Social Media Director Named 2018 Volunteer of the Year

Written by: Amy Thomson

Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence has grown considerably since its inception in 2011. This growth is made possible by the tireless, passionate work of our volunteers who are all driven by the desire to help everyone live happy, healthy lives free of violence. We truly appreciate the efforts of our volunteers and enjoy being able to recognize and thank them for all the work they do to help move us closer to our goal of eradicating relationship violence.

When I was asked to write the announcement recognizing one of our volunteers, I was excited to know that I would be the one introducing our community to him. His passion and dedication to those in our community, the organization, and all of our volunteers never fail to inspire and empower me to put my best effort into everything I do – not just as a volunteer but professionally and personally as well. I consider it an honor to be working with him side by side as his Coordinator.

It is with great happiness that I introduce to you Break the Silence’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year recipient, Brian Nguyen.

When Brian came to Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence in 2016, he had just graduated college and found himself searching for a volunteer opportunity that would allow him to use his skills to serve others. For Brian, volunteering isn’t something that’s done without purpose. At its heart, volunteering is about bringing positive change to the lives of others in our communities while simultaneously helping us to heal our own lives. As it would turn out, Brian’s skills and passion for fighting against domestic violence made him a central part in our organization’s work.

As Social Media Director, Brian successfully leverages his social media, IT, and marketing skills while overseeing a rapidly expanding social media team. He monitors the overall function of our platforms, develops analytical reports for the organization, stays on top of social media trends, troubleshoots areas of improvement, and reaches out into the community to forge partnerships with other domestic violence organizations, social media influencers, and businesses. With everything he has accomplished, he does recognize that there are challenges in finding effective solutions to cover shortfalls or gaps. Brian somehow always seems to manage to overcome those challenges as a result of his dedication and commitment to our organization and those we serve.

He takes great pride in the quality of his work and carefully considers the impact of all of his decisions. During his time with us, he has managed to connect the entire organization into one internal platform for communication, allowing all volunteers to effortlessly work together regardless of where they are. Since our founder first broke her silence on Facebook in 2011, Nguyen has guided the organization in adding Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to engage our community in the fight against domestic violence.

“I want our organization to be a leading resource for survivors and advocates alike. Social media is a great platform we can all leverage to centralize resources, raise awareness, and make support systems readily available to anyone who needs it.

“Our vision for Break the Silence’s future as a realization of a goal to not only be that leading resource for domestic violence, but to also assume that role in a way that is innovative, creative, and engaging in its work to empower others to break their silence.”

Our Founder and Executive Director Kristen Paruginog has noticed the impact of Nguyen’s work with BTSADV.

“Since Brian has been with us, he has made a significant impact on our entire organization. His colorful personality and passion for serving others have truly shown in his commitment to Break the Silence. Brian inspires all of us to work hard, push forward, and challenge ourselves to be the best version we can be for our BTSADV family. I can’t say enough to express my deepest gratitude for him; I will never let him go!”

Although she just joined us fairly recently as Managing Director, Kayla Allen has also recognized how Brian’s character and personality have the power to spark growth and positivity within the organization.

“Brian is a go-getter without bounds. He seeks the best and always reaches for the next level. His kindness and loving spirit bring life to everyone that he touches. He’s truly a blessing to BTSADV and the world.”

When I asked Brian how it felt to be named as our 2018 Volunteer of the Year, he was gracious and humble in his reply. The entire team at Break the Silence has noticed the love and effort he puts into his work, and several times during the conversation, Brian referenced the team being part of his success in his role as Social Media Director.

“It is a great feeling to know that I am being rewarded for work that changes lives. I am truly honored and privileged, and when I was named, I was a bit speechless because I didn’t think that I would be the one to get the award.

“When I started, Break the Silence was a small organization. We knew the direction we wanted to take, but we didn’t have the resources or team to make it happen at first. Looking at where we are now, it shows just how far we have come.

“To see where we are now shows the fruits of our labor. We watched it grow slowly for a few years. I am blessed to be part of this organization because I have been a part of changing lives and encouraging and empowering others to break their silence.”

As Nguyen noted during our conversation, many of our volunteers work during the day and volunteer their free time in their duties with Break the Silence. Brian is no different, sometimes spending several hours in the evenings working on his responsibilities covering the social media team.

Working with Brian as his Social Media Coordinator has allowed me to witness firsthand the amount of care, time, and effort he puts into his work. Even when we have a lot on our plates and find it challenging to keep up with deadlines and collaborations with other teams within the organization, Brian makes it look effortless. Knowing the challenges I face with time management, I was curious to know Brian’s perceptions and how he keeps himself motivated to stay on task.

