December 08, 2022
The holidays are often a time of joy and community, but for people in abusive relationships, the holidays can be stressful and dangerous. Spending time with family and friends, dealing with financial stress, and traveling can make safety planning for the holidays a challenge. Family and friends of survivors may also struggle to find ways to help or be supportive. We want to offer a few suggestions for survivors and friends or family of survivors for making the holidays feel safer by safety planning for the upcoming holidays.
Many survivors feel isolated in their unhealthy or abusive relationships. Reaching out to family and friends can be an important step in healing. It can help to discuss safe times and ways to communicate. You might consider if there are times during the day when the survivor is typically away from their abusive partner. Or, it might be safer for them to email or text rather than call. (It’s best to make sure the abusive partner does not have access to the survivor’s email account or phone before using these methods to communicate). Make a plan to keep checking in during the holidays. You can also create a code word, which allows the survivor to let someone know they need help without tipping off their partner. Be sure to agree on what action the code word calls for: does it mean you will call them, come over, contact the police, etc.?
It may feel instinctual for family or friends to say an abusive partner is not welcome at a holiday function. You have the right to say who is or isn’t welcome in your home, but emotional support and safety planning can help both you and the survivor to move forward. Keep in mind you can talk or chat with a Hotline advocate to figure out what will work best for you. If you’re worried about someone who is experiencing abuse and you’re not sure what to say, learn more about helping a friend or family member here.
Traveling is a common part of holiday plans. It makes sense that survivors would not feel safe spending time in a small space, like a car or plane, with someone who hurts them. We have tips for safety planning around travel for emotional/physical safety and if you’re traveling with children.
Planning for Visits
A survivor knows best what will help them feel safe, so consider discussing ways to make parties or family visits safer. An example is asking if alcohol tends to worsen an abusive partner’s behavior. Could the family or friend group make a commitment to not have alcohol around, or to limit the amount served? If you’re a survivor who does not feel safe sleeping in the same room as your partner, consider talking with your hosts or family about finding a separate couch or sharing a room with other guests or family members.
Planning Time Alone
Abuse is about power and control, and many unhealthy or abusive partners may try to exert control by keeping their partners from spending time alone or with others. So, it can be helpful to brainstorm ways to get some space. If you’re a family member or friend, you might ask the survivor to go on a shopping trip or errand with you, go for a walk or workout, invite them to a religious celebration or have them help you with a chore/holiday prep activity. If you’re a survivor, consider brainstorming reasons to get out, like helping someone with holiday plans or gift shopping; you can get creative with these ideas.
You can call The Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for creative ideas on safety planning for the holiday.
Safety Planning with Children
Protective parents work really hard to make the holidays a special time for their children. But what can help when your partner or co-parent is abusive? If you have children with you this holiday, our post on safety planning with children is a good place to start. The post covers unsupervised visitation, safe child exchange, and ideas for children living with an abusive parent.
The holiday season is stressful for many people, but getting through the holidays while experiencing abuse can feel really overwhelming. Taking time for your health and wellness can make a big difference in how you feel. To learn more about how to build in self-care while staying safe, check out this page.
Seeing someone you care about being hurt is also stressful. Remind yourself that you can’t make decisions for someone else, but you can ask a survivor what they need and offer help. We do our best helping when we are taking care of ourselves, so try to make your own plans to get rest, get good nutrition, talk to supportive friends and do things you enjoy. GoodTherapy.org also has a great page on self-care tips and ideas.
This article was written by Emma, an advocate who works with The Hotline. Check out the original work on The Hotline’s site by clicking here.
A revised summary of reflections by Leah Lakshmi Pepzna-Samarsinha:
I have this book coming out; it’s about the disabled future. It’s about how most of the world will be disabled soon, and how disabled people kept each other and other people alive during COVID. I have tour dates. They’re all online. Because COVID. Because COVID is still here. Because every week, 90 percent of the country is in high or substantial uncontrolled community transmission — the whole country is blood red on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) map. Because 400-500 people a day are still dying of COVID in the U.S., and long COVID is the third-most common neurological disorder. For all of these reasons, having in-person events would feel like inviting my disabled fan base to a slaughterhouse. I have every booster that exists, and I’m still immunocompromised and not hopping on 19 planes in a row.
