violence

Staying Safe

 
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Assessing your safety

A closer look at keeping yourself safe

 

Steps you can take to stay safe

At times we underestimate the amount of danger we could be in either because we don’t realize we’re in danger, or we don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is. Being safe is important.

Here are actions you can take to ensure your safety:

Assess the situation. Ask yourself: How likely is it that someone could hurt me? If it’s necessary, you might have to move to a location that is safer or not take risks that you could avoid, such as walking across campus or home from a bus stop alone late at night.

Find support. Making a decision to leave a situation or relationship, where you feel unsafe might be hard and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, like a friend, teacher, counselor, or other mental health professional.

Talk to the police. If you feel you are in imminent danger, call the police. They can also help if you or someone else has been hurt, or if someone has threatened your safety.

Believe in yourself. If someone is threatening to hurt you or harming you in any way, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence. Remember: It’s never O.K. for someone to hurt or threaten to hurt you. You are worth far more than that.

Know your rights. It might be a good idea to check out your legal rights if you suspect someone is breaking the law. Harassment and assault laws, as well as other laws dealing with your safety, vary from state to state.

Prevent access to your internet activity. If someone is hurting you and you are searching for help on the internet, you may not want that person to have access to this information. Remember to turn your browsing history off or to delete it after the fact, if you feel you have to.

Generally, it’s good to be cautious about your safety when using the internet. With so many forms of personal information on the internet, you have to be careful. The Nemours Foundation and WebMD offer several suggestions for internet safety.

Stop and think about the consequences of taking unnecessary risks

Some things that jeopardize your safety are things you can control, which is great! That means you can be proactive at ensuring you’re safe. Some of those things might be:

  • Making good decisions about drinking and not driving

  • Knowing your limits when drinking alcohol

  • Not going home with someone you don’t really know

  • Not having unprotected sex

  • Watching your drink at a party (See Date Rape Drugs for more information)

  • Driving yourself to a party, so you can leave if things feel unsafe

  • Being aware of your surroundings

  • Not picking up hitchhikers

  • Listening to your gut or intuition

It’s particularly tempting when you first get out on your own and are not under your family’s eye to experiment and try things that you might not have tried before. That’s natural, but you can still be independent without making unsafe choices. Our Risk-Taking article offers more on this topic.

Consider a safety plan

It might be necessary to have a safety plan in place before you leave the situation where you feel unsafe. Consider these points before making your safety plan:

Have somewhere safe to go. If you can’t think of anywhere to stay, you might want to contact a shelter.

Tell someone. If possible, tell your friends and family members to see if they can help protect and support you. You might also want to talk to someone who’s removed from the situation, like a counselor, social worker, or one of the trained volunteers at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, or RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network at 1-800-656-4673 or Lines for Life’s Suicide LifeLine at 1-800-273-8255. Even if you’re not suicidal, they’ll still talk to you and give you support regardless of what you’re going through. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.

Have cash on hand. If you can, save some money so you can leave a situation you don’t feel safe in. In these situations, you might need to pay for transportation or temporary housing, so having cash on hand can make this easier.

Minimize your time alone. Remember: There’s safety in numbers. Try and be around other people whenever possible.

After you feel safe

Once the crisis has passed, it’s usually easier to work out what to do in the future should you find yourself in the situation again. If someone close to you is putting you in danger, it might be necessary to end your relationship with the person, which could include moving. This will probably be a hard step to take, so have as much support as possible.

If you’re concerned for your safety in the future it might be necessary to talk to the police, change your phone number or screen your calls through an answering machine. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides important advice about protecting your identity after moving to a new location. You might want to check out the website even if you are not worried about a specific person, as it contains useful tips for anyone to protect themselves.

Remember: There are many people and services that can help. Just talking to someone you trust about your concerns can help you see your options more clearly.

 

Additional resources, and information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Date Rape Drugs

 
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Date Rape Drugs

A closer look at what date rape drugs are, how they affect you, and how to stay safe

 

Date rape drugs are types of drugs that are used to aid someone in committing sexual assault or rape. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can be spiked with date rape drugs, and it can happen at clubs, bars and parties. The effects of date rape drugs depend on a number of factors, including your size, weight, and the amount or combination of drugs used. If you were to consume these date rape drugs, you may become unconscious or unable to defend yourself or remember what happened during the time the drug was in your system.

Types of date rape drugs

Three common types of date rape drugs used in the U.S. are GHB, Rohypnol (also known as “roofies”) and Ketamine. These drugs are powerful and fast-acting. Once you swallow a date rape drug that’s been put in your drink, it can take effect either immediately or within a half hour. You may not know that your drink has been spiked with one of these drugs until you start to feel the side effects—like dizziness, nausea, confusion, sleepiness, or a drunk feeling—because these drugs are often clear in color, odorless, and tasteless.

Aside from these drugs, alcohol is the most common drug used to commit any type of sexual violence like sexual assault and rape. Someone might add alcohol to a non-alcoholic drink or add more alcohol to an alcoholic drink to make it much stronger. Don’t assume that you can always taste the alcohol in your drinks. If your drink is sweet or has strong flavors, the taste of alcohol can be masked.

