“That Sounds Like My Brother”

Young smiling woman in sweater stands next to young man in sweaterAfter class, Serena approached LifeWire’s Youth Advocate to talk about what she’d learned from LifeWire’s presentation on healthy relationships. Her voice shook with emotion as she spoke. Serena explained that her older brother Simon had experienced an abusive relationship a few years before.

Serena described the verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse Simon experienced from his girlfriend. How she tried to manipulate and threaten him with comments like “If you loved me, you would do this,” and “I guess you don’t care about me, no one does. I should kill myself.”

She was a constant presence in Simon’s life. Calling all hours of the day, demanding his attention when Simon had practice or family commitments, and intentionally causing problems with his friends and then demanding Simon choose between them and her. The abuse affected Simon’s mental health, his relationships with his friends and family, and his ability to enjoy the things he loved like playing lacrosse.

Serena teared up as she talked about how LifeWire’s healthy relationship training made it clear that domestic and dating violence isn’t just men hurting women. All genders can experience abuse.

Because she’d see it first-hand, she found it comforting and helpful to hear that violence isn’t just physical and that abuse can take many forms. Serena wished Simon could have had the training when he was younger because it might have saved him a lot of pain and isolation. Simon, she shared, didn’t tell any of his friends what was happening because he was embarrassed. The stigma of being a young, male survivor of dating violence kept him from reaching out for support from friends and community resources. But, Serena reflected, she was so glad the training would help other young men like her brother.

Domestic Violence and What You Can Do

Purple flower on black background, four ways you can take action against domestic violenceSafe and healthy families are the key to ensuring safe and vibrant communities. We each have the power to change our culture of violence to one of kindness and compassion through words and our actions. Here are ways you can help build a world free from violence where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Continue reading “Domestic Violence and What You Can Do”

“They are Powerful”

On a cold February morning, a dozen Eastside high school students arrived in Olympia excited to participate in Domestic Violence Advocacy Day for the first time. The members of GOVAA (Gender Orientated Violence Advocacy and Activism), an after school club at Interlake High School, all share a deep commitment to supporting survivors of gender-based violence and promoting healthy relationships within their school and community. Many have experienced domestic violence in their own families or watched friends struggle with dating violence and unhealthy relationships. They were eager to tell their stories and, as one student shared, “change the world.”

Group of teen smiling at camera

In the morning, the students gathered with DV advocates from across the state to learn about legislation affecting survivors. Many of the youth were surprised by how many of the bills aimed at preventing homelessness and addressing poverty would also help survivors of domestic violence. By the time they met with their representatives, the students felt energized to “improve the lives of our community members.”

Their enthusiasm was contagious. After sharing their personal stories about gender-based violence and how violence impacted their family and friends, a legislative aide told LifeWire’s social change manger “they are powerful.”

Young people have a tremendous ability to shift culture if we empower them. The youth only spent a day in Olympia, but it had ripple effects in the community and their lives. Several of the bills the youth advocated for became law, increasing protections for survivors and low income families. GOVAA is looking for other ways to enact policy changes on the Eastside. And one of the students has decided to run for student body office next year.

Bailey’s Story

Bailey seemed tentative when she approached the LifeWire advocate. The sophomore health class had just finished an hour and a half training on domestic and teen dating violence. Working in pairs, the students acted out different dating scenarios designed to teach them how to recognize the warning signs of unhealthy relationships. Bailey told the LifeWire advocate that she recognized several of these signs in her own relationship.

Young woman, looking confidentShe had been dating a boy at her Eastside high school for several months. Over time, he became increasingly controlling. He checked her texts, demanded she spend time with him and refused to listen when Bailey tried to break up with him. But, because he had never hit her or yelled at her, Bailey hadn’t considered their relationship unhealthy.

For twenty minutes Bailey talked with the LifeWire advocate about how to approach the break-up she planned for the next day. Together, they created a safety plan, discussing where the break-up would take place and how she would get support from friends and family.

Thanks to partnerships with local high schools, colleges and universities, LifeWire uses innovative exercises to engage students like Bailey and provide them with the skills they need to have healthy relationships. These trainings also open the door for students to talk about domestic or teen dating violence and receive the support they need to live healthy lives.

Domestic violence happens on the Eastside

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Becky met her former husband while backpacking in Australia. They married in Britain, but she followed him to the Eastside.

Looking back Becky realized the abuse started while they were dating, but became steadily worse after they married. He controlled all of their finances and criticized her for buying things even though they both had good paying jobs.

Over time the violence became more physical. He shoved her and hit their dog. Finally he strangled her. Becky reached out to LifeWire for safety planning and financial support as she worked to leave her abuser and start a new life.

During October’s Domestic Violence Action Month, LifeWire’s Executive Director, Rachel Krinsky, domestic violence survivor, Becky, spoke with Gary Shipe about domestic violence and you can do to help survivors.

Listen to the full segment here: