Today is Youth Homelessness Matters Day…and I’m so very proud to have guest blogger, Sarah from the We See Magic blog, return to the Danger Diary to share her tips and experience as a former homeless teen.
Using knowledge and inner courage, we can take our power back, and also help others.
Sarah has done both.
If you know someone who is in trouble or in an unsafe situation, there are options.
Sarah: This time last year I shared my experience in “17 and Homeless” , to highlight the importance of Youth Homelessness Matters Day.
I was blown away by how many of you commented with messages of love and support, and shocked by how many of you shared a similar story.
The fact is, the leading contributor to homelessness is domestic violence.
Secrecy, threats and silence means abuse often goes unreported. Often, when we do disclose, we are not believed. When this happens, sometimes suicide and homelessness can feel like our only option.
We are not strangers to you. We are your neighbors, your friends, your tribe – and you are not powerless in making a change.
The problem doesn’t just lie in our homes,
it lies in our reaction.
People experiencing abuse are often threatened, scared or feel extreme guilt over what is happening to them.
‘Telling’ somebody can be the most difficult thing to do…
but it is also the first opportunity to make change.
The most important things you can do to help somebody to reclaim their life and to empower them to take the first steps towards safety are:
♥ believe in them
First you need to know what domestic violence looks like, and understand how to help somebody (including yourself), if you feel like you or somebody you know may be feeling unsafe at home.
You are never alone. You are never stuck. There is always a new world waiting. You deserve to feel safe. It is never your fault.
This is how you can make a change.
What Is Domestic Violence?
1800RESPECT says: Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour shown in an intimate relationship over time, that puts one person in a position of power over another.
To me, domestic violence is about a power play, it may act as emotional abuse (name calling, put downs, disrespectful treatment), isolation (from your family, community or even stalking your phone or facebook accounts), physical attacks (choking, beating), acts of sexual violence, stalking or monitoring, psychological abuse or gaslighting (denying abusive behaviour ever occurred or blaming the person being abused for being mentally unwell), financial abuse, preventing somebody from holding a faith or spirituality (or forcing them into one), threatening harm to loved ones (including pets or children), or legal abuse (threatening to exploit, intimidate or disempower).
The short version is:
If you feel ongoingly unsafe at home, it is not okay. You do not have to stay stuck in that situation. You do not deserve it. It is not your fault. It is abuse, and you, are a survivor.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Helping Somebody Experiencing Domestic Violence
DO – believe them. Take their fears seriously. Always. You may be the only person they have trusted enough to tell.
DO – research, find out what you can about support services in your area, work out who can help support both the person experiencing domestic violence, and you as a support person. You are not alone.
DO – help them to create a safety plan (more tips on that later)
DON’T – victim blame. Violence is never okay. Never blame the victim or minimize the abuser’s responsibility for the abuse.
DON’T – rush the process. It can be tempting to try to pull them out, but remember that there are often a lot of complicated feelings around abuse. Abusers love power play, and often, people experiencing domestic violence still love their abusive partner/parent, or have other reasons to stay. Don’t try to rush their process or feel as though you know how to help them. Instead, listen to what they want and need from you.
DON’T – feel as though you are alone. Try as much as possible to help your friend to connect with other support services, go with them and hold their hand through the process if you need to.
DON’T – feel guilty if something happens. You are not responsible. All you can do is be there.
One of the most powerful things anybody can do whether they are feeling unsafe at home, or know somebody is, is knowing that they are prepared to leave if they need to.
How to Make a Safety Plan
(If you are helping somebody to create a safety plan, start by listening. The person experiencing abuse is the expert on her/his situation. Try to understand the risks, and what s/he already does to increase safety. Keep in mind that there may be multiple perpetrators or people who will support his/her abuser. Remember that it is not your job to judge or make decisions. Leaving is not always a safe option. Trust and empower.)
Part 1 – Making ‘Home’ Safe
♥ Make a list of places you can go if you need to get out.
♥ Know your house and where you can go if you feel unsafe. It could be by locking the bathroom door, or knowing there is a low window in your bedroom.
♥ Keep a list of support numbers, including trusted friends and family, in your wallet.
♥ Create a code with a trusted friend or family member, so that if anything happens you can easily access help fast. An example could be ‘I’m going to be running 11 minutes late tomorrow’ is code for ‘please come pick me up’ or ‘22’ is code for ‘call the police’. Make it something you can type quickly.
♥ Have your own prepaid mobile so you can stay in touch with people.
Create an escape plan.
♥ Figure out your coping mechanism. It could be reading, watching movies, doing yoga, walking the dog – know what it is and practice it on the daily. You deserve it.
Part 2 – Creating a Network
♥ You are not alone. Write a list of people you can trust and their phone numbers and emails. Include your doctor, counsellor, friends/family, local shelters, crisis support lines and anybody you feel you can talk to.
♥ Reach out to them. Ask them to be a part of your network. Let them know where you’re at and what you need from them. Trust yourself.
Part 3 – The Escape Plan
♥ Make a list of places you could go if you needed to. It could be a safe house, a shelter, a friend or a cheap hotel.
♥ Have a list of support numbers. Post your area and crisis support number in the comments and help other people connect. Include numbers of local taxi’s and police stations.
♥ Have a bus ticket, spare change, and some cash ready to go. Keep it with you at all times.
♥ Pack a backpack with essentials, a change of clothes, spare medication scripts if you need any, important memories, your birth certificate/passport/important paperwork and ID, your phone charger, some muesli bars, the bare essentials that you absolutely can’t be without. Ask someone you trust to keep the bag for you in case you need it, or, if you have access to a gym/school/uni/work locker, consider keeping it there.
1800RESPECT – call 1800 737 732 or talk to someone online at www.1800respect.org.au
The National Domestic Violence Hotline – call 1800 799 7233 or visit www.thehotline.org
PLEASE add your own country and support hotline in the comments!
Please share this for people who might need it. We can all make a change together.