How to prevent being drugged

  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended. If someone offers you a drink, go to the bar with them

  • Don’t share drinks or drink from a communal punch bowl that someone else has prepared

  • Buy your own drinks and know what you are drinking

  • Don’t drink something you did not open, or see opened or poured

  • If you’re unsure about your drink or if you think it tastes strange, stop drinking it. In some cases, GHB can taste salty, although this taste is often masked by the taste of a drink.

What to do if you think you’ve been drugged

If you think someone has put a date rape drug in your drink, immediately tell someone you trust, like a friend, or call the police. If you’re in a public place, you can also tell the bartender, waitress, manager or security staff.

You might not realize that you’ve been drugged until several hours, or even days, after it happens. If this is the case, it is still important to tell your doctor that you suspect you’ve been drugged. They can check for the presence of certain drugs through urine or blood tests within 24 hours. Depending on the circumstances, a doctor or the police may ask you to take a sexual assault kit (or series of tests to determine if you may have been sexually assaulted while you were drugged). You may not have realized that you were assaulted. To find out more about sexual violence and assault, please review the Sexual violence fact sheet.

Date rape drugs and the law

Although certain drugs like Ketamine are legal in the U.S. for medical purposes, they’re tightly restricted and should not be used to drug someone against their knowledge. Roofies are illegal in the U.S., and in every case, sexual assault and rape are illegal.

 

Information in this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Interpersonal Violence

 
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Interpersonal Violence

A closer look at what it is, how that can look, and how to get help

 

What is interpersonal violence?

Interpersonal violence occurs when one person uses power and control over another through physical, sexual, or emotional threats or actions, economic control, isolation, or other kinds of coercive behavior. Some different types of interpersonal violence include:

  • Abuse is any behavior toward another person that is physically violent or involves emotional coercion, or both and one person is in a position of authority.

  • Bullying which is a type of harassment that can be verbal, physical, or online. It can also take the form of coercion where someone is threatened by another person and as a result of those threats, the person being bullied feels intimidated and pressured into acting a certain way or doing a certain thing. This is called peer pressure. Bullying can occur in all settings—school, work, home, neighborhood and the internet.

  • Intimate Partner Violence occurs when one intimate or romantic partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through words and actions that are physically and emotionally abusive. Dating violence can take many forms including physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse. It occurs in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and can be instigated by either males or females. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced some form of severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

  • Sexual Violence is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. This can happen between strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, classmates, “friends”, intimate partners and family. It includes:

    • Inappropriate touching

    • Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration

    • Sexual intercourse that a person says no to

    • Rape or attempted rape

    • Sexual harassment or threats

    • Peeping or Voyeurism (watching private sexual acts)

    • Exhibitionism (exposing themselves in public)

  • Youth Violence refers to aggressive behaviors, including slapping, hitting, kicking, bullying, punching, fist fighting and knife fighting, as well as robbery, rape and homicide.

  • Gang Violence refers to acts of aggression and violence and criminal activity committed by a group of peers where the group usually has an identity (e.g. a name; a sign; a neighborhood). In some neighborhoods, the pressure to join a gang occurs early and can be very difficult to resist. Members often join to feel a sense of family and community, and to achieve power and respect. On the flipside, members may worry about their own safety and fears of being abused by others in the gang. Gang members include all genders.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, call a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a trained volunteer. One hotline is the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.

Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional. The US Department of Health and Human Services, Women’s Health Information website provides additional information about what to do if you have been sexually assaulted.

What triggers violence?

There are a number of reasons why a person might become violent. Some of those reasons might be:

  • Anger

  • Frustration

  • Sadness

  • Trying to control another person

  • Having a short temper

A person’s belief system might also influence how the person behaves. Someone who acts aggressively or violently may believe that violence is an acceptable way to deal with anger or an acceptable way to get something that the person wants. The person may also have grown up in a family where violence was part of how family members interacted with each other.

Some ways to stop being violent

Violence is NOT okay and nobody should have to put up with it. Being angry, confused or frustrated are all normal emotions, and there are non-violent ways of expressing these emotions. If you’re having trouble managing your anger, you might want to check out the Anger & Violence and Anger Management articles.

Deciding to do something about your violent behavior is a big step and it takes a lot of courage.

Look at what makes you violent. To stop this behavior, it might be useful to make a list of the things that trigger your violent behavior. This could be a person, a situation, a mood, or drugs and alcohol. By knowing what triggers your violent behavior, you can start to avoid these things or try to work out ways to deal with the situation.

Who is affected by your violent behavior? Does it hurt anyone physically or emotionally? Do you want to have safe and secure relationships, or do you want people to be afraid of you? These questions might help you see how your violent behavior can negatively affect you and the people around you.

Talk to someone. Putting an end to violent behavior is not always easy, and having someone to support you can be helpful. You don’t have to do it by yourself. Going to counseling or visiting another mental health professional might be able to help you find ways to deal with your violent behavior.

Drugs, alcohol and violence

Using drugs and alcohol increases the likelihood that a person might act in a violent way. If you’re finding that you become violent while drinking or taking drugs, you might want to look at ways to better manage your drug and alcohol intake. A counselor or other mental health professional who specializes in addictions counseling can help you do this.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

 

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Knowing Someone Who Is Being Bullied

 
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Do you know someone that’s being bullied?

