidays can also be a time of added stress and danger. There are many things about the holidays that can heighten the frequency or severity of domestic violence incidents, including but not limited to:

  • The stress of spending so much time with family and friends
  • Financial stress
  • Increased traveling (limiting a victim’s resources and/or freedom to escape)
  • Increased time spent together due to having time off from work
  • Increased alcohol or drug consumption

There is limited research to say whether or not domestic violence increases during the holiday season. Some research from the National Domestic Violence Hotline reports a dramatic drop in the number of crisis calls they receive during the holiday season (from the week of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day).

However, this may be because victims are unable or unwilling to disrupt family time or to get away from their abusers. Nevertheless, this time of year can be stressful and dangerous for any victim of domestic violence. The importance of safety planning during the holidays cannot be overstated.

What Is Safety Planning?

A safety plan is a plan of actions you develop to keep yourself and other victims (such as children or elderly family members) safer from an abuser. A safety plan may include items such as an escape or exit plan, strategies to protect children from harm, ready-made excuses to leave the home if the victim believes the abuser is about to get violent, or even a restraining order.

A safety plan is highly individual. Strategies that work well for some victims may create more danger for others. For example, one victim may choose to keep a bag of clothes in her car in case she needs to exit the house quickly. Other victims may avoid this strategy if their abuser closely watches their actions and may be more likely to find out about the hidden clothes and become violent.

No matter what, your safety plan should be designed to keep you and other victims as safe as possible from your abuser. Any strategies that might place you in more danger should be excluded from your safety plan. Trust your instincts and get help from a trusted advocate like those at Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley if you need it.

Tips for Safety Planning Around the Holidays

If you’re a survivor of domestic violence, you know better than anyone what will make you feel safer during the holidays. The following list includes tips for safety planning around the holidays, but remember that not all of them will apply to you and your situation. Choose only those tips or strategies that will truly make you safer.

Communicate With Loved Ones

If you feel comfortable doing so, communicate with a trusted friend or family member about the abuse you’re experiencing. Asking for their emotional support may help you to feel less isolated and afraid, especially during the holidays. They may also be able to help you review your safety plan or help you think of other ways to protect yourself when necessary.

If you’re afraid your abuser will find out that you’ve told someone about the abuse, you may want to be selective about who you tell. And if you do decide to reach out to a loved one for support, remember that they cannot (and should not) tell you what to do. All decisions are still in your control.

Limit Alcohol Availability if Possible

If alcohol worsens your abuser’s tendency toward violence, try to limit the availability of alcohol at holiday gatherings or in your home if possible. You may have to draw on the support of friends and family members who will attend holiday gatherings to keep the alcohol to a minimum.

Brainstorm Valid Reasons to Leave if Necessary

There may be times when you recognize the signs of violent behavior before it begins and need to exit the home immediately. Prepare a list of valid reasons for why you could reasonably need to leave the home at any time.

These reasons might include needing to run an errand, checking on a sick neighbor or family member, shopping for gifts or groceries, helping someone with holiday decorations, etc. If you can, see if a neighbor, friend, or family member can be on standby to act as your excuse if necessary.

Protect Yourself Financially

You never know exactly when you might need to leave the home, so you may want to hide some extra cash to use for emergencies such as a ride service or book a hotel room. You can also purchase a prepaid credit card that can’t be traced back to you.

If hiding money isn’t a safe option, think about who you could call to loan you money temporarily and make a plan with them in advance.

Keep Important Documents and Other Necessities Readily Available

Similarly, you may want to start gathering important documents that you would need to take with you if you decide to (or have to) leave your abuser. These documents might include:

  • Financial records and bank account numbers
  • Car registration/insurance
  • Driver’s license or ID card, passport, Social Security card, green card, immigration papers, or work permits
  • Important papers for you and your children (e.g., birth certificates, school and medical records, etc.)
  • Government benefits cards
  • W2s, pay stubs, or tax returns
  • Protection orders, divorce papers
  • Police reports and custody orders
  • Journals, images, or anything else that documents the abuse

Additionally, you may want to set aside a few pairs of packed clothes in a place that is hidden but easily accessible to you. Make sure to also pack any items of sentimental value, as well as items needed for any children or pets. And finally, don’t forget to organize any needed medications so those are easily accessible in case you need to escape quickly.

