Home: It’s a place associated with love and peace where most of us remain as COVID-19 sweeps across the nation. However, for victims living in abusive households, a house can be one’s darkest place, unveiling a series of challenges for escaping mistreatment.
Household abuse affects millions of people every year, ranging from physical violence to psychological manipulation and neglect. It is difficult for victims to escape abuse due to feelings of fear and embarrassment; with students having a harder time as they manage the rigor of school. Yet the signs of abuse may not always be apparent as victims may feel responsible for the violence they are experiencing.
“There’s so many different types of abuse and they can look a variety of ways,” Northwood mental health specialist Megan Keller said. “It depends on the victim and how it’s impacting them.”
There are resources to help victims recognize abuse and escape it. Students can call the Teen Crisis Hotline, speak to a trusted adult on campus or use the Say Something App, which is a safe and secure report system that allows you to report abuse and contact professionals who can help. If there is a direct threat to the safety of the student, students should call 911 and can stay at a domestic abuse shelter such as Waymakers located in Tustin, Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach.
In order to build stronger support systems, we must recognize the stigmas lingering around abuse as they cause many victims to have a difficult time revealing their abuse due to fear of negative societal reactions. This stigma manifests itself in victims as self-blame, feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment and is further magnified when people emotionally gaslight a victim of abuse by invalidating their experiences.
“Choosing yourself is such an important step,” Keller said. “It’s important setting a boundary for yourself.”
If you know someone trying to leave a hostile situation, let them know that you understand their possible fear, confusion or guilt. Providing emotional support and honoring one’s path to recovery are key factors in breaking the cycles of abuse, but don’t feel that you must handle this responsibility alone. Directing victims of abuse to a teacher, counselor or even a local shelter allows us to reach the root of the problem as quickly as possible. Victims may feel the need to hold onto a toxic relationship with a parent, but assure them that keeping mental health and safety at the forefront is the best option in the long run.
“It’s never your fault and you don’t deserve to be harmed in any way,” Keller said. “There are many adults here who want you to feel safe and secure because you’re worthy.”
Say Something Anonymous Tip Line
Teen Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-3000
The Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ Youth: 1-866-488-7386
Waymaker’s Teen Shelter: 949-494-4311