A closer look at what you can do if you know someone that’s being bullied

 

What is bullying?

Bullying usually involves one or more people teasing, being violent towards, or harassing somebody on an ongoing basis. Bullying can happen in person or online and through cell phones. Check out the Cyberbullying and Being Bullied articles for more information.

Is someone you know being bullied?

Bullying might be difficult to recognize, as it can happen when the person is alone. People who experience bullying might be scared to talk about it, or they might feel ashamed about being bullied. This could lead to them trying to hide what is going on. If you haven’t been present when a person is being hassled, some indications that he or she is being bullied are:

  • Lack of motivation

  • Vagueness (especially when he or she is talking about certain topics)

  • Unusual behavior

  • Physical injuries

Take care that you don’t immediately assume that the problem is bullying. These signs might be visible for a variety of reasons, and not only because a person is being bullied. People can show these signs because of their personalities or because they’re dealing with other issues.

What to do if you think someone is being bullied

Talk to that person. It’s a good idea to talk to the person you think is being bullied to find out more about the situation. Try to remember that the person you are talking with could be very sensitive about the situation and could be scared to talk about it.

Let that person know you care. Help boost this person’s self-confidence. If a person is being bullied, it could affect his or her confidence. It can help to let this person know that you are a friend and that you care. It can also help to point out all the great things he or she has to offer others to boost his or her self-esteem.

Include the person into your group. Making a special effort to include the person into your group could help raise the person’s confidence.

Stick up for him or her. If you see someone is being bullied, it might be helpful to say something. Take care to ensure that in trying to stick up for the person being bullied, you don’t make the situation worse or put yourself in danger.

Speak to someone. Letting someone else know about the situation can help you solve the problem. A teacher, counselor or another adult could be helpful. It might also be helpful to involve the person experiencing the bullying in the discussion. Together, you can go and talk to someone about the situation.

Bystanders’ role in bullying

A bystander is mainly someone that is outside of the actual bullying, aware that it’s happening, and making a decision to not become involved. Whereas those bullying and being bullied are directly involved, bystanders observe the bullying happen and choose not to act. There are several things a person does, or does not do, that can make them a bystander. Some of those things include:

  • Purposefully ignoring the event entirely

  • Witnessing the event and choosing not to take the appropriate actions

  • Witnessing the event thinking something along the lines of, “at least that person wasn’t me.”

What is so wrong with being a bystander?

Research on bullying has often concluded that it occurs most frequently in the presence of bystanders who choose to merely watch the events unfold instead of doing something. By being there, you may give bullies more incentive to embarrass and threaten their victims because they will have an audience.

Unfortunately, many people believe that being a bystander is the best option to take. Some reasons people may not intervene:

  • Believing it’s “none of their business,” and therefore they choose not to take sides because it seems too nosy

  • Feeling as though stepping in will make them the new target for the bully

  • Thinking intervening will only make things worse

  • Fearful that telling a teacher or other adult will make them a “snitch” or “tattletale”.

  • Feeling it won’t doing anything or change the circumstances (this is especially true in students who have approached teachers before regarding bullying, only to find that no action was taken)

If you are in a bystander situation, how do you intervene?

Bystanders need to realize that bullying is a serious problem, and that a lack of action on their part will only give bullies more opportunities to torment their victims. Some argue that close to 50% of all bullying events stop when a bystander decides to intervene, which just further shows the importance of intervening. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you witness bullying:

Don’t assume that this is a private matter between the bully and the victim. Incidents of bullying, especially those that are frequent, are often not because of personal reasons.

Don’t combat violence with violence. It takes a lot of courage for someone to step up on behalf of a bullied person. However, don’t use insults or physical violence to defend the victim. Now is not the time to show off. You will most likely only make it harder for the victim.

Do not get discouraged if you have already talked to the teachers and nothing happened. Keep trying. Teachers and other school authorities will respond if they find out that the bullying is becoming a recurrent problem. Try talking to other teachers and counselors so that you can get more people involved in trying to stop the situation.

If you feel that this is none of your business, put yourself in the victim’s shoes. Bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration in a person, and can turn their life into a nightmare. You wouldn’t want to feel that way.

Is stepping in yourself the only way? What if the bullies might try and attack you?

You should never step in to protect a bullied victim if it might also put your own safety at risk. If this is the case, you should talk to a teacher, counselor, or even the school principal if the problem keeps happening. Be sure to ask if you can speak to them in private, in case you are afraid of being the next target for bullies. Even if you are not directly stopping the bullying, by taking action and going to seek outside help, you are taking steps away from being a bystander.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

 

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com



 
 

Joining a Gang

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Should I join a gang?

A closer look at why people join gangs and how you can respond to the pressure of joining a gang

Why do people join gangs?