“The work we do is so important – so much so that we can’t afford to be silent. It makes me feel better to know that I am making a difference. I keep myself motivated by remaining positive, staying healthy, and feeling good. Being part of such an amazing organization is inherently motivating. It drives me always to be the best I can be.”

Nguyen pointed out that accolades should not be the reason behind any volunteer work we do. He views the Volunteer of the Year award as something far greater than a title or award. For him, it’s proof of the extraordinary work we do every day as an organization as we strive to change lives and empower survivors of abuse to share their stories and break their silence against domestic violence. He further added that without the support of our founder, the Board of Directors, and the entire team, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish the amazing work he does every day.

For Nguyen, social media goes far beyond merely posting on the range of platforms available. In Brian’s words, social media is an interactive tool that “allows us to take our stories, mission, and vision and share it with the world to educate, empower, and start a conversation that ultimately inspires change.”

Working closely with Brian has given me the gift of witnessing perhaps three of the qualities I feel are the most important characteristics a person can possess: compassion, passion, and kindness. These underlying factors drive everything Brian does in every area of his life, and the reason that he is so successful at what he does is because he genuinely cares about the work he does – and those he is serving.

His energy and generosity are infectious and never fail to inspire his team to be our best every day. Under his leadership, I have grown both personally and professionally and truly enjoy working with him. I am beyond excited that Brian is being recognized for all his hard work; he has helped shape Break the Silence as a whole and will no doubt continue to do so well into the future.

To end our conversation, Brian shared some thought-provoking insight on domestic violence and our work here at Break the Silence that I would like to share with you.

“Everyone has a story. Through my experience, I’ve learned to live life to the fullest and look at others with an open mind. Domestic Violence is a serious issue, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or religion. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. Love shouldn’t have to hurt.

“There’s a stigma in our country and around the world about domestic violence that it’s always the survivor’s fault, that it’s never the abuser’s. The trauma of the abuse often leads survivors down different paths in their lives. Some are willing to break their silence, share their story, and empower and educate others.

“Education and prevention are key components that we need to make a priority in the fight against domestic violence. We need to keep having conversations and empowering survivors to share their stories without the fear of their abuser getting back to them.

“That’s why the work that we’re doing here at Break the Silence Against Domestic violence is crucial because we’re allowing ourselves to be the voice, a voice to help others and inspire them.

“To those who are reading this, please know you’re not alone. You are worthy. You are loved. If you need a safe space or just a friend, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I hope you’ll join me in our journey to Break the Silence Against Domestic violence.”

Thank you for your tireless work and dedication, Brian! You inspire each and every one us every day!

What is a Protective Order?

By Rebecca Lynn

Ending an abusive relationship is statistically one of the most dangerous times for a survivor. Making sense of the legal system and understanding how to protect yourself after leaving is complicated and unpredictable. Domestic violence advocates, like those at BTS, can help you with community resources, tips to stay safe, and legal options that are available to you. While each state is different in process, length of orders, and eligibility qualifications, each one offers protective orders or restraining orders to those that are in imminent danger.  

What exactly is a protective order?

According to Legal Dictionary a protective order/ restraining order is a court order issued to prohibit an individual from causing harm or fear to another person by ordering the abuser to have no contact with or to stay away from the victim. There are two courts that grant protective orders: the civil court and the criminal court. When an abuser has been involved in a domestic violence dispute that involves criminal charges, the state takes over the case and a prosecutor decides whether to pursue legal actions against the abuser, regardless of your intentions of pressing charges or not. In criminal cases, the victim is limited in their involvement and the outcome of the case. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for a victim to be subpoenaed and required to testify against the abuser. However, in civil court, you are able to ask the court for protection from the abuser and have more control over the outcome of the order.

There are three types of orders that are available to victims, each one with their own purpose, duration, and rules.

  • Emergency Protective Order: This order is known as an emergency protective order, and is filed in the criminal court. An EPO can be requested by the survivor but is frequently requested by a police officer who was at the scene or a prosecutor who is filing charges against the abuser. If domestic violence was committed that resulted in a serious injury or the use of a weapon, the magistrate is expected to issue an EPO, regardless of who or if anyone requests it. EPO’s commonly last 31-61 days and can extend to 91 days if a deadly weapon was involved.
  • Temporary Ex-Parte Protective Order: Ex parte orders can be issued through civil court, which requires you to fill out an application that is reviewed by a judge. If the judge determines there is a need, an ex-parte is immediately granted, In most states, this is done without the abuser appearing in court and is served after the order is in effect. The temporary order typically lasts 20 days and is only extended if the abuser is unable to be served.
  • Final (Permanent) Protective Order: A final protective order, or restraining order, typically doesn’t live up to its name–it commonly is not final or permanent. This order is also requested through the civil court by the survivor and requires a little more preparation and participation than the emergency and ex-parte PO’s. Each order is unique to the case and the needs of the victim. The length of a PO can range from one to five years, with the average lasting two years.  In some cases, the order can be granted for a longer period of time or extended if there is evidence that the survivor is still in danger. In most states, the abuser can file a motion that the order is discontinued after one year and if evidence shows the victim is no longer in danger, the order can be dropped before the expiration date.

