Breaking the Generational Curse

By Sunny Lim

Within domestic violence, there’s a term known as intergenerational or transgenerational violence. These terms indicate violence involving and affecting several generations within families.

Intergenerational violence occurs when abuse passes through the family, starting from the older generation–parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents–to the younger generation–children. Abuse tends to be a learned behavior. In the cycle of intergenerational violence, people who have been abused by their relatives or witnessed domestic violence in their household are more likely to continue the abuse they’ve suffered and observed. Because they might have seen one parent abuse the other parent, it normalizes abusive behavior by showing children this is an acceptable way to act toward your partner in a romantic relationship. Another example of intergenerational violence is when a grandparent physically abused their son, and the son goes on to do the same to his own children. Another consequence of the intergenerational curse is children might enter into relationships with abusive partners because these relationships mimic what these children saw at home.

Because intergenerational violence goes from one generation to another, it is difficult to break the curse. In addition to intergenerational abuse, the transmission of trauma, known as secondary traumatization, is where the effects of trauma trickles down from generation to generation. Although there is debate whether genetics play a role in the transmission of trauma across generations, a research study at Mount Sinai hospital discovered a possible link.

Rachel Yehuda and her team looked at the genes of 32 Jewish men and women who had been confined in concentration camps, hid, witnessed torture, or suffered violence. They also looked at the genes of their children. Compared to children of Jewish families who didn’t live in Europe during the war, the 32 research participants’ survivors had a higher chance of developing stress disorders. These research results support the idea of epigenetic inheritance. This idea asserts environmental factors–abuse, stress, nutrition–have the potential to affect the genes of future generations.

There have been research studies done on Native American survivors of boarding schools, abuse survivors, 9/11 survivors, and intergenerational domestic abuse survivors. All showed the same findings — if there is a history of abuse and trauma within a family or for an entire group historically, the trauma passes through the bloodline. Survivors tend to have higher rates of depression and are more likely to be susceptible to revictimization, suicidal thoughts, and adverse coping skills.

David Prosper is a husband and a father. He is also a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault. His personal story of intergenerational trauma and surviving has led him to share his experiences to teach people about how to recognize abusive patterns, overcome trauma, and break the stigma of abuse on men.

David grew up in an abusive home, causing him to become desensitized to domestic violence.

“Sadly, I thought it was a way of life–I would see my mother hit, my father retaliate,” he said. “It led me into a lot of emotionally abusive relationships where the women I’d date would position themselves as the only ones who cared about me.”

During his senior year of college, he was sexually assaulted by a young woman, but his friends blew it off as no big deal after he chose to share his story with them. For David, the root cause behind intergenerational trauma was abandonment and rejection.  

He recommends these four steps for healing to other survivors of intergenerational trauma and violence:

  • Explore: Find the root causing your pain,
  • Engage: Talk with other survivors and share your story with counselors or life coaches,
  • Equip: Educate yourself with the tools to become healthier,
  • Empower:choose to become not just a survivor but a sur-thriver.

Although intergenerational trauma survivors are more susceptible to repeating behaviors they’ve seen in their childhood and adolescence, whether it’s being abusive in relationships or surviving abusive relationships themselves, you can break the generational curse. Even though the history of abuse and trauma might have started with your parents or your other relatives, you have the power to break free from this curse.

For intergenerational trauma survivors, take the first steps to healing, and examine your own family history to understand where it all started. You’re not alone in your healing.

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.

What is a Lethality Assessment?

By Rebecca Lynn

According to the NACDV, 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner. However, this percentage is created by the number of reports made to public records, which is thought to be mostly under-reported. Depending on the city, murder-suicides aren’t always recorded with specific information, such as the relationship or history of the murderer and the victim. This is because the abuser is no longer living, and criminal charges will not be filed on the killer. This makes it even more difficult to comprehend how many murder-suicides are linked to domestic violence accurately.

According to the Domestic Abuse Shelter of Florida Keys, of the total number of victims who are murdered by their abusers, 75 percent are killed while leaving or after the relationship has ended. This information is also frequently inaccurate and fails to specify if the victim was a part of a murder-suicide or a homicide by their abuser. Regardless, it can be easily assumed that the numbers are even higher.

The statistics are staggering, and they don’t stop there, according to The Washington Post, one third of the killers were known to be a threat ahead of the murder and in many cities, one third of the lethal abusers had a restraining order during the time of the homicide or were previously convicted of domestic violence. Police report that the most significant numbers of calls they receive are related to domestic violence. These numbers are all based on the fact that most abusive relationships are never reported.