Many communities in the United States have gangs in them. And some of these gangs have been around for a long time and over many generations. It isn’t surprising that many people in these communities find themselves (both male and female) having to make a decision about whether or not to join. There isn’t just one reason for why people join gangs and the more reasons one person has to deal with, the harder it will be for them to resist joining a gang. It is important to know that having all these issues in your life DOES NOT mean you are absolutely going to join a gang. In fact, many people who deal with some incredibly hard issues in their life do not join a gang. Knowing what to expect, what the other possibilities are, and deciding how to handle yourself are part of making this decision.

Pressure to join a gang

When gangs are all around you, it may seem normal or expected to join. You might not think so, but ultimately, your choice is based on variety of factors and all are very hard to deal with. Sometimes a person’s environment and the people in it can make it seem normal or natural to join a gang. For example, if you live in an area full of gangs, or there are many gang members living near you or going to school with you, you might think it’s normal to join a gang because it seems to you that everyone else is joining. This normalizes gang activity to those that live in those neighborhoods.

If you live in a neighborhood where there is a lot of poverty and gang activity, you might think there’s no way to get ahead and live a happy life. Perhaps for that reason alone you might consider joining a gang to survive the chaos of the neighborhood, the economic distress, or simply to protect yourself. It might seem strange to those not in these situations, but protection from a certain group of individuals could cause a person to get into a gang because they think the gang can protect them.

You might also think that the gangster life is glamorous. People admire the power that a gang member seems to possess in that particular community and wish to attain the same stature. Gang life might also seem glamorous because of the drugs, money, violence, and respect acquired through fear and intimidation. This attracts many people to pursue a life in gangs, but there is nothing glamorous about gang life and you aren’t really protected either—you are constantly in fear of confrontations with rival gangs or the police. Being in a gang increases your chances of getting arrested, seriously injured or killed. Having drugs around may also increase the chances of you developing a drug problem or getting busted for drug possession or selling.

It is really hard to avoid these temptations, especially when everything around you seems to point to the gang life. Some alternatives to joining a gang might be:

  • Joining a sports team or group. Find friends and connections through mutual interests. The people you put yourself around will influence your decisions, so try to surround yourself with people that are going to support you and push you to always be better. It can also feel good to be a part of something bigger than yourself, like through volunteering, joining a play, or starting a band.

  • Focusing on school. If you’re getting good grades, this could help you get scholarships and grants to put towards a technical school or college after high school. This can help you fast-track your career.

  • Journal. Try spending some time writing down your thoughts and feelings about your situation. What are all your options and what is the best one? Weight out the pros and cons. This might help you find alternatives and solutions to joining a gang.

  • Tap into your creative side. Learning to play an instrument, dancing, painting and other forms of art can help you express yourself or distract you from what you’re feeling in a healthy way.

  • Get a part time job. This can help you feel like you’re moving towards your goals in a positive way.

Many communities have community based organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and even some of the local colleges and universities have programs for young people in the community. Talk to your school counselor or favorite teacher too. They might have ideas for you.

The gang life isn’t glamorous and can’t offer you real protection when you think of what could happen to you—going to jail, living in constant fear for your life, or actually dying.

When most people around me are in gangs, why shouldn’t I join, too?

Sometimes the people closest to you can be a huge influence on making a decision to join a gang. Having parents or other family members involved in gangs only intensifies the likelihood of joining a gang. If it’s not having family members that cause someone to join gangs, a friend or friends in a gang may be a really strong motivator to join a gang. If your friends are gang members or associated with a gang, they can be an influence to join. Peer pressure and peer acceptance are some of the main reasons why people get involved in gangs. These things are hard to deal with especially when you feel like you don’t want to be left out of what your friends or family members are doing.

An environment with gangs, violence, and poverty can make a person grow up too fast. Sometimes if you don’t have family support or role models to look up to, you go looking for it elsewhere. Not feeling loved or supported can lead to anger and anger can lead to acting out. Check out the Anger and Violence article for more information about how to deal with your anger.

Many think they’ll find what they are looking for in a gang. Unfortunately, chances are that if you have family and friends in a gang, these same family members or friends have been arrested, put in jail, shot, or even killed. Do you want that kind of life? Do you want to run the risk of being killed? Seriously think it through. Our Risk-Taking article may help you in your decision making process. Sometimes finding a trusted adult to talk to, like a teacher or guidance counselor, can help you deal with the pressure or offer suggestions for how to resist joining a gang.

Having no hope for the future

Sometimes we have a tendency to focus on the positive or fun aspects of joining a gang, like hanging out with friends and gaining prestige. It’s important not to forget the negative impact it could have on your life, though. You might think without joining a gang, there’s not real hope for your future. Maybe asking yourself, “Why care about the negative things that can happen to me?”

The bigger issue underneath this attitude is one that is much harder to tackle. When there is no hope for the future, a person feels that it is easier to go on a destructive path without care or worry of who gets caught up along the way. The truth is that joining a gang is a decision that only a person with no hope for the future can make. If you had hope for a future—a good college education; a good job or career; a family—you wouldn’t choose a life of fear of being hurt or jailed. Would you?