According to Findlaw.com, final orders are for victims that are needing longer protection. Protective orders provide the victim with provisions that can help keep them safe. Depending on the state you live in, and the needs of the victim,  these provisions can include;

  • No Contact: Prohibits the abuser from contacting the victim in any way, including by phone, text, social media, postal mail, email, in person, or through third party.
  • Peaceful Contact: Allows limited communication for specific purposes, mainly regarding children and visitations.
  • Stay Away: The abuser must stay a specified distance away from the victim, this includes their home, in public, schools, and other places that the victim frequently visits.
  • Move Out: This evicts the abuser from the family home, regardless of if their name is on the lease or mortgage.
  • No Firearms: Orders the abuser to surrender all firearms, and prohibits them from buying more during the duration of the protective order.
  • Counseling:  Refers the abuser to anger management, substance abuse, or other counseling.

Many states also include temporary modifications to child custody and child support. Stay away provisions can be added for children, family members, and even pets.

Where do I start?

Victim advocates play a big part during this process. They can help you research your specific states eligibility requirements and steps to obtain a PO, as well as offer much needed support throughout the process. You can find information on distinct laws and provisions for your state here.

You will most likely need to apply for your protective order at the courthouse in the county where the abuse took place; however, some domestic violence agencies are able to assist with this process. You will be given an application that must be completed and signed under oath before it is able to go in front of the judge. It is crucial to be as specific as possible when filling out the application, as well as provide any type of evidence that you have that will support your request. If you are applying for a temporary order, the judge will only need to review the application and issue the order.

If you want a protective order that will last longer, a court hearing will be scheduled and the abuser will be served to inform them of the allegations and the date of the hearing.  It is possible that the county attorney can assist and represent you in presenting your case in court. The defendant has the option to hire an attorney to represent them as well. On occasions, if both the abuser and victim agree to the protective order provisions, then a court appearance may be waived. However, if a decision cannot be agreed upon, both abuser and the victim will go in front of a judge.  

One of the biggest deterrents to obtaining a protective order is the possibility of facing the abuser in court. Support is crucial during this step, whether it is family, a friend, or a volunteer advocate, having someone there with you is valuable. In situations where domestic violence is a concern, it is doubtful that you will have to talk to your abuser, let alone be in the same room, until the hearing. To ease the tension, you can focus on someone else in the room, avoiding eye contact with your abuser is perfectly acceptable. You can also wear a necklace, hold a smooth rock, or any other “comfort object” to help calm your nerves. Some victims find it beneficial to visit the courtroom before the hearing date to get an idea of where they will be in comparison to their abuser and get familiarized with the process of the hearing.

How does this piece of paper protect me?

A protective order is not a protective bubble or an iron-clad guarantee that you will be safe from your abuser. A PO is a court-ordered tool that makes it a crime for your abuser to violate any part of the protective order. If the abuser does go against the order and it is reported, they will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor, felony, or contempt of court, depending on the violation. Consequences also include fines, mandatory arrest, and jail time.

However, a protective order does not take the place of being vigilant of your surroundings, having a safety plan, and protecting yourself in public, and online. A PO’s success relies significantly on the victim’s willingness to report violations, keep good records, and make sure that the order remains up to date with current information. Researching protective orders, processes, and guidelines for your particular state is very important before applying for one. Knowledge is key, and no decision should be made without knowing all the facts.

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.

Advocate and Ambassador Chosen as Volunteer of the Month

By Jenn Rockefeller

Break the Silence works to support and educate in the hope that one day, there will be a world without domestic violence. Our volunteers help with that mission by dedicating their time, attention, and effort to bring about this change. It is for these reasons that BTS likes to recognize our volunteers.

Such is the case for January’s Volunteer of the Month (VOM), Cathy Green. Cathy has worked tirelessly to support domestic violence survivors. She started volunteering with BTS in March as a helpline advocate and soon added Facebook advocate and her state’s ambassador to the list.

When asked what inspired her to join BTS, Cathy stated it was her adoration of BTS being a survivor-led organization. As a survivor herself, Cathy said volunteering with BTS has helped her find purpose again by turning her tragedy around and finding positive aspects to it.

