It can be hard to understand how seeking safety can first lead to danger. But it can.
When victims call Safe Horizon's domestic violence hotline, it's often in a moment of desperation and crisis and, all too frequently, immediately after a terrifying incident of violence.
People dial, reaching out to a complete stranger for help to make a life-changing decision.
When victims choose to leave a domestic violence situation, they have made one of the most courageous choices imaginable. Few people realize just how dangerous the week victims choose to leave truly is.
You may be asking, "Why is the week when a victim chooses to leave so incredibly dangerous?" In order to reestablish control, abusers may respond in extremely violent and unpredictable ways once they find out the victim has decided to leave. In fact, a recent separation is one of the reliable indicators of lethality identified by researchers who have studied domestic violence homicides.
At Safe Horizon, we know from firsthand survivor accounts just how dangerous this week can be.
Ilianexy was a client who barely survived a brutal attack at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. Six days after she left him, he showed up at Ilianexy's apartment and stabbed her multiple times. After six weeks in an induced coma and seven surgeries she eventually recovered. But not all victims do. And this is why putting an end to domestic violence is so desperately needed.
So what can be done during that most dangerous week when a victim decides to leave in hopes of a safer future?
Domestic violence experts know from firsthand experience that hotlines are an incredibly important means to help stop domestic violence. And research proves this--it shows that hotlines decrease the risk of harm by providing victims with the information and resources they need to make informed decisions during times of extreme crisis.
Clients' safety is the number one priority for hotline staff. Together with the victim, these trained specialists explore risks, develop safety plans, and link survivors to critical services.
In 2014, Safe Horizon answered more than 112,000 calls to our hotline and provided telephone services to nearly 9,000 individuals seeking domestic violence emergency shelter housing. In fact, 80 percent of New York City domestic violence shelter residents are placed through our hotline.
This makes shelters another critical service during this most dangerous week. Research shows that shelters have been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of ongoing violence.
Why? Because shelters place a strong barrier between a victim and abuser. They are confidential, their addresses unlisted, and no one is allowed on the premises without advance clearance. It is extremely important that when victims leave that they cannot be found by their abuser. This means that staying with family or friends may not be the best solution as it is very likely the abuser knows where these individuals live, leaving victims vulnerable to being located.
At shelters, victims gain access to essential resources, such as food, child care, housing advocacy, linkage to employment and education resources, and so much more to ensure their most immediate needs are met. And so victims are able to focus on rebuilding their lives.
Ultimately, hotlines and shelters transform what can be the most dangerous week into one that will one day be looked upon as the moment victims became survivors.
To learn more about Safe Horizon, please visit us on the web at www.safehorizon.org
To do your part to raise awareness and help stop domestic violence, here are three ways you can help:
1. Let victims know a hotline is available. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and are in need of help, call Safe Horizon's anonymous domestic violence hotline, 800.621.HOPE (4673) in New York City; or The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800.799.SAFE (7233) nationally.
2. Know the signs of domestic violence. Click here to learn the 10 signs.
3. Support solutions and #PutTheNailinIt to end domestic violence. Donate today to Safe Horizon's #PutTheNailinIt campaign to support programs and services that stop domestic violence, like hotlines and shelters. Then paint your left ring fingernail purple to show your support. Learn more at www.putthenailinit.com.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.