Sometimes finding hope comes in the simplest ways, regardless of your neighborhood or environment:

  • Getting an A on an exam or even a C in a really hard subject

  • Making the football team

  • Getting a part time job

  • Going to a restaurant outside of your neighborhood

Just like there are many factors (sometimes working all together) that lead to people joining gangs. There is not one way, but many ways to keep from joining. Question your options. Talk to someone. The decision to adopt a gang lifestyle is one that has the potential for negative and devastating things to happen—where people die, get hurt, or go to jail. More potential for worse off circumstances than another other lifestyle decision you could make.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Thornberry, Krohn, Lizotte, Smith & Tobin’s “Gangs and Delinquency in Development Perspective” (Cambridge Press, 2003).

Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com




Intimate Partner Violence

 
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Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence

A closer look at how to recognize intimate partner violence and what to do if you’re in an abusive relationship

 

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse that takes place between two people who have a romantic relationship—spouses, partners, boyfriends and girlfriends. Many people also use the word “domestic violence.” IPV can occur in many forms and can affect people of any age. If someone is hurting you, it can be frightening, and you might not know how to make the abuse stop—especially if you live with the person who is abusing you. It’s important to remember that no one has the right to be violent toward you and there are people who can help you.

IPV can take on many forms, including:

Physical/Sexual. Forms of physical violence include pushing, shaking, punching, slapping, forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, throwing things at you, using weapons, damaging your property, or hurting or killing your pets. If someone is being physically violent to you, seek safety as soon as possible. Leave the situation as quickly and safely as possible, and call 911 or your local police.

Emotional/Verbal. This form of violence is often unrecognized as IPV, but it can be just as hurtful and damaging as physical violence. If someone is making threats, texting or speaking to you in a way that is frightening, putting you down, or using blackmail against you, he or she is being emotionally violent. Emotional violence also includes insulting you or teasing you in front of other people, keeping you isolated from family and friends, preventing you from having your own opinions and controlling what you do and where you go.

Economic. Having money—and making decisions about how to use it—is one form of independence. If someone is controlling your money, keeping you financially dependent, or forcing you to ask for money unreasonably, this is another form of IPV.

According to the CDC, 26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18.”

You might assume that IPV only happens between adults or in relationships where two people are living together. But this isn’t the case. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely to report violence in their romantic relationships than any other age group. According to a recent national survey, 8% of high school students reported physical violence and 7% reported that they had experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner within the last year.

How can I keep myself safe?

At times you might underestimate the amount of danger you’re in, either because you might not realize it or don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is because you think that your partner really loves and cares for you. Your partner might promise to “never do it again”, you might feel like you are to blame for their behavior, or perhaps you think you can change your partner. But you are not responsible for your partner’s action—ever—and there are actions you can take to ensure that he or she does not hurt you anymore.

Steps to ensuring your safety:

  • Call the police. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police.

  • Leave. It can be incredibly hard to end a relationship, especially if you’re sharing a home with the person who’s hurting you. Because the person who is abusing you might be manipulating you or isolating you from your friends and family, you might feel like you can’t leave, or that you have nowhere to go. But there is support for you when you feel like you should leave a place where you feel threatened or unsafe. If you need to leave, make sure to take important items, like your IDs, credit cards, cash and cell phone.

  • Get support. Making a decision to leave an unsafe relationship can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, counselor or social worker. You might also want to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453. Hotline volunteers can direct you to local resources and shelters in your area where you can find additional help and support. Our crisis helpline directory also offer links to other services and resources in your country in Oregon, as well as national helplines.

IPV is just one form of violence. Abuse can come from adults, strangers, or your peers at school. You have the right to feel and be safe. For more information on steps you can take to ensure your safety, check out the following articles:

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Sexual Violence

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Sexual Violence

A closer look at what sexual violence is, how it can affect someone, and important laws you should know

Sexual violence is a crime and can refer to any type of sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. The person responsible for the violence is often someone known to the victim, and can be, but is not limited to, a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor. Sexual violence is never the fault of the victim.

Different types of sexual violence

There are a lot of different ways that people can become victims to sexual violence, and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. These acts might include those that:

Do not include physical contact:

  • Sexual harassment

  • Threats

  • Intimidation

  • Peeping

  • Taking nude photos or videos

Do include touching:

  • Unwanted touching

  • Sexual assault

  • Rape

”Sexual assault” in everyday language is a general term that includes rape and other offenses like assault/battery and sexual groping. The definitions and labels for sexual offenses can differ slightly from state to state. In some states, sex without consent is called “rape,” while in others, it is called ”sexual assault,” ”sexual intercourse without consent,” or “sexual penetration without consent.”

Though the term “assault” may bring physical attack to mind, it isn’t just about hitting. Sexual violence can also include using force or fear to make you do things that you don’t want to do.

Why are people sexually violent toward others?

Sexual violence is not about offenders getting pleasure from sex or any other form of harassment, but rather about them asserting power and control over someone else. Some offenders have been abused themselves, but this is not always the case, and there’s no evidence that a victim or survivor of sexual assault will become a perpetrator. To learn more about the theories behind sexual aggression, check out the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

How experiencing sexual violence might affect you

Everyone reacts to the types of sexual violence differently. Individuals can experience a variety of immediate, short-term and long-term effects on their physical and emotional well being. These can include:

Shock and denial. Someone who has been a victim of sexual violence might not accept that it has really occurred. “Has this really happened to me?” and “Why me?” might be common questions that someone asks themselves.

