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Reactive Abuse: What It is and Why Abusers Rely on It

reactive abuse woman floating in water

One of the most common tactics abusers use is to shift blame for the abuse onto the victim. The abuser will claim the victim is the abuser because of the reaction the victim has. The abuser may even attempt to convince the victim that there is nothing worth reacting over and that the victim is overreacting to the abuse. What the victim is actually experiencing is called reactive abuse.

Definition

Reactive abuse occurs when the victim reacts to the abuse they are experiencing. The victim may scream, toss out insults, or even lash out physically at the abuser. The abuser then retaliates by telling the victim that they are, in fact, the abuser.

Why abusers rely on it

Abusers rely on this “reactive abuse” because it is their “proof” that the victim is unstable and mentally ill. The abuser will hold these reactions against the victims indefinitely. It could be years later and the abuser will say, “Well, back in (whatever year), you had this reaction and acted all crazy. You’re the crazy one! You need help.”

Sometimes abusers use this reaction as an excuse to go to police or even file for protective orders of their own.

A method of manipulation

To manipulate is to unfairly influence a situation. When an abuser claims they are the ones being abused, they are manipulating us into believing we are at fault for the abuse. The abusers are conditioning and manipulating us to accept the blame. The longer this blame shifting goes on, the longer we will believe we are to blame for the reactive outbursts and abuse that the abuser is dishing out. We will begin to believe we are the violent and unstable ones.

This manipulation can even go so far as to cause us to feel shame. When we react, it causes the abuser to claim we are the abusive ones. But these reactions also add a second element to the mix – they cause us to feel bad about ourselves to the point of guilt and shame. We act against what we know to be true about ourselves – that we are good, kind, capable, loving people. But that goes out the window when we experience the guilt and shame more and more. The guilt and shame that the abusers continue to condition us to feel.

Reactive abuse vs. mutual abuse

According to domesticshelters.org, mutual abuse is when both partners are equally abusive to one another. Many survivors often ask themselves if they are abusive too because of how they react, but the truth is that mutual abuse is very rare and many experts don’t believe it exists. The power and control dynamics involved in domestic violence would make it nearly impossible for both partners to be abusive.

The key word here is “react.” That’s the difference between reactive abuse and mutual abuse. Victims and survivors react to the abuse doled out by the abuser.

What we can do instead

When you see yourself reacting in this manner, many times you begin to say to yourself, “Whoa, this isn’t me. This isn’t how I am normally.” When you begin to ask yourself those questions, you know something is not right with the relationship. I know I thought those things before – that I knew how I was reacting wasn’t me. It wasn’t who I was. That’s what the abuser wants – to make you question yourself, your character, and your integrity. But many times, by the time we get to the point of asking ourselves those questions, we are either too scared to leave the abuser or we just don’t have the means to do so.

So what can we do instead? The abusers bank on us reacting negatively to their tactics. When we begin to truly think about how we respond to them, we are taking back our power. We begin to respond and not react. To react is almost like an automatic thing – it’s the fight or flight response. But responding involves a thought process that requires us to really consider our thoughts and actions.

Within the realm of domestic violence, there is always one who initiates or instigates the problems in the relationship. It comes back to that one person needing power and control over their  victim. That’s what abuse is – the imbalance of power. The abuser, however, would like us to believe otherwise and say, “Well, we were abusive to each other. It’s mutual abuse.” It’s because the abusers will never accept responsibility for their actions and instead shift blame for the abuse onto us.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

Break the Silence 2019: What BTS Has in Store for the New Year

By Jamey Sheesley

Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence started in 2011 with founder Kristen Paruginog breaking her silence. Since 2011, BTS has been spreading Kristen’s voice through social media and other forms. Fast forward to the end of 2018 and the BTS Facebook page has over 100,000 followers and the message against domestic violence will not stop there.

Social Media & Advocacy

In 2019, there are plans to create a consistent message between the social media team and the blog team in order to share consistent imagery and branding. According to Social Media Director Brian Nguyen, “The new year brings new adventures and new goals, such as working on taking our social media platforms to the next level by working with influencers across various mediums to collaborate and break the silence against domestic violence.”

We will also place more focus on male survivors and their stories and engage more men through social media. There is a new male support group on Facebook, as well.  

Kristen Paruginog wants all men to know, “We want our brothers to know we are there for them too. Break the Silence supports those from any background…we accept you and we love you.”