“I know as a survivor that I valued the words of others who had been in my shoes. I didn’t want to hear from someone with four degrees, I wanted to hear from someone who knew what it was like.  So, I feel my words are valuable to those who reach out to BTS for love and support,” said Cathy.

As a fiercely independent mother of three, Cathy is passionate about teaching communities about the domestic violence red flags and resources available to those in need. She said she feels the key to reducing domestic violence incidents in the future is to involve men and teenage boys in awareness and education.

So what makes Cathy stand out as this month’s VOM? Megan Ultimo, BTS helpline director, stated that it is Cathy’s dedication to her duties and willingness to go the extra mile.

“From the beginning, she has always been very willing to cover extra days and has taken care of a lot of the voicemails I have sent in our channel…She is a pleasure to have on our helpline team,” Megan said.

Megan remembers one particular time Cathy made a huge impact on a helpline caller. “She has helped and listened to many, many callers on the helpline. One time after 55 minutes on a call, this client said ‘Cathy you are the perfect person for this job.  You are compassionate and easy to talk to and I can tell you don’t have a fake bone in your body,” said Megan.

Cathy understands what callers are going through and she helps ease some of the burden they are carrying. This ability is what makes her such a vital member of the BTS team and a perfect candidate for VOM.

Stephanie Soliz, BTS East Coast Ambassador Coordinator, agrees. She realized Cathy’s dedication immediately. “Throughout my time volunteering with BTS and as an ambassador, Cathy has remained consistent and hard-working She is always at the meetings and always participates and is so helpful to new members.  She is always ready and willing to jump in and help where we need her. Cathy is always out in her community and on social media raising awareness for domestic violence.”

BTS Social Media Director Brian Nguyen said he oversees a large team on a day-to-day basis and can easily bear witness to everyone’s strengths and what they can bring to the table. He noted Cathy’s passion, charisma, humor and being “overall fantabulous” are just some of her many strengths, which is part of how he helped choose Cathy as volunteer of the month.

Cathy’s passion to help others is exactly what BTS Volunteer Outreach Coordinator and Helpline Advocate Daphne Hesse was talking about when she said Cathy gives 100% of herself towards her work with BTS. Daphne said, “I believe she has a fire and passion inside that can’t be put out. She’s been a great friend to me. She tells her story and is never afraid to jump in and help when needed. I believe she has helped BTS grow.”

Thank you so much Sister for your hard work and dedication! We couldn’t succeed without you.

Abuse in the LGBTQ+ Community


Anyone can become a victim of domestic abuse, including individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), released a report noting that 58% of survivors in the LGBTQ+ community, 10% of them reported that an ex-lover or partner instigated the violence against them.

Barriers to Leaving Abuse

With IPV, it can be difficult for a victim to leave their abuser because they fear the abuser will inflict more harm on them or their family. Victims can even feel ashamed and responsible for the violence. 

Abusers may control their victims by instigating abuse physically, emotionally, sexually, financially, indirectly, and in many other ways. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an abuser may use more LGBTQ+ specific emotional abuse that involve the victim’s sexuality and/or gender identity, including:

  • ‘Outing’ a partner’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Abusive partners in LGBTQ+ relationships may threaten to ‘out’ victims to family members, employers, and community members.
  • Saying that no one will help the victim because s/he/they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or the partner ‘deserves’ the abuse.
  • Justifying the abuse with the notion that a partner is not “really” lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender because they believe differently.
  • Monopolizing support resources through an abusive partner’s manipulation of friends and family. 
  • For victims in the trans community, the abuser may focus specifically on questioning the victim’s true gender identity.

You are not alone

Asking for help and support can be difficult. Especially if the victim is worried about the risks of outing themselves to family, friends, and other members of the community.

If you are a member of the LGBTQ community and have had an abusive partner, you are not alone. You deserve to have healthy and safe relationships.

Consider contacting your local LGBTQ center for information on support groups and individual counseling. A counselor must maintain confidentiality and can be especially helpful if s/he/they are trained in LGBTQ domestic violence issues.

There are many websites and social media accounts devoted to supporting members of the LGBTQ community who are victims of domestic violence:

Anti-Violence Project – Provides resources for counseling and advocacy for survivor members of the LGBTQ community and HIV-affected communities.

LGBT National Help Center – A free online resource for confidential peer support and local support centers.

Trans Lifeline – A hotline for any transgender person in need, available 18 hours per day.

The Trevor Project – A resource and hotline for LGBTQ youth in crisis. They also post empowering and helpful information on social media daily.

BTSADV Support Line (855-BTS-1777) – Resource hotline that provides resources in your local community and be a listening ear.

Donate to BTSADV today and help survivors THRIVE!

Share your own story and Break Your Silence!


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