Fear. After any form of sexual violence occurs, a person might be afraid of the offender, other people, or of being alone. A person might also be afraid to deal with the medical, legal or social consequences of the crime, and of being rejected by loved ones because of the sexual violence.

Silence. A sexual violence survivor might be unable to talk about the experience or describe what it means and feels like. There are also social pressures that might keep you from speaking, too.

Anxiety. A survivor might always be on edge. He or she might be unable to relax or feel safe.

Depression. Survivors might be at a greater risk of depression after the incident.

Guilt and blame. A survivor might continually question the events leading up to the violent event, and find fault with themselves or others for the assault. Questions they might ask themselves include, “Why did I go there?”, “Why did I let it happen?” and “Why did I not fight back?”

Low self-esteem. A survivor might feel ashamed or dirty after the assault.

Isolation. A survivor might want to be alone, and have a tendency to close him or herself off from friends and family members. A survivor might also have a hard time getting emotionally close to others after experiencing sexual violence.

Nightmares and flashbacks. Images and memories of the violence might continue in a survivor’s daily life and sleep.

Mood swings. Survivors might quickly change moods from anger and rage to tears and despair.

Loss of confidence. Survivors might become apathetic or self-conscious when working, studying or socializing with friends.

Loss of trust. After an assault, a victim might have a hard time trusting people who weren’t even connected with the incident, including friends and family members.

Lack of intimacy. Survivors might be afraid of, or uncomfortable in, sexual relationships after an assault.

To stay safe, play it safe

Most sexual violence occurs within a relationship (intimate partners, family members, or acquaintances). On average, 74% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger, and 30% are by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual violence can also happen outside of relationships. Check out the CDC’s fact sheet on sexual violence or the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website for statistical or crisis helpline information.

Here are some tips or things you can do to keep safe:

  • Plan to go out and hang out in a group

  • Go out with people you feel safe with and who you know have your best interests at heart. Good friends make sure that their friends are safe and make safe choices.

  • Have transportation plans to make sure you can get to where you’re going and back safely. Carry money for a taxi-cab just in case.

  • Let someone—like your parents, siblings or roommates—know where you’re going and when you’ll be home. If your plans change, let these people know.

  • Alcohol and sex can be a dangerous mix. Remember: if you aren’t in control of yourself, you won’t be able to control your situation.

  • Avoid being alone and isolated with someone you don’t know well. If you start to feel uncomfortable, go with your feelings, and get to a safe place as fast as you can.

  • Take a self-defense class at your local high school, college or recreation center. It might also be a good idea to have pepper spray, wasp spray, a whistle, or a self-defense keychain handy.

Agreeing to one type of activity such as kissing doesn’t mean that it’s a ”green light” for other sexual contact. Remember: it’s OK to change your mind and say no at any stage. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t stop being careful just because you know the person you’re with. You might not know the person as well as you think.

Sexual violence and the law

In the United States, laws relating to sex and sexual violence can differ between states. Crimes such as statutory rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse can just mean people having sex under a certain age (the age of consent), and do not necessarily include force. The age of consent varies between the states, ranging from 14 to 18, with most states setting it at 16. This means that having sex with someone under that age, even if it is consensual, is a crime. Some states base the penalty for these violations on the age of the offender, with older offenders receiving harsher punishments. For example, in certain states, a minor might receive as little as six months or one year in prison, and an older offender might receive life imprisonment. Most penalties range from 10 to 30 years, depending on age and state, according to the Connecticut General Assembly Report.

The federal government has certain laws to ensure that all victims of violence have their rights. Since 2003, every state has some sort of crime compensation program and victims’ rights legislation. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act, a component of the Justice for All Act of 2004, specifies the roles of various criminal justice officials in supplying the information the victim is to receive, as well as in implementing victims’ rights. A second act, the Violence Against Women Act of 1998, enhances the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and increases the jail time of the accused perpetrator before the trial. These laws, along with other state and federal laws are continuously updated and reauthorized.

Sexual violence is a crime. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or was a victim of another type of sexual violence —either recently or in the distant past—you have the right to report it to the police. If you decide to report an assault, an officer will take your statement. If the assault was recent, he or she might also ask you to have a medical examination, during which a health care professional will make sure you’re physically OK and possibly take evidence. Check out the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network for more about what happens during an examination and who might conduct it.

Where to get help

Finding the courage to talk about sexual violence is important.

If you need help, you can call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673 or the National Center for Victims of Crime hotline at 1-800-FYI-CALL. You can also call The Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 to find help in your area. You could also check out our Crisis Helplines directory to find additional resource.. Remember: do not hesitate to call your doctor, nurse, or local health professional if you feel comfortable doing so.

Each state has a sexual assault coalition that can provide with state-specific information and resources.  You can access each state’s coalition through the Office of Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice.

For emergency situations that require immediate and urgent assistance, call 911.

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Abusive Relationships

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Abusive Relationships

A closer look at abusive relationships, how to identify if you or someone you love is in one, and where to get help

When you’re in a healthy relationship, both individuals support each other by sharing the good times and helping each other through the tough ones. When someone matters deeply to you, and those feelings of trust and respect are returned, it enables you to face the world with confidence.