So why don’t victims call and report their abuse? While each victim has their own reasons, some of the more common ones are:

  • “The police did not do anything when called and it made the situation worse.”
  • ” The police did not believe me.”
  • ” I was afraid of retaliation.”
  • ” I didn’t know it was that bad.”
  • ” I did not want CPS or the courts involved.”
  • ” I have kids and nowhere to go, or anyone to call.”

In one way or another, the victims were afraid of making the situation worse, had no resources for themselves or their children, and didn’t believe the abuse was severe because of how the response to their report was handled. Not only were the victims at risk of enduring more abuse, but they were in danger of losing their lives. There was a crucial need for first responders to be more educated and knowledgeable in resources when it came to domestic violence. The Lethality Assessment was created to help police and other professionals that work with victims to identify if the abuse had the potential to escalate to homicide.

What is a Lethality Assessment?

Lethality is best described as the capacity to cause death. Therefore a lethality assessment is an evaluation that predicts the likelihood of the abuser to murder the victim. The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) was based on the Danger Assessment, which was created by Dr. Campbell. Dr. Campbell created the assessment based on the evidence that there were many factors in a domestic violence relationship that were more dangerous than others, some were proven to be precursors of murder. She also realized that many victims did not know how much danger they really were in or how to get help. The Danger Assessment test contained 20 questions that a victim would answer to determine how much risk they were in based on experiences that occurred during their relationship.

The Lethality Assessment was initially created for law enforcement and was reduced to eleven questions. According to the Lethality Assessment Program, the LAP is a standardized, evidence-based tool that first responders can use not only to determine the level of danger, but also to provide victims with resources, advocates, information about domestic violence, and safety planning. Victims that show a high lethality risk are referred and connected directly with domestic violence organizations that can assist them. Since many victims are not aware of the real danger they are in, the assessment helps them recognize circumstances that make them more vulnerable. The LAP’s purpose is to prevent homicide, create a sense of trust in the police, and connect the victims directly with help, or provide resources if they are not ready for help.

According to the Domestic Violence Lethality Screen for First Responders, the 11 specially-designed questions are:

  1. Has your partner ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?
  2. Has he or she ever threatened to kill you or your children?
  3. Do you think he or she may try to kill you?
  4. Does your partner have a gun, or can he or she get one easily?
  5. Has he or she ever choked (strangled) you?
  6. Is your partner violently or constantly jealous, or does he or she control most of your daily activities?
  7. Have you left your partner or separated from them after living together or being married?
  8. Is he or she employed?
  9. Has your partner ever tried to kill him or herself?
  10. Do you have a child that he or she knows is not theirs?
  11. Does your partner follow or spy on you, or leave threatening messages?

According to Policeone.com, victims who were threatened with murder are 15 percent more likely to be murdered, and those who were threatened with a gun are 20 percent more likely to be killed. Abusers who own guns are five times more likely to murder their victim, whether they have threatened them or not.

Strangulation is often referred to as the “edge of homicide” and continues to be one of the best ways to gauge future lethality. The immediate and long term effects of non-fatal strangulation continue to be researched, taught to first responders, and are now treated as felonies in most states.

Do Lethality Assessments work? The Washington Post reports that one third of victims who spoke to a domestic violence counselor over the phone, with the assistance of a first responder, were more apt to seek help from a shelter, get a protective order, or call a hotline than those who did not. By first responders providing real-time support to the victim, they are able to connect the victim with resources while things are still hostile, and not days later when the victim and abuser are most likely in the honeymoon phase.

One of the most substantial barriers for victims to seek help is the amount of work and people they need to navigate through to get the help they need. Instead of spending a day going from government offices to domestic violence organizations, the victim is able to receive all the resources at the sight of the incident. The LAP program continues to improve its process, gain approval, and if done consistently, prevent homicide by predicting it.

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.

What is Love?

By Jamey Sheesley

Dear Survivor,

I am writing to let you know about love. According to Psychology Today, love is a force of nature and it is bigger than what you are. You cannot command, demand, or take away love.

If love is so great, then why do you feel so betrayed? Why do you feel like love hurt you? I am here to let you know it was not love that betrayed and hurt you; it was the abuser who put you through hell. I want to show you what true love is. Love is not the abuse you suffered.

Love is the unconditional caring you gave your abuser that they did not deserve. The love you gave them is a reflection of you, not them. You loved them every time they made you cry and every time they hit you. You forgave them and showed them kindness; you cared for them and you did everything in your power to make them happy. You showed them true love, which means you understand love whether you realize it or not.

