October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is officially Domestic Violence Awareness month. We at Help & Emergency Response believe that everyone deserves a healthy relationship, free of violence. We also recognize that we cannot do this work alone. Everyone can play a part in helping to support victims of domestic violence and help to end this public health crisis.  

When we learn of a friend or family member who is involved in an abusive relationship the first thing we often ask is “why don’t they just leave?” This seems like a logical response right? When it comes to relationship abuse, it’s never as easy as “just leaving.” Leaving an abusive relationship can be hard for many reasons. Leaving is often the most dangerous time for a victim because abuse is about power and control. When a victim leaves, they are taking control of their life. This threatens the abuser’s power and could cause him or her to retaliate. The following are just a few of the reasons why someone might be making the decision to stay: 

  • Fear:  A person may be afraid of what will happen if they leave the relationship. 

  • Believing Abuse is Normal:  A person may not know what a healthy relationship looks like. They may not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy.  

  • Fear of Being Outed: If someone is in an LGBTQ relationship and has not yet come out publicly, their partner may threaten to reveal this secret.  

  • Embarrassment or Shame: It’s often difficult for someone to admit that they’ve been abused. They may feel they’ve done something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner.  

  • Low Self-Esteem: Abusers erode their partners’ self-esteem with constant put-downs and blame. It can be easy for the victim to believe those statements and think that the abuse is their fault.  

  • Religious or cultural beliefs and practices may not support divorce or may dictate outdated gender roles and keep the victim trapped in the relationship.  

  • Lack of having somewhere to go (e.g. no friends or family to help, no money for hotel, shelter programs are full or limited by length of stay).  

  • Fear that homelessness may be their only option if they leave.  

  • Lack of means to support themselves and/or their children financially or lack of access to cash, bank accounts or assets. 

  • Fear of losing custody of any children if they leave or divorce their abuser or fear the abuser will hurt, or even kill, their children.  

This list includes just a small sample of the reasons/barriers for why a victim may choose to stay in an abusive relationship. What this list does show though is why it is not always possible to “just leave.” 


It IS still possible for you to support someone who is struggling in their relationship. Survivors have often said that what matters most is having someone in their life who is there for them, without judgment, to bounce ideas off, get support, and lean on when things get tough. You can be that person.  

What can you do to support someone experiencing abuse? 

  1. Ask a Question  Asking “How’s it going?” and really caring about the answer is powerful. Some other possible questions to ask: 

  • What is your biggest concern? 

  • What do you need or want? 

  • How can I help? 

  • Do you get to do the things you like to do? 

  • What happens if you disagree? 

  • What does arguing look like in your relationship? 


  1. Listen Up 

Really listen. Listen without having your own agenda. Being heard helps. Acknowledgment makes all the difference. 

You are listening to hear what the person is experiencing, what they want and how you can help. You are not trying to get your point of view across, you are trying to hear their perspective.  


Things to say to people who have experienced harm: 

             *I believe you.       *I am so sorry this is happening to you.

*Thank you for sharing this. *You don’t deserve this.  

              *I don’t even know what to say right now, but I am so glad you told me. 

       *Thank you for telling me. *It’s not your fault. *You are not alone. 

*You get to choose what you do next.  


  1. Stay Connected 

It can take a long time for things to get better, and it can be difficult to hang in there through it all but staying connected is one of the most helpful things you can do. When someone is isolated, the abuser has far more power and control over their lives. You do not need to know all the answers or agree with every decision to be helpful.  


Connection also means no ultimatums. We’ve learned that tough love is not what people need. You might be the only person they are reaching out to. If you give them an ultimatum that they can’t live up to, they won’t have anyone left. Instead, try to leave the door open to make it easy to keep coming back to you.  


Even if the person you’re concerned about doesn’t reach out, you can be the one to reach out. This takes some of the power away from the abuser and can be a lifeline for your loved one. It might be that they aren’t calling or reaching out because they can’t, not because they don’t want to or don’t need support.  


If you are hearing something that makes you concerned they are in immediate danger, you (or both of you together) can call your local domestic violence agency to come up with a safety plan to stay as safe as possible. Some particularly risky things to listen for:  access to firearms, prior strangulation, suicide threats.  