Building and maintaining a healthy relationship takes a commitment from both sides. But it’s worth it, because in a good relationship, you feel good about your boyfriend or girlfriend and good about yourself.

Not all relationships work out, no matter how much we might want them to. When a relationship becomes violent or destructive, it can be both physically and emotionally dangerous for the people involved.

Key signs of an abusive relationship

While everyone’s experience of an unhealthy or abusive relationship will be different, there are some common patterns of controlling behavior and abuse that can surface before the relationship becomes physically violent. These include:

Possessiveness. This could mean that your partner is checking on you all the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with; or trying to control where you can go and who you can see.

Jealousy. This includes accusing you—without good reason—of being unfaithful or flirting, or isolating you from your family and friends, often by exhibiting rude behavior.

Put-downs. These can happen either privately or publicly by attacking how smart you are, your looks or capabilities. In an abusive situation, your boyfriend or girlfriend might also constantly compare you unfavorably to other people, or blame you for all the problems in the relationship.

Gaslighting. This is a common tactic used by abusers to manipulate you and to make you question your reality. They are confident liars and slowly start showing this side of themselves to you, isolating you from loved ones and tearing into your sense of identity and all you care about. If you’ve ever been made to feel like you were losing your mind, it’s likely you were with a gaslighter.

Threats. An abuser might use threats against you, for example, that he or she will use violence against you, your family or friends, or even a pet. He or she might tell you that no one else will ever want to date you. Yelling, sulking, and breaking things are also signs of abuse.

What to do if you are being abused

It’s not OK to be physically threatened or scared into things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy just because you are in a relationship.

It’s not OK to be put down and pushed around—shoved, hit, slapped, kicked or punched. No one deserves to be treated this way. No one should use violence—or the threat of violence—to make you do what you don’t want to do.

It’s not OK for someone to use the excuse that they are tired, stressed, overworked or under financial pressure as a reason for their violent behavior.

If you’re living with your boyfriend or girlfriend and are feeling unsafe, find other accommodations with friends or family, or if that’s not possible, an emergency shelter.

Breaking the cycle of violence

A violent relationship may not be violent all the time. Sometimes, violent people treat their boyfriends or girlfriends very well. They can be loving and sorry for their violent behavior. This can make it hard to see what’s really happening. There is a strong chance that the violence will get worse, and the relationship more abusive over time.

After a violent event, it’s common for both of you to try and make things better by making excuses, apologizing, or promising to change. But there is no excuse for this behavior, and just saying sorry is not good enough. Sometimes the violent person will blame the victim by saying things like “it wouldn’t happen if you did what I said.” Things might settle down for a while, but usually it’s only a matter of time before the build-up to violence starts again.

If you’re experiencing violence in a relationship, things can feel very confusing, especially if it’s your first relationship. You might try to make excuses, think of the violence as a one-time incident, or blame the abuse on the fact that the abuser was drunk or stressed. You might not be sure what behavior to expect from him or her. It’s possible to begin thinking that the violence is your fault, or perhaps you start to try to fit in with whatever the abuser wants, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You could also be feeling scared that he or she will hurt you if you try to leave.

Ending any kind of relationship is hard to do, but it can be particularly difficult to leave a violent relationship. When you’re frightened and your self-esteem is low, it can be hard to find the strength to leave or break-up. Sometimes it’s easier to hope that things will change for the better, but too often they don’t.

The first step in changing things is to understand that what’s been happening to you is wrong. Even if your boyfriend or girlfriend says they care about you, it’s not OK to be treated like this and you deserve better.

Where to get help

Listen to your feelings and trust them. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Talk to someone who cares about you. Talk to your mom or dad, a family member, a friend or someone in your community like your doctor, your teacher or your local religious leader. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. You are not responsible for somebody else’s violent behavior. Your first responsibility is to yourself. To develop a safe plan to leave, check out loveisrespect.org’s comprehensive safety planning guide. The sources listed below can also help you get safe.

Helplines

Many free helplines are available if you think you’re being abused, or are worried for a friend you suspect could be being abused. Check out our Crisis Helpline article to find crisis helplines and services offered both nationally and within the state of Oregon.

Some national helplines you can reach out to:

Both hotlines are confidential and staffed 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who are ready to talk to you about whatever you’re feeling.

 

State resources

You can also reach out to an abuse coalition in your state, which can help connect you to more local resources. Check out the Domestic Violence Coalitions website for more information on state coalitions.

Womenslaw.org has information regarding legal matters and abuse per state that might be helpful looking at before leaving the abusive relationship.

 

Information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Anger & Violence

Anger

A closer look at anger, violence, and how to cope with those feelings

Why do people get angry?

Anger is a normal and healthy emotion experienced by everyone at some point.Sometimes, anger can be a positive emotion, driving us to right wrongs or fix injustices. But sometimes a person’s anger can become uncontrollable and harmful—and it can even lead to violent behavior.

