Who Is In Your Support System?
When you’re going through a tough time, you often feel alone. But you’re not — there are people all around who can help! Confiding in a trusted friend, teacher, supervisor or family member can be the first step toward building a system of support that will help you stay safe. So, who can you turn to?
Your family may be a great resource if you’re experiencing dating abuse. They may know you best and be around the most, but it can be really hard opening up to a family member. What if your parents didn’t want you to date at all, and now you’re in an abusive relationship? Will you get in trouble? How can you even bring up the topic to your family? What if you confide in a sibling and they tell your parents? It’s understandable to be embarrassed or scared to approach family members.
We want you to feel empowered to get the support you deserve. No one should have to go through an unhealthy or abusive relationship alone. Consider these steps when turning to family members for support.
Identify a family member you trust
No one knows your situation or family better than you do. Who can you talk to in your family about what you’re going through? Who’s a good listener? Who has your best interest at heart? Consider which family member you are most comfortable just being around. Also, think about that person’s experience with relationships. If you admire their relationships, maybe they can help you figure out what to focus on.
Ask yourself, “Am I ready to share?”
Just because you’ve picked a family member, doesn’t mean you’re ready to talk yet — and that’s ok. If you feel close to your sister but haven’t spent time with her lately, try to bond more before bringing up the topic. Spending time together may help you feel more comfortable when you’re ready to share. Test the waters by bringing up a related topic and gauge how your family member responds.
Bring up the topic
It can be hard to talk about dating abuse. If you can’t find the words to start, consider a creative icebreaker. Ask your family member to watch a movie with you and pick out a film like Lifetime’s “Reviving Ophelia.” Or share an article that discusses dating abuse via email and talk about it when you get home that night. No matter how you approach the topic, you’re doing the right thing by speaking out.
Set your boundaries
Once you’ve decided to share your situation, consider what role you want your family member to play. If you only want to talk and not receive advice, kindly let them know. If you want what you share to be confidential, tell them that upfront.
Know that the family member you tell might inform someone else. If physical abuse is happening and they’re worried for your safety, they may inform your school or even the police. If you tell a sibling, they may feel overwhelmed and involve your parents. Sharing can be a risk, but the support you receive may outweigh any violation of trust.
Be prepared for a strong reaction
What happens after you share? Often, family members react in a way that makes you feel like they’re mad at you, when they’re really mad at your abusive partner or the situation. They’re upset because they love you and don’t want you to be mistreated. If they start ranting against your significant other, let them know that it hurts and isn’t helpful.
If you need guidance finding your support system at home, please chat with us today. We can help you find a way to open a dialogue at home.
What if my family loves my partner?
If your family loves the person you are with, it may be difficult to get them to see or understand that this person is abusing you. However, talking to someone close within the family or someone else that knows your relationship situation like a friend may be helpful. That person may be able to help you talk to your family about your abusive partner. Remember that although your family may love your partner, they should also want the best for you.
Schools have a responsibility to keep their students safe. If it makes it easier for you, consider talking to the teacher and/or counselor that you feel the most comfortable with. Talking with someone can be hard — but it can also make your situation easier and help keep you safe. Choose the teacher or staff person you feel most comfortable with and talk to them about your situation. They are there to support you through difficult situations, particularly ones that may affect or disrupt your learning. We know it may not be easy, but especially if your abusive partner goes to the same school as you, it can be really important.
Remember, a teacher or counselor may be a mandated reporter, meaning they may be required by law to report your situation to the authorities if you’ve been physically hurt or a crime has been committed. Chat with a peer advocate to find out about the mandated reporter laws in your state.
What is a mandated reporter?
Mandated reporters are adults who work in particular fields who are required by law to report any type of child, sexual, physical or financial abuse. Examples of mandated reporters include teachers, school counselors, doctors, nurses, dentists, social workers and police officers. They are required to tell an appropriate authority if you’re being neglected or in real danger. Mandated reporting rules are different in each state. Remember, these laws are meant to protect you, not get you in trouble.
What are my rights at school?
Every student has the right to go to school and be free from harassment, abuse and discrimination. Schools should be a safe place to learn. If someone or a group of people are making school dangerous for you, consider telling someone who can make the situation better, like a school counselor or administrator.
You also have the right to call the police if you need help. If you’re in immediate danger, dial 911 right away.
Approaching school administration
Speaking to school staff or administrators may seem intimidating, but they are there to help and support you. If you have a favorite teacher or counselor, speak to them in private. Go to see them during lunch or outside of the regular school day. If it makes you more comfortable, bring a good friend who already knows the story. Tell the school official your concerns and what would make you feel safer. Ask what the school can do to help during class, after-school activities and when you’re arriving and leaving school.
Once you’ve spoken with someone, be sure to check back in with them. Tell them whether or not things are getting better and ask if they’ve taken the steps you talked about.
In Your Community
When you’re going through a tough time, you often feel alone. You are not. There are people all around who can help. Consider reaching out to these members of your community if you’re in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
Try reaching out to your friends but be careful about what you share. Friends can provide a lot of support, but they can also spread information you’d rather keep private. Make sure to specifically point out anything you want to keep secret and share the fact that breaking your trust may put you in danger.
Do you have a favorite teacher? Try talking to him or her for support. If you aren’t close with this person already, it may be awkward. Stay after school and start by discussing your homework or questions about class. Once you feel comfortable, let them know you need to talk. Understand that your teacher may be required to tell someone about your situation, depending on the state or school policy.