This also includes undocumented immigrants; please do not hesitate to reach out to BTS. “Everyone should be able to seek help if they live in the United States,” said Kristen.

Helpline

Not only will BTS be ramping up on social media to share the message, the BTS Helpline will be there to help anyone in their time of need. According to Helpline Director Megan Ultimo, “We will have a goal of 2000 calls for 2019 and a goal of 7 advocates for each day of the week, as well as a per diem advocate to have on-call when needed.”

Fundraising

Another important part of the 2019 is fundraising. You are now able to create a Birthday Fundraiser and other Fundraisers on Facebook for BTS. Without fundraising, BTS survivors would not be able to receive help with breaking their silence through various programs such as the Angel Run, the BTS scholarship program, Hope for the Holidays and many more.

According to Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence Board President Tara Woodlee, “The Angel Run is going to look a lot different this year and that is what I am most excited about because it is going to be more personalized.”

More people are able to participate because it is not a virtual run this year. Supporters can create an Angel Run for their own local area, which is more personable for those participating. Different families will be able to fundraise the amount they can for the Angel Run campaign. The Angel Family Campaign runs from July 1 through July 22.

There is also a new and exciting campaign BTS t-shirt campaign in 2019. This year there will be fresh designs more often, so be sure to check out the BTS store here.

Volunteers & Outreach

BTS is also looking for more volunteers and ambassadors. According to Woodlee, “Our goal is to eventually have separate chapters in different states so we can reach more survivors.”

BTS accepts volunteers from all over the country each volunteer works toward a common goal of awareness, hope, and healing. According to Volunteer Outreach Coordinator Daphne Hesse, “My goal as Volunteer Outreach Coordinator is to bring on at least 90 additional volunteers by the end of the year. I believe we are going to grow our BTS family even stronger this year and be able to extend our resources out further.”

Managing Director Kayla Allen also has the vision to reach more survivors and to reach more supporters. According to Kayla, “BTS is in a place of evolution that will benefit every person that is reached directly or indirectly.”

Anyone and everyone can be a supporter of BTS. If you need help, please do not hesitate to reach out and get help from BTS. If you want to volunteer even though you have never volunteered before do not hold back and reach out. Your voice matters. Visit our website to fill out a volunteer application form. Remember it does not matter what state you live in, you can still volunteer and make a difference.

Stalking: What is It and How Can I Stay Safe?

By Rebecca Lynn

According to the Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention, 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking during their lifetimes. The Stalking Resource Center reports that 61% of those women and 44% of men are stalked by current or former intimate partners. For this article, we will focus on those that you have been in a relationship with, those that have hurt you, continue to hurt you, or you have left.  

What is Stalking?

Each state has its own definition and requirements to charge a perpetrator with stalking; however, in general, stalking is a situation (or series of incidents) that are aimed at a specific person in order to cause them to fear. According to The Stalking Resource Center, stalking comes in a  variety of forms, some seeming more severe than others, but all stalking should be taken seriously.

Some methods of stalking include the stalker:

  • Physically following you,,
  • Sending unwanted gifts, calls or emails,
  • Damaging house and private property,
  • Monitoring computers,
  • Calling phones,
  • Tracking through GPS or spy-cameras
  • Driving by or visiting to your school, workplace, or other regularly visited locations,
  • Researching and tracking through online search sites, letters/bills found in the trash, questioning friends and family, or hiring a private investigator,
  • Being the main topic of an abuser’s conversations, emails, and social media links, often in a negative way that is humiliating and hurtful,
  • Threatening through emails, messages or texts towards you or your family,
  • Experiencing any other incidents that cause you to feel fearful, annoyed, unsafe, vulnerable, on edge, disruption of your day to day activities, or increases signs of depression or PTSD.

Domestic violence is based on power and control. A typical abuser isolates their victim from friends and family, controls the finances, limits or denies access to all social media, and eventually controls the way the victim views and blames themselves. This allows your abuser to continue to have power over you–whether you are with them or not. Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the most dangerous times for a victim, and unlike society’s idea that the relationship is over when you leave, the abuser is often stalks their victims after the relationship ends so they don’t lose their control.

Like most topics involved with domestic violence, stalking is not always clear to outsiders and often the victims themselves. It is also not an offense that is always done after the abusive relationship ends, but frequently occurs during the relationship, as well.  