You may still feel down on yourself because you loved the wrong person. You may feel that love is tainted. Again love is not tainted, you just happened to love someone who is not awesome like you. This goes back to the statement in the first paragraph. You cannot command, demand, or take away love. Forgive yourself for loving the wrong person. That does not mean there is anything wrong with you, it just means you are human. You believed the person you loved was better than they turned out to be and that is okay.

You are not at fault because your abuser made you feel like love is an awful thing. Let us focus on you, instead, and your deep ability to love. First, you cared enough to try to make your abuser happy, despite what they put you through. That shows your love is strong and powerful. Do not ever cut yourself down for that. For a long time, you may have also refused to give up on that person. You tried to believe in them and hoped they were the person you first met. You also continued caring for them no matter what and that shows your ability to feel unconditional love, something your abuser will never understand.

So now what do you do? You loved the wrong person and they left your life in shambles. You may feel broken and like you are done with love. I want to change your perspective on this because you are so important to this world and you deserve true love. The unconditional love that you showed your abuser is the love that you need. I want you to start showing yourself that same unconditional love. You went through an awful relationship, so the first thing I want you to do is forgive yourself. This is crucial to your healing. Forgive yourself for showing your abuser the incredible love of yours. They took advantage of you, so let us put them in the past where they belong and focus on loving you.

I want you to go look in the mirror and tell yourself how much you love yourself because you went through hell and are still standing. That shows your strength. I want you to realize how beautiful you are inside and out. Tell yourself something you love about yourself, whether it is your eyes or how you always tell the same corny joke. Embrace everything you love about yourself with all your heart, and do not let it go.   

Is this demanding love? Yes, but you deserve to be loved and before you can move on to a healthy relationship you need to love yourself. Therefore, I think this is okay to demand self-love, that way you do not let an abuser hurt you again.

What if you still love your abuser? That is okay, just do your best to keep yourself safe and not go back. Love is a force of nature and you cannot command it away. A leftover love feeling that does not mean you are broken, it means you know how to love. I promise you once you start loving yourself more, the love for your abuser will fade away because you will realize you did not deserve any of what they did to you.

Another part of learning to love yourself is to be selfish. What makes you happy? Do you like spa days? Do you like going for hikes? I want to you to do what brings you joy for no one else but you. If you want to spend a day at the spa, go do it! This is your time. Go hike that favorite trail of yours. Do not feel guilty because you deserve this. It is okay to love yourself and to love what you do. As a society, we are taught to put others first, but I want you to change this. You are just as important as everyone else. Take time to spoil yourself and move yourself into a positive, healing direction.

When you start feeling down,  it is okay to cry it out, but afterwards, go back to that mirror and tell yourself how much you love yourself. Also, find new things to love about yourself. You have amazing love inside of you and you need that love more than anyone else does right now.

I want you to love yourself as a dog would love you. Dogs are unconditional lovers; even if you scold them, they are going to love you. Every time you get down on yourself, forgive yourself because you have been through some serious trauma and you are feeling a whirlwind of emotions. It is okay to be upset, you have every right to be, just do not let yourself be stuck there. Pamper yourself, do things for you that you did for that abuser. Take yourself out to dinner or stay in and cook for yourself. Have fun and learn what you like and do not like. Your abuser stripped you of any self-love so now is the perfect time to get it back in full force.

Once you heal, it is okay to go find another person to share your love with. However, if you find someone and they show any red flags I want you to get away from them as soon as possible. When you love yourself, it is easier to set boundaries and if anyone crosses those boundaries without remorse, let them go. Find someone who loves you as much as you love them.


BTSADV Survivor

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.

Donor Highlight Story: The Vagina Monologues/V-Day UCSD

By Sunny Lim

Sriya Podila, Jordan Krikorian, and Suzy Lourenco all knew they wanted to work with Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence after they saw the mission statement, which aims to support survivors and families affected by domestic violence through providing services such as scholarships, gift-giving, emotional support, helplines, speakers, and retreats.

BTS imagines a future without domestic violence.

Sriya, Jordan, and Suzy are the directors of the 2019 The Vagina Monologues and TheirStories productions at the University of California, San Diego. All proceeds from the shows support two local nonprofits, BTS and License to Freedom.

License to Freedom supports immigrant and refugee survivors of domestic violence in East County, San Diego.

The directors chose BTS and License to Freedom because of their purposes.

“They directly align with the message we send, which is to support those who have been oppressed in the past and work toward mending their futures,” they said.

The directors also shared what they loved most about the two nonprofits.

“We really love that BTS is an organization for survivors by survivors,” they said. “License to Freedom is also wonderful because they provide services to immigrant victims specifically in their native languages.”

With funds from show merchandise sales, the directors also started donating to organizations including Black Lives Matter, San Diego LGBTQ+ Center, and The Mukta Project–an organization based in Bangalore, India, that works to reduce the prevalence of AIDS and other STIs.