A faith leader or mentor
Someone in your faith community may be a good choice to open up to because they probably share your values, are willing to talk with you and may be able to speak confidentially. If you don’t know the person well, tell them about yourself first and see how they react. If they’re judgmental, they’re probably not a good choice.
Consider talking to your school counselor — they may be trained on dating abuse and should know the related campus’ policy and resources. They may also be able to help you talk to your parents, campus police or school principal. Try approaching your counselor about a different problem. Then, based on their reaction, decide if you feel comfortable talking to them about your relationship.
If you have a coach you feel comfortable around, hang around after practice or approach them during a free period at school. Since coaches often focus on both mental and physical well being, yours may be able to provide a unique perspective on your situation. Again, know they may be required to report any abuse to their superiors.
Consider your extended family when looking for support. A close aunt, uncle or cousin may be able to help you. Be upfront with your family member about your needs. It’s ok to say you’re only looking for someone to listen if you’re not ready for advice. Also, be sure to point out any information you want to keep confidential and clarify what’s ok to share with others.
Campus safety or police
Ask your local or campus police for help before and after an abusive incident. Feel free to use them as a resource by asking questions about your rights. Campus police should be aware of school policies about dating violence and may know resources available on campus. Local police hopefully have similar information about the law and community services. Consider requesting an officer to periodically stop at your residence and check on your safety.
If you ever feel unsafe, be cautious and call your local law enforcement. Once you’re safe, make sure they file a report on the incident.
Most people prefer to keep their professional and personal lives separate. However, if you’re in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, this separation can be complicated. We know it can be hard to tell anyone about your situation, but talking to your coworkers may help keep you safe. Here are some ways to create a support system at your workplace.
Talk to a coworker
A coworker can provide emotional support and play a role in your safety. Before confiding in someone, consider the same steps we suggest for selecting family support. Make sure the person is really trustworthy and supportive.
Tell the coworkers you trust what your partner looks like, so they know not to let him or her into your workplace. Also, ask them not to reveal your work schedule so your abusive partner won’t show up unannounced or know your daily routine. If you don’t want to share your personal information with everyone at work, make sure to tell your trusted coworkers to keep your situation private.
If you feel comfortable talking to your boss or someone of authority at work, you may find out there’s a policy in place or a friendly manager designated to assist you. Also, you can provide those you tell with a copy of your restraining order if you have one, and they can then help you enforce it by calling the police if your abusive partner shows up.
Make friends with building security
If you feel your abusive partner may come to your job, leave their picture with the security guard and ask they never let your partner into your workplace. Also, consider asking to be walked out of the building if you don’t feel safe.
No security in your building? Then it’s even more important to tell a coworker and/or your supervisor. Ask a friend to walk you out of the building and scout out alternate exits if possible.
Does your company or organization have additional job sites? It may be possible for you to switch locations without any penalties to your status at work. If you relocate, it will be harder for your abusive partner to find you.
You may also be able to ask for time off for court hearings or counseling without losing your job.
Know your rights
Some states consider domestic violence as “good cause” to leave a job. If you live in a state where this is true, you may qualify for unemployment benefits if your abusive relationship is interfering with your ability to work.
If you are in an abusive same-sex relationship and fear disclosing your situation will cause you to be discriminated against at work, there may be laws in your state protecting you.
Chat with a peer advocate to learn more about the laws in your state.
Do you know what to do if your abusive partner shows up at your work? What will happen if they call while you’re working? Be prepared — create a safety plan.
Your friends can be great support systems for helping you if you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Many times friends already know or see that your relationship is unhealthy. However, even if they do know, telling them about your situation may still be hard. You might wonder: What if they tell someone else? What will they think of me? Will they understand? Will they judge me?
A friend you trust
Start by picking someone you feel you can trust. Make sure to specifically point out anything you want to keep secret and share the fact that breaking your trust may put you in danger. Remember that even though you might be really close, you may still find it hard to talk to your friends about your relationship.
They might already know your situation or have an idea of what it might be, but they could also be totally surprised. If you don’t like their reaction, switch the conversation. Remember, you can only control yourself, not what your friend does. Be very clear about what you don’t want them to tell others, especially if it concerns your safety. You know your friends best — try to pick the ones who are most likely to support you.
Support from friends can be come in many different ways. Support may be something as simple as them just being there for you and listening to what you have to say. It can also be someone that gives you advice when you need it. Another way your friends can also be supportive is by helping you create or carry out a safety plan. Friends can…
- Walk to and from classes with you during school.
- Make sure to never leave you alone with your abuser when they are with you.
- Keep important things with them if you’re afraid that your partner might find them when they’re with you (for example, any evidence that your partner is abusing you).
- Make sure you have a ride wherever you go.
Remember that friends are the ones most likely to know and see that you’re in an abusive relationship.
Set your boundaries
Once you’ve decided to share your situation, consider what role you want your friends to play. If you only want to talk and not receive advice, kindly let them know. If you want what you share to be confidential, tell them that upfront too.
Know that the friend you tell might inform someone else. If physical abuse is happening and they’re worried for your safety, they may inform your school, family or even the police. Sharing can be a risk, but the support you receive will hopefully outweigh any violation of trust.
Not everyone will understand
What happens after you share? Often, friends may react in a way that makes you feel like they’re mad at you, when they’re really mad at your abusive partner or the situation. They’re upset because they love you and don’t want you to be mistreated. If they start ranting against your significant other, let them know that it hurts and isn’t helpful.
Don’t forget: you can always call, chat or text with a loveisrespect advocate!