Everyone has a role to play in ending domestic and sexual violence and the good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to help. It doesn’t take much to make an impact. Your continued presence, connection, and support are what people need to get safer and thrive.  


If you or someone you know is in need of assistance please reach out to our hotline at 757-485-3384. We are available 24/7.  




A New Partnership

The HER Shelter is excited to announce that we have partnered with the Virginia Department of Health to participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program.  For more information click HERE.

The HER Shelter is Proud to Support Juneteenth

Juneteenth is a time to celebrate, gather as a family, reflect on the past and look to the future. Today we celebrate freedom and self-determination. On this day, we commemorate the freedom of enslaved African Americans.

Juneteenth is celebrated on the anniversary of the order by Major General Gordon Granger proclaiming freedom for slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865, which was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. In 2021, Juneteenth became a recognized federal holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates a pivotal moment in African American history. Remembering Juneteenth as part of American history acknowledges the historical battles against slavery and racism, but also reminds us of the continuous work that needs to be done. The war on racism in all forms is not over.

While we will celebrate today, Help & Emergency Response also recognizes that our work is far from over. Black women comprise 14% of the U.S. population and 31% of domestic violence fatalities and are statistically nearly 3x more likely than white women to be killed by an intimate partner. (Violence Policy Center, 2022)

45.1% of Black women and 40.1% of Black men have experienced intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. (Breiding, 2014)

62% of LGBTQ intimate partner violence survivors are people of color. (NCAVP, n.d.)

We recognize the need for the development and implementation of culturally-informed strategies aimed specifically at diverse communities of color to effectively address interpersonal violence and homicide. We stand against violence in all communities and while we will continue this mission, today we will celebrate freedom and change so…

Happy Juneteenth!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

When we think of domestic violence, most of us picture a man having control over a woman, and while that can be true, that is not always the case. Domestic violence can look different for a lot of individuals and a lot of communities. An abuser is not limited to any one person of any one gender or sexuality. Unfortunately, there is not much research done on interpersonal violence in the LGBTQ+ community and not many resources for these survivors.


The Statistics

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

  1. 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women.
  2. 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, in comparison to 29% of heterosexual men.
  3. Transgender victims are more likely to experience intimate partner violence in public, compared to those who do not identify as transgender.
  4. Bisexual victims are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to people who do not identify as bisexual.

Some misconceptions about DV in LGBTQ+ communities:

  1. When there is violence in same sex relationships, both parties are abusing eachother.
  2. Violence between gay male partners is normal, it’s what men do.
  3. Abuse is less common in same sex relationships.


What is stopping individuals from getting help?

Understanding the signs: Women have stated that when in a relationship with a man, it is easier to see the signs of abuse than when that same woman was in a relationship with another woman, this can delay the process of seeking out services.

Outing: Another barrier to receiving services is when individuals are not “out,” partners may use that as a way to silence their partners, putting fear in them which decreases the chance of seeking out help. Not only does this keep them from receiving services but this is also a form of emotional/psychological abuse.

Fear of being stereotyped: Many survivors have doubts about whether or not they would be believed if they went to seek help based on gender stereotypes, which in turn could make the situation dangerous for the survivor.

Fear of prejudice within the system: Certain advocates in the criminal justice system can have biases against certain populations, this can deter survivors from coming forward in fear of resulting in more violence.


Resources available to the community:

https://www.cuav.org/ CUAV supports the healing of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people that have experienced violence and abuse by other people and /or institutions.

https://lgbtlifecenter.org/ipv/ Life Center in Norfolk, VA.


February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This is a time and a campaign to amplify the needs of youth and their experiences with dating abuse. In his 2023 National Proclamation, President Joe Biden said “By recognizing the signs of dating and domestic violence, setting positive examples of healthy relationships that lift up instead of tear down, and making clear that abuses of power are never acceptable, we can build a culture where respect is the norm, dignity is the rule, and safety is the expectation – both online and offline.” 