What drew the directors to The Vagina Monologues and TheirStories was seeing all the work put into creating an amazing production that spread an important message.

“All of the proceeds go to organizations that put that message into action, which is inspiring,” they said. “We knew we wanted to be a part of making it happen.”

Written in 1996 by Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues is a play centered around personal monologues read by groups of women. The monologues deal with subjects like sex, rape, menstruation, birth, trauma, and other aspects of femininity.

Some monologues include a sex worker’s detailed look into her own career and testimonies from Bosnian survivors of wartime rape. The play adds new monologues yearly to bring attention to a present issue affecting women internationally.

The purpose of the play is to celebrate femininity and to create a movement to stop violence against women. Because of powerful reactions from women who saw the play, Ensler and her colleagues started a nonprofit, V-Day, on February 14, 1998.

Each February, Ensler allows groups around the globe to produce performances of The Vagina Monologues and other shows created by V-Day for free. The groups then donate their proceeds to organizations or use them for separate projects that aim to end violence against women.

Although the play saw enormous success, some scholars and groups have criticized it for lacking voices from different gender identities. This has led to many groups staging the production with newly added monologues to reflect different backgrounds excluded from the original play.

For the directors at UC San Diego in 2017, they created HerStories in order to add more diverse voices to their production.  In 2018, the directors transformed HerStories into TheirStories to show a thorough cast of identities and voices that were missing or misrepresented in The Vagina Monologues.

“The student responses have been extraordinarily positive to TheirStories,” the directors said. “We’ve found that more and more people are relating to TheirStories pieces more than some from The Vagina Monologues.”

For 2019, there are four shows running from Friday, February 22 to Monday, February 25. According to the directors, the production progress starts in August with open slots until late October. The process includes informative workshops about gender pronouns, the controversial history of The Vagina Monologues, LGBTQ+ community, sexual health, and intersectionality.

“We also work on contacting businesses for support and donations for funds to support our beneficiaries,” they said. “We do cast rehearsals, advertise for our shows, and make art for the production itself.”

The directors and the cast members all work alongside one another to create a memorable show and to raise awareness about social issues.

BTS thanks V-Day UCSD for their support and dedication.

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, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.


Navigating Safety: Developing a Safety Plan with Teens

Like domestic violence, teen dating violence is controlling behavior. According to DoSomething.org, violent behavior begins between 6th and 12th grade and 72% of young people are already dating by the time they are 13 to 14 years old. At this stage of life when youth are lacking significant experience in the dating world, it is not uncommon for peers to pressure eventual abusers into violent behavior.

Simultaneously, the teenage years stand out as a time where the views that young people have about love are highly romanticized. Young women often hold misguided beliefs that normalize abuse because “everyone is doing it.” A teenage girl may even misinterpret possessive and jealous behaviors or physical abuse as an expression of passion and romance. This isn’t helped by the cultural belief that leads young men to believe that being aggressive is masculine. Behaving otherwise will cause them to lose respect among their peers. Developing a safety plan with teens can help you keep them safe.

Fortunately, there are signs which indicate that a teenager is experiencing dating violence. They may become isolated and begin using alcohol and substances. You might notice visible physical injuries or clues of pregnancy. Personality changes and emotional outbursts are also common indicators to look for.

According to Break the Cycle, safety planning with a teen can help them identify their support systems, connect them to school and community resources, and empower them to take control of their lives back. Teenagers have the right to feel safe and be in relationships free of violence.

Creating a safety plan

The abuse is never the victim’s fault and making the decision to leave an abusive partner can be both difficult and dangerous for people of any age. The abuser may react violently when they realize that their control is falling apart. If you feel that your safety is at risk, developing a safety plan with your teens helps them to get the support they need safely exit the relationship. Here are some recommendations for teen safety planning:

• Talk to a family member, friend or teacher that you trust. Talk to someone trained at National Dating Abuse Hotline (866-331-9474) if you need a place to stay.

• Do not break up in person if you don’t feel safe. If you must, be sure to do so in a public place.

• Decide on a secret, safe location for someone to pick you up. Keep your tank full of gas if you own a vehicle. If using public transportation, learn the route to safety via bus or train.

• Trust your instincts and think for yourself. Avoid allowing anyone to talk you into doing what isn’t right for you.

• If you live with your partner, keep a bag of important items to take with you: cellphone and charger, license/ID, cash & ATM cards, any protective orders you may have, and a clean change of clothes.

• If you are leaving with children, be sure that they have a few essentials as well. Anything they may need should be prepared. Some examples are spare clothes, favorite toy or blankie, birth certificate, health records, diapers, formula and bottles.