Yet every time I post, people — radical people, “movement” people — say, “Oh see you in L.A./Atlanta/Chicago!” And I have to say, “All events are virtual. Remember that? Virtual events? The accessible kind, with CART (real time captioning, making events accessible to people with a variety of disabilities and neurodivergence) and American Sign Language (ASL)? How did you forget so quickly?”
I’ve started calling the time we live in “The Great Forgetting.” Some call it “The Great Gaslighting.” Both are true. By these terms, I mean the immense, on-purpose effort by the state to throw down the memory hole the fact that the last two years of the pandemic happened. The CDC switching its easiest-to-find map from the accurate community transmission map to one that shows the whole country in (fake) happy low-risk green. Biden saying offhandedly that “the pandemic is over” even as thousands of people die every week and groups like Long COVID Justice and #MEAction organize — from bed and die-ins in front of the White House — demanding that the U.S. declare long COVID a public health emergency.
Every disabled person I know is in a state of grief and shock since April, when many mask mandates in airlines, public transport and public life were abruptly dropped by federal and state governments in the U.S., as everyone else abandons solidarity to “move on.” One minute, a lot of people were masking during Omicron; the next minute, everyone was back to breathing on each other on the bus — and we weren’t safe anymore. We increasingly feel pushed out of public life, as events and spaces from urgent cares to ERs to conferences say, “Oh, we’re not doing virtual anymore.” We’re talking about it, but it feels like no one else is. And many of us feel incredibly alone in our grief, and in the disorientation of feeling like we’re the only ones stubbornly remembering.
Maybe I was naive. I thought many people, while hating the pandemic, liked some of the access features it brought it. I still think that. I also think that most people at heart must care about others and want us all to stay alive. But internalized ableism is real. A lot of people have had a brush with what it’s like to live a disabled life these last two years, and a lot of them want to forget it as quickly as possible. They’d rather expose themselves to all kinds of harm than continue to be disabled like us — mask, discuss risk, stay home, pass public policies for the safety of all. Unfortunately, this puts us all, but especially us, at risk. So many abled people — including abled members of the left; including abled queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color — want to forget disability.
Sometimes forgetting is the only way people can find to survive.
In the face of few to no mass public rituals or acknowledgment for the millions of people who died from COVID, combined with almost zero collective survival public health strategies, I understand that denial is many people’s only accessible survival strategy. What we face is completely overwhelming and brain-bending. I wish I could pretend everything was fine, too, sometimes. But I lost a lot of people and I can’t forget their deaths, or what we all went through — and continue to go through.
People like to say survivors of sexual violence make up false memories. But it’s far more common for people who perpetuate abuse to make up a false reality where they did nothing wrong. It’s easier that way. They don’t ever have to face it. There’s a similar logic with The Great Forgetting. If the powers that be tell us nothing happened and nothing is happening forcefully enough, they can make it true.
I want so much more than to be told, “Oh, if you don’t feel safe/ it’s not accessible, just stay home!” I want to live in the full world, like every disabled person. I want to be able to leave my apartment without fearing death, go to a party, have casual sex. I want to live in the world, not my safe immuno-bubble, for the rest of my life. More than that, I want to finish what we started. I want us not to abandon the revolutionary dream some of us touched and made in 2020-2021 — of a world where community care, mutual aid for collective survival and a refusal to obey are not just possible, they make up the bones of the new world.
Let’s not abandon the dream.
This article is comprised of excerpts by Leah Lakshmi Pepzna-Samarsinha. Their full piece of writing was trimmed above for brevity in this newsletter, and a full article is linked here for you to read more of Leah’s writing. Special thanks to @MuchachaFanzine for sharing pieces of this article with us via social media.
June 23 of this year marked the 50th anniversary of Title IX’s passage (the approval of a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all educational programs that receive federal funding). Half a century after its implementation, many people understand Title IX as about equal representation of all genders on athletic teams. However, this law has many further implications for the safety of students, staff, and educators who are survivors of sexual assault, stalking, sexual harassment, and discrimination. Title IX is about much more than sports!