Dating violence is more common than many may think, especially among teens and young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 16 million women and 11 million men who report experiencing intimate partner violence say it first happened before they were 18. These include instances of physical violence, sexual violence and stalking. Youth who are female, LGBTQ or unsure of their gender identity are all at a higher risk of experiencing teen dating violence, the CDC says. Dating abuse is an attempt by abusive partners to gain or maintain power and control and it comes in many forms. It can include physical, emotional, sexual or digital abuse. Abuse usually isn’t isolated – it forms a pattern of behaviors that often make the victim question their own self worth and become further established in the abusive relationship.  

Teaching children and young people about healthy relationships and consent should start early with age-appropriate messages. Healthy relationship programs in schools aim to prevent or reduce teen dating violence by increasing awareness. Prevention is important because according to the CDC, teen dating violence has both serious short-term and long-term consequences. Even if programs can’t prevent incidents of violence from occurring, teaching young people about the signs of unhealthy relationships and the resources available, makes them better equipped to respond when needed to help their friends and themselves. Education and conversations around healthy relationships can also help dismantle damaging norms. As a society we have normalized so many unhealthy relationship behaviors that are key early warning signs of abuse – possessiveness, intensity, guilting. We need young people to understand that these behaviors are not ok.  

While healthy relationships tend to have a positive effect on emotional development and future relationships, abusive relationships often do the opposite. Dating violence victims are likely to experience suicidal thoughts, antisocial behaviors, depression and anxiety, and engage in unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol and drug use. Adolescents in abusive relationships often carry these unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships. Ultimately they can end up the victims or perpetrators of adult intimate partner violence.  

Teen dating violence is an issue that impacts everyone – not just teens. Parents, teachers, friends and communities are impacted as well. Together we can raise awareness about teen dating violence and promote safe, healthy relationships. Everyone can make a difference by reaching out to young people in simple ways. 

  • Discussing the warning signs of dating abuse (all kinds, not just physical) 

  • Creating a positive connection to the issue – talk about the characteristics of healthy teen relationships, not just abusive ones. 

  • Discuss how communication works in a relationship as well as consent, boundaries, respect, trust and honesty.  

  • Talking about how the media portrays healthy and unhealthy relationships. For example, many popular movies, tv shows, commercials, books and magazines portray stalking as romantic or harmless when it is actually very dangerous.  


For more information about teen dating violence please visit loveisrespect.org 

If you or a teen you know is involved in an abusive relationship there is 24/7 help available by calling 1-866-331-9474 or by texting LOVEIS to 22522. 

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

What Human Trafficking Is, and Isn’t

Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.

Force, Fraud, or Coercion

U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor or services against his or her will. The one exception involves minors and commercial sex. Inducing a minor into commercial sex is considered human trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion.

How Many People are Trafficked in the U.S. Yearly?

In 2017, Polaris worked on 8,759 cases of human trafficking reported to the Polaris-operated National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline. These cases involved 10,615 individual victims; nearly 5,000 potential traffickers and 1,698 trafficking businesses. Human trafficking is notoriously underreported. Shocking as these numbers are, they are likely only a tiny fraction of the actual problem.

How Many People are Trafficked in the U.S. Yearly?

In 2017, Polaris worked on 8,759 cases of human trafficking reported to the Polaris-operated National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline. These cases involved 10,615 individual victims; nearly 5,000 potential traffickers and 1,698 trafficking businesses. Human trafficking is notoriously underreported. Shocking as these numbers are, they are likely only a tiny fraction of the actual problem.

Who are the Traffickers?

Perpetrators of human trafficking span all racial, ethnic, and gender demographics and are as diverse as survivors. Some use their privilege, wealth, and power as a means of control while others experience the same socio-economic oppression as their victims. They include individuals, business owners, members of a gang or network, parents or family members of victims, intimate partners, owners of farms or restaurants, and powerful corporate executives and government representatives. 

How do Traffickers Control Victims?

Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, the most common include physical and emotional abuse and threats, isolation from friends and family, and economic abuse. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their family.

If you need assistance, please call the HER Shelter Hotline 24/7 at 757-485-3384 or the National Trafficking Hotline 24/7 at 888-373-7888

Michelle Shares HER Story

While Michelle has a tragic story of domestic violence, she came to Help and Emergency Response and found the resources she needed to build a new life for her and her children.  We are so proud of the hard work she did to become an independent, successful woman!


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