How Loved Ones Can Support Survivors Around the Holidays

If you know or suspect a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, there are things you can do to help support them around the holidays. First and foremost, remember that you cannot make any decisions for them and that all decisions about what to do are in their control.

One of the best things you can do to support victims of domestic violence is simply to listen to them and let them know that you are there for them. If you’re able, let them know how you can help them, such as offering a place to stay if they need to escape or connecting them with available resources, like the services at Safe Shelter.

You might also be able to help them create or go over their safety plan and offer ways to support their strategies if possible. For example, offer to be available by call or text throughout the holiday season (and after!) if they need physical or emotional support. You can also volunteer to be one of their “excuses” to go on shopping trips or visits if they need to exit a situation quickly.

Above all, checking in with your loved one regularly and letting them know that you’re there for them will go a long way to help them feel supported.

Create a Holiday Safety Plan with an Advocate at Safe Shelter

At Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, we are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. Our advocates are trained in safety planning and can help you make a custom safety plan for the holidays to keep you and your loved ones safer from abuse.

If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time. All services are free and available in both English and Spanish.

Find The Services and Support You Need at Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley

Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley (Safe Shelter) has been supporting victims of domestic violence (DV) since the 1970s. In the past few decades, we’ve helped victims find shelter, create custom safety plans, gain the confidence to live independently if they wish, and get the support they need. And even though the word shelter is in our name, we’re much more than just a shelter.

Although we do provide emergency shelter for victims of domestic and dating violence, elder abuse and human trafficking,  we also support victims who are not in need of shelter. We give victims a voice and a safe place to share their feelings, concerns, fears, and anger. We provide space for victims to share their stories without judgment and without repercussions.

Who Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley Serves

Safe Shelter provides services and emergency shelter to all victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, family and dating violence, and elder abuse. We do not discriminate against cultural, ethnic, economic, language, age, or disability factors. We welcome anyone who identifies as male, female, and gender non-conforming. Everyone is accepted at Safe Shelter.

Unfortunately, that does not mean we can serve victims of all types of violence. Our services are specialized in serving victims of intimate partner violence, human trafficking, and elder abuse. We are not equipped to serve victims of non-DV sexual assault, roommate violence, or one-time incidents of violence, such as mugging. We are, however, happy to point you to appropriate resources.

What You Can Expect From Services at Safe Shelter

At Safe Shelter, we offer seven major programs for victims of domestic and dating violence, including:

  • Emergency Shelter
  • 24-Hour Crisis Line
  • Individual and Group Counseling
  • Advocacy
  • Legal Advocacy
  • Community and Peer Education
  • Information and Referrals

Our goal is to assist individuals experiencing domestic violence in whatever ways they need support, and is certainly not to tell them what kind of support they need! Read more about each of our programs below to find out if one or more might be helpful to you or a loved one experiencing domestic violence. All our services are free, confidential, and offered in English and Spanish.

Emergency Shelter

As with all of our services, individuals of any race, gender, culture, ethnicity, language, economic status, age, and disability are welcome at our emergency shelter. Our shelter is located at an undisclosed site for the safety of our clients, employees, and volunteers. We accept anyone fleeing imminent danger from partner violence, human trafficking, or elder abuse as our capacity allows.

Our shelter offers a clean, welcoming, and comfortable environment for non-offending victims and their children. We also accept pets in the shelter, which can be a comfort to victims with pets. Our facility is ADA-compliant and can accommodate up to 31 adults and children nightly. Shelter clients are, of course, offered access to our other six services before, during, and after their shelter stay.