Some may see the beautiful flowers filling your desk at work or the sweet Facebook posts from your abuser as loving and kind. They may notice that your partner is always where you are, and see it as them wanting to be involved in your life or just checking in on you. What is often intense jealousy can be viewed from the outside as love and protection towards the victim.

At the same time, you may be frustrated because the relationship has ended, but the communication has not. You may be afraid because your partner has threatened you or destroyed your property. You may feel as if you are being researched, followed, or tracked using technology you have little to no knowledge about. Whether you are with your abuser or not, stalking can make you frightened and confused.

How Can I Stay Safe?

According to Reclaiming Your Space, there are many ways for a victim to protect themselves from stalkers, including:

  • Refusing to engage with your stalker through social media, phone calls, or third parties. It is best for all communications to stop,
  • Carrin a cell phone with you, in case of emergencies,
  • Locking your doors at all times when you are at home or leaving,
  • Improving your home safety, research cameras, security systems, floodlights, panic buttons, and other protective devices that can deter and protect you if needed,
  • Creating a safety plan in case your stalker comes to your home. Identifying an exit plan, code-words with your children, and have your bags packed with important papers and items,
  • Applying for a protective/restraining order that can make any contact or your stalker coming within a specific distance, an arrestable offense,
  • Moving, changing doctors, going different routes to everyday places, or changing places you visit,
  • Not visiting public places alone, especially those your victim is familiar with, such as; the kid’s school, shopping, etc,
  • Making others aware of your situation,
  • Getting a P.O. box or looking into an “Address Confidentiality Program” within your states victim resources. Researching how your information becomes public–such as giving your name and number at a store, bills, and ordering packages to your house,
  • Contacting any accounts that you shared with the abuser, as well as all three credit bureaus so they can place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit and
  • Researching how technology can be used in favor of the stalker to track, humiliate, and scare you.

What is Technology’s Role?

Technological advances have done wonderful things for society and continue to improve our ability to earn degrees, work remotely, and communicate with others worldwide, all while sitting in our pajamas. But these advances have also become powerful instruments used by stalkers to intimidate, follow, and harass their victims.

Stalkers often use cell phones, text messages, emails or social media to physically threaten or bombard a victim with unwanted communication. Social media is used to post personal pictures, video’s, or spread rumors, often meant to humiliate and discredit the victim. Stalkers frequently reset victims passwords, open up fake social media profiles, purchase items the victim did not authorize and send emails to others as if they were the victim. All of these actions can increase isolation, lower self-esteem, humiliate the victim, and provide the abuser with a sense of control and communication, whether directly or indirectly.

According to Digital Stalking, here are some ways you can protect yourself while using technology:

  • Changing your passwords on your phones, bank accounts, internet, and social media logins. Do not create passwords that your abuser would be able to guess or that you have used before. You may consider researching and downloading a “password manager” application that will create secure and multiple passwords that are saved safely in an app. You can visit PC Reviews to compare the best “free” password managers available.
  • Educating yourself on the dangers of spyware, a dangerous program that can be installed on your computer. Spyware can gather information such as passwords and websites you have visited and is not detectable by anti-virus software. You can visit www.safer-networking.org, and download the free spyware detector.
  • Limiting or deactivating your social networks, if possible. Social media is one of the most used tools by an abuser to stalk their victims. Even if you have put your accounts on the highest possible privacy/security settings, it is not uncommon for information to be leaked to the stalker. If you choose to continue to use your social media, it is suggested that you close your current account and open up another one under a pseudonym, without a profile picture. You should make sure you and your friends use the highest security options available and only invite those you trust the most. It is essential not to allow personal photos or information to be on social media publicly. Pictures and discussions about you can easily trigger an abuser without any warning.
  • Getting a new cell phone with a new unlisted phone number. However, if that is not possible, it is recommended to back up your phones information and then do a factory reset. When re-adding your data to your phone, keep an eye out for Spyware in the form of programs like “find your phone”, and other apps you do not recognize. You should always have your GPS, bluetooth, and photo geotagging turned off, since this is one of the easiest ways to track a victim.  And don’t forget to change your phone and voicemail passwords.

Where Can I Go for Help?

Stalking is against the law in all 50 states. The requirements, processes, and punishments vary, so it is best to talk with an advocate if you are unsure of your state’s stalking laws.