Education about the true impacts of this law – to both state and local education institutions – might be hindered more by rules becoming politicized and altered throughout presidential administrations. In fact, the current administration has a goal of implementing changes again by 2024. However – it is important now, in 2024, and beyond to ensure that Title IX’s rules are clearly understood. We must garner awareness about what these rules truly mean for our communities.
Overlooking the non-athletic parts of Title IX often results in more direct harm to rural states, especially for minoritized people in these areas. When we fail to fully understand the impacts of Title IX, and/or when we fail to share information about Title IX beyond issues related to sports, we perpetuate lasting trauma to gender-oppressed people – particularly the people who are most acutely impacted by gender-based oppression.
Idaho is a prime example of a rural state with limited resources to properly train administrators on the facets of Title IX that are related to sexual harassment, assault, or stalking grievances. In an article posted by Idaho News Ed on March 23, 2022, it was noted that many K-12 schools in rural Idaho have struggled to adequately respond to grievances or keep up with the rapid change in rules, regulations, and guidance handed down by the U.S. Department of Education.
“Historic inattention to the regulations, coupled with a mountain of new requirements released during the pandemic, means some Idaho public schools are still not up to speed with federal rules to address sexual misconduct, more than a year after those rules came into effect. A review by Idaho Education News found that a third of Idaho’s districts are still not in compliance with some of the more basic requirements to post documents online. ‘It’s still not well understood,’ Ryan Cantrell, director of Idaho’s Rural Education Association, said of the newest Title IX regulations. ‘They’re not quite sure what to do with it. They’re not quite sure what it means for them.’” Cited here
As Idaho administrators struggle with the bureaucratic nature of the shifting regulations, it is youth that are being most impacted and suffering acutely by the Idaho school’s inaction. “The stakes are high. There’s little data around the frequency of sexual misconduct in Idaho’s schools, but surveys show that Idaho youth experience higher rates of sexual violence than the national average, a trauma that can have lifelong consequences in school and beyond. Schools that don’t provide the proper support under Title IX risk federal investigation and costly civil rights lawsuits. Five Idaho districts are currently under investigation by the federal government or embroiled in federal lawsuits that have stretched on for years.” Cited here
While the situation is one that desperately needs to be addressed in this state, it is important for parents, advocates, attorneys, and community partners to increase their understanding of Title IX regulations and the implications of the law to assist our educational leaders – particularly our minoritized community members and youth – in being able to navigate this difficult system to protect their civil rights. We cannot afford to wait for systems of gender oppression to undo themselves.
Working together with school administrators to address the new and true regulations of Title IX can provide fair and honest investigations and sanctions for abusers; in turn, we can collectively create a lasting and positive effect on students and survivors within our educational systems.
This article was written by our beloved staff member, Lourdes. She specializes in legal research, navigating the criminal legal system, and civil rights advocacy. If you would like to meet and talk with her more, you can access an availability calendar here to connect with Lourdes.
Birth Justice 101
Webinar | December 7
A birthing person’s knowledge of their own body is sacred; their voice should be respected and their decisions honored. Unfortunately, this is not always what happens in a delivery room. This space is a virtual conversation on birth justice and why centering BIPOC queer, trans and nonbinary birthing people in all care settings is key to fighting reproductive oppression.
If you’d like to access this registration page, click here.
Collect the Least Amount of Information
Q&A Session | December 14
In this session, Alicia Aiken with the Danu Center’s Confidentiality Institute will discuss best practices when collecting survivors’ information in the course of services. Rooted in the principle that programs should collect and retain the least amount of information necessary to meet a survivor’s needs and goals, this session will include guidelines for thinking about intake, data retention, and more.
If you’d like to access this registration page, click here.
Advanced Restorative Practices
Facilitator Training | January 10
This virtual, interactive 8-session series (ending February 8) will provide the foundations of restorative practices and a fundamental understanding of how to serve as a facilitator in basic restorative practices that include conversations with criminal system clients and survivors of domestic violence/intimate partner violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence.
If you’d like to access this registration page, click here.
Reminder: Shipping for all materials on our website store is FREE for Programs. Please use the coupon below for all orders.
Visit the online store for the Idaho Coalition to check out what materials are available for order.
For store questions, please contact us.