You have control over how to prepare for this. Think about action steps to take that are specific to your circumstance and based on your own needs. No one deserves to be abused. This is not your fault.

An online safety planning tool is available at loveisrespect.org

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 support line advocates at 855-287-1777.

Creating Healthy Boundaries

By Jamey Sheesley

Creating boundaries may seem like an easy thing to do, but for those who have experienced domestic violence, it may be more difficult since so many boundaries were already crossed.

It is important to know the different types of boundaries that need to be set. According to DomestcShelters.org there are five major boundaries:

  • Physical boundaries
  • Emotional boundaries
  • Material boundaries
  • Spiritual boundaries
  • Mental boundaries

Physical boundaries

When creating your physical boundaries, you need to know that you are the boss of your own body and you have the power to let someone touch it or not. If anyone touches your body in a way you do not approve, you have every right to tell that person not to touch you like that. In addition, you do not need to rush into being physical with anyone. You have already been hurt, so it is alright to set a boundary on the physical relationship. There is no timeline on when you need to get physical with your new partner. According to Love Is Respect, sex is not currency and you do not owe your partner anything even if they took you out to dinner or bought you nice things.

Physical boundaries go past sex. For example you may not like certain parts of foreplay due to previous experiences with an abuser. It is perfectly okay to let your current partner know you do not like what they are doing and tell them not to do it again. Remember you have a right to tell your partner no at any time even if they are pressuring you. Remind them that no means no.

If you were physically abused in the past, whether it is sexual abuse or any type of physical violence, you might feel uncomfortable setting these boundaries. It is easy to go back to the old mindset that you do not own your body and others can do whatever they want with it. Do not let those feelings take over; you are in command of your body. If someone gets physical with you in ways you do not like, you do not have to sit there and take it. Stand your ground and set your boundaries.

Emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries mean you are in control of your feelings and your thoughts. No one should tell you how to feel or how you should think, but if they do, you have every right to stop them.

It also okay to spend time apart from your partner. If you want alone time, let them know. You should not have to feel smothered by someone in a relationship in order to be happy. If your partner starts smothering you, let them know it is bothering you and that you need space.

Emotional happiness is a big part of any successful relationship. Your partner needs to respect your feelings and thoughts. If they do not respect you, do not tolerate their behavior. Know your self-worth and move on. Emotional boundaries may be difficult to establish after going through an abusive relationship because the abuser conditioned you to believe that this type of behavior was okay. Fight those old feelings because it is not okay. You have every right to feel and to be who you are.

Material boundaries

What are material boundaries? According to DomesticShelters.org, material boundaries are your material belongings, such as your phone or money. If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, your abuser probably took your phone and scrolled through it to make sure you were not cheating on them or talking about them to anyone else. These boundaries are huge. It is not okay to go through someone’s phone without that person’s permission. If you find your significant other going through your phone, let them know they crossed a boundary even if they are doing it for reasons that are not to hurt you. It is okay to have a password on your phone and not give it to your partner.

Also, do not let them pressure you into borrowing your car, money, or anything else you do not feel comfortable with. You are not obligated to lend your significant other anything. This may go against what you know because you did anything in your past to keep your abuser happy, even if it was letting them borrow your car when you did not feel comfortable with it. This is a different relationship and it is better to set these boundaries early on. If they continue to pressure you, then move on. You do not need to go down the same road you just got away from. Respect yourself and know you deserve the best.

Spiritual boundaries

Spiritual boundaries are any faith-based beliefs you may have. There is nothing wrong with spiritually believing what you believe. If your significant other cuts you down or makes you feel less than for your beliefs, remind them that you are allowed to hold your own belief system or even none at all. Let them know this is who you are and if they do not like it, they do not have to be with you. Set those boundaries because the right person will respect your spiritual beliefs.

Mental boundaries

Mental boundaries are your thoughts and opinions on various parts of life. For example, maybe you do not like roller coasters, but your significant other does. If they start to cut you down or call you names for not liking those things it is not okay. You have every right to your own opinion. If your partner starts putting you down over something, no matter how small it is, let them know it is not okay. If they are a decent person, they will respect these boundaries.

Your abuser probably crossed this boundary multiple times per day. Anything from what television shows you liked or what your personal opinions were on a certain type of food. It is okay to like what you like, that is what makes you a unique individual.

Boundaries let you live your life healthier and happier. They let others know what you will not tolerate. They also weed out the abusers. Abusers do not like boundaries because they cannot dig in and hurt you as bad. So keep those boundaries strong and let yourself be happy. Boundaries let you have the freedom to be happy.

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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