There are many different reasons why people get angry. Some reasons why you might be feeling angry include:

  • Being treated unfairly

  • Having no control over things

  • Being stressed or under a lot of pressure

  • Experiencing body changes, which cause major mood swings

  • Being depressed

  • Having a personality that has a short fuse

All of these things can lead to anger, which is an OK feeling to have. Anger can be a difficult emotion to express and manage, particularly because we have often been taught not to show or express our anger. It is not uncommon to feel guilty or ashamed about being angry, even though it’s a very normal and necessary emotion.

Anger only becomes unhealthy when it’s expressed in a way that hurts others or yourself. Likewise, if you bottle up your anger and don’t express it at all, you might find that it will come out in ways that you didn’t expect. There are many ways of expressing your anger, but becoming violent should never be an option.

Expressing your anger in negative ways

Just as everyone feels angry from time to time, everyone also expresses their anger in different ways. Some ways are more constructive than others, and chances are, you’ve learned how to express your anger and frustration from the people in your life or the situation you grew up in.

Violent behavior, toward oneself and others, can result from anger. It is one way that people express anger and try to control the situations that they find themselves in—but violence is never a positive or constructive way to deal with your emotions.

Certain factors might put you at a greater risk of acting out violently. For example, you might be violent because the people you hang out with use violence or other types of aggression. You might think violence is more acceptable because you’ve seen it on television, in the movies or in video games. You might also act violently because someone—like a bully or even a family member—is being violent toward you. If you grew up in a violent household, you might think that it’s OK to deal with your feelings in a physically aggressive way. Research shows that children who grow up with disruptive home situations might have a harder time controlling anger and are more likely to act out violently. This is often called a “cycle of violence.”

Recognizing the potential for violence

There are certain warning signs that people might have a hard time controlling their violent behavior. Here are a few examples:

  • Regular loss of temper

  • Frequent physical fighting

  • Drug or alcohol abuse

  • Vandalism or property destruction

  • Harming other living things, like animals

  • Making frequent threats toward others

Managing your anger and breaking the cycle of violence

The good news is that any learned behavior—such as violence—can also be unlearned. The key is to first take control of situations that make you angry and manage your reaction to frustration.

Here are some tips to get started:

Use your anger as a signal. When people are angry, they can say or do things that they regret later. If you feel that you are becoming angry, do something to cool down, like counting backwards from 100.

Think about the things that trigger your anger. By identifying common factors in the situations that seem to trigger your anger, you might be able to predict and prepare for future anger-producing circumstances.

Take a “time out”. If you feel that you might lose control, get yourself out of the situation that is provoking you. Tell the person or people you’re arguing with that you need some space to cool down and that you’ll continue this conversation when everyone is calm again. Take a break from the situation to reevaluate what’s happening and think about your next steps and whether any actions could be potentially harmful. Keep telling yourself “I can calm down” and “I’m not going to let this get to me.” Going to a quiet place to chill out will allow you the time to gather your thoughts and feelings to go back into the conversation feeling confident.

Use this time out to think about what really is going on. For example, if you’re feeling angry because your teacher or boss yelled at you, your anger might be stemming from a deeper feeling of inadequacy or disappointment in yourself. Your feelings are often deeper messages. Question why you’re actually feeling this way.

Use your coping skills. Doing something active like kicking a soccer ball, punching a pillow, working out, or going for a run can help you release some angry energy and calm down. Playing video games is another great way to channel anger and violence into a place where it’s more appropriate. If you feel as if you are going to get into a fight, it’s better to do it in a video game than in real life. Music is a great way to release extra energy and get over the intense feelings you have. Strap on the headphones and play your favorite music for a while. It might be helpful to even make a playlist with some jams on it you can listen to when you’re feeling angry.

Talk to the person who is making you angry. When feeling more in control of your emotions, explain your side of things and assert your opinions in a positive way. For example, use “I-statements” such as, “I feel this way because…” Be prepared to keep your cool if the other person doesn’t respond the way you think he or she should.

Respect others’ opinions and reactions. It is important to remember that you can only control your reactions to situations and you can’t control the other person’s. Remember, it’s OK to disagree. If you’d like more information on conflict resolution, check out our Resolving an Argument article.

Don’t let it all hang out! While it’s important to express yourself, it isn’t always best to “let it all out.” In fact, fully acting on your angry feelings without taking others into consideration could actually have negative and harmful consequences. Try to be mindful of the time and place you’re sharing your feelings and be mindful in how you’re doing it.

Avoid using drugs and alcohol. Sometimes it’s easy to turn to substances like drugs and alcohol to help you forget or suppress angry feelings, but the relief you get from drugs and alcohol is only temporary, and the side effects of abuse can make a situation worse.

Talk to someone. Friends and family can be great sources of support if you’re feeling angry and frustrated—as long are you’re talking with them in positive ways and not taking your anger out on them. It can be relieving to vent about your frustrations and get to a place where you can laugh about it. If you don’t have anyone to talk to in person, there are lots of apps and online support groups you can join to find support.

What can I do if I keep getting angry?

If you find that you keep getting angry, or that you are lashing out and regularly becoming violent toward people or things, it may be helpful to speak to a friend or family member, or a healthcare professional like a counselor or your doctor. Speaking to someone may help you identify why you’re getting angry and help you deal with your anger so you don’t need to resort to lashing out.

 

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