Documentation is crucial when it comes to proving stalking incidents; this can include texts, emails, witnesses that were there when the stalker drove by, photos of unwanted gifts, or destroyed property. The Stalking Resource Center provides a Stalking Incident log that can be used to track the incidents, provide detailed information to the authorities, as well as document information about the responding officers and the outcome of the report. Or, a simple journal with dates/times and details about the incident will work as well.  Every incident, big or small, should be documented and reported to the police.

Domestic violence doesn’t just occur to victims who have or are being physically abused. Abuse comes in many types, financial, emotional, sexual, digital, and even in the form of stalking. When an intimate partner is involved, identifying, and reporting abuse is an emotional struggle, even after leaving the relationship. A stalker uses fear, creates confusion, and isolation to dominate their victim. It is easy for a victim to downplay, or allow others to disregard the seriousness of stalking. It is confusing to receive flowers and gifts, no matter how unwanted- as a form of stalking. Many victims underestimate the amount of safety planning required after they leave, and just how far an abuser will go to gain back the control and power lost over their victim. If you are unsure if you are a victim you can take a  SHARP  Stalking Risk Assessment to evaluate your risk.

Overall, the best way to tell if you are being stalked is to trust your instincts. If you feel you are being watched, have noticed unusual events, and have an increasing sense of fear, document it and contact the authorities, and a  BTS advocate to help with resources and to create a safety plan.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

Breaking The Cycle Of Abuse: Angel’s Story

By Amy Watson

He told me that he did not have a memory of his parents where violence was absent from their home. He easily told me of four or five places his father moved the family in an attempt to win the battle against the demons of violence that played out in their home. 

I met Angel when I was 17 years old. He and his older brother Joe, his younger brother Isaac, and younger sister Anna Marie were in the same children’s home as me. As you may imagine, sad stories were easy to find at a children’s home—but the Rivera’s story affected me then and now as a domestic violence survivor, their story has impacted me in a completely different way. I want to shout their story from the mountaintops because theirs is a story of hope through unimaginable pain. Theirs is a story to show the world that the cycle of domestic violence can be broken.

Sometimes it does come down to the areas of life that don’t reside in gray: they are black or they are white. Angel told me that the argument that led to both of his parents’ deaths was over the color of a Bible they were purchasing. She wanted white because it signified purity, forgiveness and the hope of a new start; he wanted black because it would not show dirt.

They went to church and had Sunday lunch as a family.  Angel told me how the night before, police officers pulled his mom out of a ditch after she over-indulged in alcohol. It seemed that she’d had enough of the abuse in their home.

Angel said that his parents separated and left them with their father. But despite his mother’s attempts to hide from her abuser, the ex-narcotics agent had his ways of finding her. The fear of his rage drove her and the kids to a local shelter a few times. But after the cops brought her to her old home after that ill-fated night of drinking, she found herself right back in the line of fire.

The next morning, they decided to go to church and try to stay together as a family. They went to the store to purchase those Bibles and that argument continued after arriving back at their home.

Angel told me that he and his brothers were outside playing basketball and listening to music. And then they heard it. As he was telling me the story, he struggled to find a word to describe what he heard. “It was like a light bulb breaking,” he said. 

He continued to tell the story of how, ultimately, those four children ended that day with both parents dead–one of them said his last words to his three boys before taking his own life. Angel explained how he tried to stop his dad from taking his own life. 

He told me how they saw their mom lying in a puddle of blood. 

He told me that they still don’t know if he killed her or if she killed herself. 

He told me about his father throwing him across the room before jamming the gun three separate times before clearing the magazine and finally succeeding at a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

He told me his father’s last words over and over again:  “Tell your sister I love her and call your grandmother.”

And then Angel answered some very difficult questions.

AW: I am writing an article on “Breaking The Cycle Of Abuse” and we are highlighting your family. Do you know if either of your parents were exposed to violence in their homes?

Angel: My father’s dad used to hit them. I don’t know much about my mom.

AW: Have you been a victim of domestic violence or have you been an abuser yourself?

Angel:  I used to, but I didn’t like the way it made me [feel] so I stopped.  I found happiness and let go of all of that hate and anger.

AW: Did you ever seek professional help for the trauma?

Angel: Yes, I went to a doctor for the last two years for assistance.

AW: Do you or did you suffer from substance abuse?

Angel: [I] [d]id do meth when I was younger and it ruined my other family and messed up my life pretty good but I gave that up and changed my life without rehab.

