by Max Balakoff
Content Warning: This blog post contains information that might be upsetting to some readers. References to and/or discussion of inter-relationship abuse and victim-blaming follow.
It’s been an unprecedented year for all of us. We are a world trying to process great loss, a world in mourning. Some of us lost loved ones, jobs, businesses, housing, support systems, or economic stability. All of us lost our sense of normalcy and expectation for stability. From undersocialized toddlers to hungry older adults, the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are vast, traumatic, and varied. One impact that often flies under the radar is intimate partner abuse. When we talk about abuse, we may be talking about physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse. Abuse can involve anyone: any gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. Anyone can be subjected to abuse and anyone can perpetrate abuse. The realities of the pandemic make the already difficult task of seeking assistance even harder for those experiencing abuse in their relationships. Social distancing, families stuck at home together, canceled social events, and financial strain can work together to further isolate and/or intimidate those experiencing abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, you might wonder what you can do to help.
How to help others
If someone you know might be experiencing abusive behaviors, it is important to validate their experience. Do not place the blame on them. Our society has made progress in understanding how abuse works, but counterproductive and/or harmful ideas and practices are still common. Believing survivors of abuse are responsible for the actions of their abuser is called ‘victim-blaming.’ This perspective is not only false but harmful for the individual experiencing the abuse. Sometimes we may perpetuate victim-blaming in subtle ways. We may tell someone that they are “codependent”, or that they are seeking out abusive partners. We may be prone to try to figure out what the survivor is doing wrong and how their actions lead to the perpetrator abusing them. When blamed for the actions of their abuser, survivors become less likely to seek out help. They might also internalize, or believe, the message that they are at fault for their situation.
Current research on supporting survivors of abuse shows that the most helpful approach is to validate and seek to understand the experience of the survivor. Validation can take many forms. Simple phrases, such as, “I believe you.” or “What can I do to help?” can be hugely impactful to a survivor who is disclosing their experience. Support them to make choices to protect themselves, respect their choices, and understand that they are experts in their own life. Listen and be present when they speak. Below are resources for individuals seeking assistance with an abusive situation. Share these with the individual who made a disclosure to you and follow their lead.
How to help yourself
If you are experiencing abuse, know that it is not your fault. You are not responsible for the actions of your abuser. You are not alone. While everyone’s experience is different, there are resources and organizations that can help you. Check out our list below.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing abuse, it can be helpful to talk with a mental health professional. A trained therapist or counselor can help you process your experiences and learn about mental illnesses and other factors that contribute to an abuser’s behavior. For anyone who may have perpetrated abuse, it can be helpful to talk with a mental health professional to process factors contributing to abusive behaviors and learn non-violent ways of expressing yourself and relating to others.
Reach out if you want to talk with one of our counselors. Call for an appointment at 504.831.8475, or fill out a client intake form here.
Where to find help
Metro (Metropolitan Center for Women and Children)
– counseling and shelter for survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking
- Emergency 24 hr. Hotline: 504-837-5400
- Statewide: 1-888-837-5400 and/or 1-888-411-1333
- Jefferson: 504-837-5400
- River Parishes/St. John, St. James, St. Charles: 985-651-7397
- Domestic violence shelters in St. Tammany/Slidell: 985-781-4852
- Sexual Assault Crisis hotlines in Slidell: 504-483-8888, 504-643-9922, and/or 504-643-4259
Project S.A.N.E. (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner)
Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans
1450 Poydras Street
St. Bernard’s Battered Women’s Program
Office number: 504-277-3177
Emergency Hotline: 504-277-3178
Victim Assistance: 1-504-827-5035 or 1-504-827-7225
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
National Emergency 24 hr. Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
This number will connect you to the Rape Crisis Line closest to you.
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