Shelter stay is limited; however, in rare cases where obstacles prevent survivors from obtaining employment, identity papers, legal resolution and/or affordable housing, we may be able to offer our Extended Stay Program.

To inquire about shelter availability, please contact our office at 303-772-0432 or our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422 if calling outside of regular business hours.

24-Hour Crisis Line (English and Spanish)

Our 24-hour crisis line is available to take your calls at all hours of the day and night. Whether you’re in immediate danger or are experiencing a crisis related to a domestic violence situation, we are here to talk with you and connect you with appropriate resources as needed. You can call our crisis line at any time by dialing 303-772-4422. The crisis line is accessible in both English and Spanish.

Individual and Group Counseling

We also offer individual and group counseling to survivors of domestic violence. We provide counseling and advocacy services free of charge for one session or many depending on your needs and desires. We’re also pleased to also offer youth-focused and teen counseling services for children of domestic/family violence and victims of teen dating violence.

In addition to one-on-one sessions, we facilitate group counseling sessions to our clients, which can be incredibly powerful. Our adult group counseling sessions offer a safe space to share support and assist one another toward a safer, informed, and independent life (if that’s what you wish).

Our counseling services are provided by bilingual (Spanish and English) domestic violence advocates. Although they are not licensed therapists, our advocates are well-trained in domestic violence issues and are prepared to listen and guide you through the options you have available.

We do not require that you have left or plan to leave an abusive relationship to access counseling services. Our advocates will meet you exactly where you’re at. In addition to providing a warm, understanding space for you to share your thoughts and feelings, our advocates also provide:

  • Crisis intervention
  • Safety planning
  • Counseling
  • Case management
  • Advocacy
  • Community referrals to basic support needs
  • Healing
  • Progress toward self-identified economic and personal goals

No matter what kind of support you need, we are here for you!

Advocacy

Our advocates  provide ongoing support and assistance to help survivors move forward from traumatic events in their lives. Having an advocate empowers you to work towards your individual goals and make decisions that are safe for you and your children.

An advocate can also help ensure your basic needs are being met and you’re taking care of the most important tasks on your to-do list. Rather than making decisions for you, an advocate makes sure you have the education and knowledge you need to make informed decisions yourself.

Legal Advocacy

Although not all survivors choose to pursue legal action, we help support those who do. Among other things, we maintain a registry of attorneys who are experienced with cases of domestic and family violence and immigration issues. Our attorneys have agreed to work for a reduced fee if you do not qualify for traditional legal aid.

In addition to a registry of attorneys, our experienced legal advocate provides information, support, and assistance to victims before and during their days in court. We can assist with civil protection orders, provide criminal justice advocacy with law enforcement and prosecution (including victim’s compensation and victim’s impact statements), and advocate for you within the child protection system.

Additionally, we realize that most of our clients aren’t legal experts themselves. Our legal advocate helps educate you about the court systems in general and we can even accompany you into court if you wish to have support standing behind you. Our legal advocate program seeks to increase safety for both adults and their dependent children.

Community and Peer Education

The more we all know about domestic violence, the more we can do as a community to prevent it. We offer many educational programs that can be presented in our office or at a space of your choosing. We provide presentations, workshops, targeted training, and in-service sessions at faith-based groups, nonprofit organizations, businesses, schools, community events, and more.

We cover topics such as DV 101, dynamics of abuse, identifying trouble signals, prevention strategies for dealing with violent relationships, how to access available resources from the many programs we offer, and more. We can also cover custom topics of your choosing.

If you’re interested in scheduling an educational session, please contact Jenny by emailing jenny@safeshelterofstvrain.org or calling our office during business hours at 303-772-0432 for more information.

Information and Referrals

Finally, we know that supporting victims and survivors of domestic violence is a community effort. While we do everything we can to provide the best support possible, we also know that we can’t do it alone. When appropriate, we provide our clients with information and referrals to other resources as needed. We will always work to make sure you’re connected with the support you need.

Learn More by Calling Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley

At Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, we are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time.