At Birthright, we realize there are varying reasons why an unplanned pregnancy may elevate to the status of ‘crisis’; one of those is when pregnancy occurs in the midst of a domestic violence situation. Sadly, 1 in 4 women in America will experience physical violence at the hands of their intimate partner during their lifetime.
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According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, pregnancy is the 2nd most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. Pregnancy can escalate the risk of abuse especially if the pregnancy was unplanned. Sometimes the partner may be jealous of the attention given to a woman or her baby to be. There may also be increased stress due to financial hardships that pregnancy may bring can heighten the risk.
As an organization present to support pregnant women during these types of crisis situations, we want to take a moment during Domestic Violence Awareness month to share some ways we can collectively and individually support victims of Domestic abuse and shed light on this dark reality.
Talking To Someone Experiencing Domestic Violence
Oftentimes, women caught in abusive relationships do not come forward to share their reality out of fear or embarrassment. They may wait to do so until the abuse has escalated to a new level of fear for others, perhaps children or other loved ones.
It can be daunting and uncomfortable if someone you love does confide in you about a personal past or present experience with domestic violence. The YWCA of Metro St. Louis offers tips on ways to navigate the conversation with understanding and compassion:
Listen. Remind the person that they do not deserve being abused and it is not their fault. Abuse is never ok, regardless of the circumstance.
Validate them! Listen to them! Reassure them that you are there to support them. They need to feel safe with you in order to share their experience.
Let The Survivor Tell You How They Feel
Give the survivor control. Many aspects of their lives are outside of their control. They need to feel empowered. You are not there to make decisions for them or tell them what to do.
Support Them, Don’t Judge Them
Do not criticize the person for not leaving or for going back to the relationship. There are many reasons survivors stay in abusive relationships, including fear of how their partner will react or uncertainty about providing for themselves, low self-esteem, or fear of abuse to loved ones.
You are there to support, not judge.
Encourage Them To Get Help
Encourage them to stay connected or increase their connection to friends and family when possible and in a safe way. A strong support system allows the victim to feel loved and possibly empowered to leave an abusive relationship. You are there to be a consistent friend and to help provide and inform her of resources; we have compiled a list of the resources at the bottom of this article.
If someone you know or you yourself decide it is time to leave an abusive relationship, it is imperative to have a safety plan in place. It is best to consult with and/or confide in a trusted friend, professional or domestic violence program when considering leaving the abusive environment. Attempts to leave need to be thought out and prepared for – you should leave without the intention or having cause to go back. Be aware that violence often escalates during attempts to leave. Planning ahead and evaluating your options can help reduce the risk. Some of the steps in a safety plan can include:
- Decide on a safe place to go initially, if needed. Some public safe place locations include fire stations, libraries, community centers, and social service agencies, and any business marked by a safe place sign.
- Help prepare your children by identifying safe places they can go during violent situations and emphasize that it is their job to stay safe NOT protect you. ** (NDVH)
- Pack an escape bag which includes important documents, cash, personal items, a list of emergency contacts, phone charger, and/or prepaid cell phone
- Decide on a code word to use with friends and family to use when help is needed. Decide what type of assistance is wanted from friends and family and make sure that is communicated to all parties clearly and confidentially.
Rehearse Your Escape
If you are pregnant, doctor appointments can be a time to share your situation with someone who can help.
For more information on safety planning, click here to create an individualized plan with help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
When someone you care about finds themself facing domestic violence, remember that it is not your job to fix this problem or “rescue them”. It is very difficult to watch someone you care about get hurt. Although you may not be able to make the abuse stop, you can be consistent support and help connect them with resources such as counseling, shelters, or law enforcement. It is important to remember and respect what the victim wants and how they ask to be supported.
If you or someone you know finds themselves in a situation of domestic violence, help can be reached at various local and national resources.
If you or someone you know experiencing domestic abuse becomes pregnant or thinks they may be pregnant, our counselors are here to help. Call or text us at 636.724.1200. Birthright St. Charles will partner with your local ER and other agencies to address the crucial need for support and safety. All of our services are completely CONFIDENTIAL, and we will never reveal your information to a requesting party without your explicit consent.
Resources For Addressing Domestic Violence
*YWCA Metro St. Louis: 314-531-7273 – 24-hour emergency services hotline/ Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services
** (NDVH) National Domestic Violence Hotline:1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Bridgeway Behavioral Health: 1-877-946-6854 – Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Crisis Lines
LAAW (Legal Advocates for Abused Women) For immediate assistance, call our legal helpline : (314) 664-6699 or (800) 527-1460
Safe Connections 314.531.2003 24-Hour Crisis Helpline –
The Women’s Safe House: 314-772-4535 24 Hour Crisis Intervention Hotline
ALIVE: 1-800-941-9144 24 Hour Crisis Line
Whether it’s supporting someone you love experiencing domestic violence, continuing the conversation about the prevalence of this issue, or supporting an organization that provides relief and respite for victims we all have a part to play in the goal to end Domestic Abuse. Together, we can make a difference.