AW: You are married with a beautiful family. It has been over 30 years since your parents died, tell me how you are doing now and how it may be different from early on in your healing.

Angel: I am married.  I have four kids: two boys and two girls ranging from two to 24 years old. I just grew up and learned how to deal with anger better.  You don’t have to become what you don’t want to be if you are willing to not allow it to happen. So, I don’t [want to] become the same as my father. I just don’t want to be that guy.

We are grateful to Angel for allowing us to tell his perspective of his experience with domestic violence and his journey to breaking the cycle of abuse in his own home. Of note, Angel agrees that for his part it was and is important to get help outside of his ability to heal the wounds of this immense tragedy. We can all find hope in his story—we do not have to continue to repeat the cycle of abuse.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

Breaking the Cycle

By Amy Watson

Nature versus nurture: it is a thing.  Generational trauma is currently being studied so that professionals can predict and prevent repeated traumas and even treat potential medical conditions associated with trauma experienced by someone’s parent or even their grandparent.  In many ways, it is safe to assume that trauma experienced even in utero is played out in changes in brain chemistry and DNA in all three generations.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.  Violence played out in homes in front of children significantly increases the risk that those children will repeat what they witness.  Witnessing domestic violence can impact a child’s ability to develop coping skills and practice self- care. It is important for both survivors and victims to understand the importance of breaking the cycle of domestic violence and there is so much hope in the ability to do that, especially with resources that are available.

Hope is a powerful thing and it is found in organizations like Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence.  It is not just the mission of BTS to stop domestic violence; we work to eradicate it.  But until a such time, we will provide support to victims in their quest to find safety.  

But the real work of this organization comes after victims are out of danger and in a place of healing and redemption.  Short of saving lives, BTS helps victims stop the cycle that will continue unless intervention occurs.

Here are a few programs BTS offers to survivors across the country:

Survivor’s Retreat

BTS is currently taking applications for the 2019 Survivor Sister Retreat, which will be held in Colorado Springs, CO.  This annual retreat empowers, educates, and connects survivors through various workshops and activities that encourage attendees to step outside their comfort zone.

Our program best fits survivors who:

  • Already left abusive relationships and are currently not in an unhealthy relationship.
  • Experienced trauma, particularly domestic violence or sexual abuse.
  • Are open to the ideal of challenging their “normal” way of thinking to embrace new ideas.
  • Are welcoming, loving, kind to others, and accepting of others views and differences. We welcome a diverse group each year and want to ensure all sisters feel comfortable.
  • Are seeking medical attention for any mental health concerns.
  • Are aware of triggers and the way your body may react to stress and anxiety.

Survivor Helpline

The BTS helpline is fully operated by survivors.  While there are limitations to helplines, this is a phenomenal program offered to educate and support survivors and victims break their cycle. You can call our helpline and speak with a survivor at (855) 287-1777.

Social Media

BTS has an amazing social media presence with over 100,000 followers on Facebook alone.  Our social media allows people to join and interact with national and local communities of survivors.  Social media allows survivors meet each other, develop friendships and and share their experiences with one another.

Outside of resources offered by BTS, there are other organizations, agencies, and communities that work to help survivors.

Counseling

Many have found a respite in professional counseling for both the victim and children of victims.  A professional counselor can help generate healing, self worth and a sense of responsibility for the survivors part in breaking the cycle. You can find a mental health professional near you here.

Religious Communities

In addition to services provided by an organization like BTS and professional counseling, many survivors find hope in their faith and places of worship.  Many local churches or places of worship will provide a safe place for survivors to heal, build self worth and support them in breaking the cycle of abuse.  

Local Agencies

There are also many local non-profit organizations committed to investing in the lives of survivors and the importance of breaking the cycle of abuse. Many of these organizations have their own counseling services, support groups, and advocates who can provide survivors with emotional support and help them break their cycle. You can find your local domestic violence agency here.

It is important to realize that there is, in fact, a cycle of abuse—that scientifically speaking some of this is thrust on us decades before we are born.  But it is more important to realize that there is hope and progress in breaking the cycle. For many survivors, breaking the cycle is a daily decision. For those of us who have broken our cycles this, the desire is that everyone who reads this understands that it is not only possible, but probable that the heart beating in your chest is all the courage you need to stop this horrible epidemic in its tracks.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

Violating a Protective Order

By Rebecca Lynn

According to DomesticShelters.org, approximately half of protective orders (POs) domestic violence survivors obtain against their abusers who physically assaulted are were violated. Two-thirds of the protective orders for victims of rape or stalking are not followed by the abuser.

These statistics, like most about domestic violence, are a little daunting, but by reporting violations, staying aware of your surroundings, and making safe decisions, a protective order can be an excellent tool to help guard yourself against your abuser. Some victims find it empowering to take back some of the control that their abuser had over them. Orders can also send a message to the abuser that you are no longer willing to take the abuse. Not all abusers hear or accept the message, but regardless, violating the order is a crime and all violations should be taken seriously.

It is essential to understand that a protective order is a law, and not just a recommendation. In fact, not even the person protected by the order has permission to change it or allow the abuser to break certain provisions. The order stays in effect until a court changes it. The PO is in place to protect the victim from the abuser, meaning that the victim cannot be arrested or accused of violating the order, even if they were a willing participant in the violation of the order.

The only way a protective order is successful is if the victim reports the violations any time they occur.  Reporting a violation can be a confusing and difficult thing to do. Not all violations are intimidating, threatening or physical, and can be concealed with apologies and promises that can pull you right back into the unhealthy cycle of abuse you just escaped from. Some other forms of violations are a little easier to determine. According to 8 Ways You Can Violate a Protective Order, these include;

  • Coming too close to the victim,
  • Contacting the victim (including text, email, and postal mail),
  • Failing to move out of the home shared with the victim,
  • Visiting the victim’s workplace or school,
  • Failing to pay bills (including utilities, mortgage or child support),
  • Failing to comply with child visitation rules,
  • Purchasing or possessing a gun,
  • Responding to contact attempts from the victim and
  • Threatening the victim or their family in person or through social media, email, or text.

A protective order cannot protect you unless it is used and violations are reported. If you let one violation go, the abuser may continue to violate it, thinking that you are not going to hold them to it. This not only defeats the purpose of the order, but it also allows the abuser to regain the control they previously had over you. Documenting all communication and protection order violations is crucial. This can include screenshots of text messages, emails, phone call history, security camera tapes, or witnesses of the violation.


A protective order is ineffective if people are not aware of it. To enforce a protective order, it must be shared and readily available to those it impacts. The local police will be able to look up the case number in their database and pull up the order quickly, but it is imperative that you keep a copy with you and provide one to others who may come in contact with your abuser.  This means providing a copy to your children’s school, workplace, relatives, and alerting neighbors who live nearby. The more people who know, the more likely a violation will be reported, and the safer you will be

When a protective order is violated, the consequences vary from state to state and with the nature of the violation. According to DomesticShelters.org typically a violation of the order (whether civil or criminal) is an arrestable offense. In general a violation of PO results in a misdemeanor; however, the charges stack up, so if the abuser violates the order a certain amount of times, the charge will be upgraded to a felony. If they continue to break it, it can eventually become a stalking charge.

The first thing to do when an order is violated is contact the police. Make sure to have any evidence, documentation and the protective order available in case they request it. Do not engage in conversation or agree to meet with your abuser.  It is essential to be aware of your safety. If your abuser is arrested, you may want to be more alert in case they retaliate. Sometimes an abuser isn’t arrested right away, meaning that your safety could be at risk during that time. Having a safety plan, making arrangements ahead of time, and keeping those close to you and in your neighborhood up to date on the situation will help keep you safe when a violation occurs.

Each protective order is different in the amount of time that it is active. It is imperative to know when your order expires so you can take the proper precautions or make plans to renew it. Each order has a date of expiration and if there is not one, it likely expires two years from the time it was granted. If you do not request an extension before the expiration date, all child visitation, child support, and provisions that were stated in the protective order will expire. You can file for an extension of the order if your abuser has violated the order, you have upcoming trials that could put you in harm, or you have reason and proof to believe that you and your children are still not safe from your abuser. It is best to file for an extension at least 30 days before the order expires so there is no lapse in protection.

Protective orders are not magical. They do not come with a promise of protection or a guarantee that your abuser will follow it. Protective orders are only one of the many small parts required to keep you safe after leaving your abuser. It is to be used in conjunction with an awareness of your surroundings, knowledge of the order and its specific violations, and making your protection order known by those around you. It requires that you, the survivor report each violation, regardless if it is big or small. A protective order can be one of the first steps at taking the control back and breaking your silence.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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