I am an domestic violence and sexual assault advocate for victims. I mainly work in a shelter and assist people with information on recovering from domestic violence and sexual assault as well as human trafficking, stalking, child abuse, and elder abuse. I also respond to ERs for rape exams (including for prisoners and children). I'm here to talk about the things I've experienced as a responder and shelter worker, give information on how you can be an effective supporter, and to break the silence! Ask me anything!

If your a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault and are looking for resources, or safety please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline. Help is out there! I'm sorry but please don't reach out to me on here, I'm afraid I can't guarantee a timely response and your safety is an immediate concern.

My SART notebook and the rape kit I keep in my car

Comments: 127 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

Sigseg29 karma

Do you provide support for men?

dontDViate67 karma

Yes, I'm so happy you asked! We do not discrimination on any of our services! We house men, women and children in the same building. Also because of the way our shelter is setup, we even have men and women in the same rooms. And we are LGBTQ friendly!

QP201218 karma

I wish they were all like that. I was turned away from a DV shelter because I had a teenage son. If I had called the police while in a crisis, I would have gotten in. but, because my now ex kicked us out of the house, and I decided to try and take advantage of that, they couldn't help. It was really demoralizing, and sunk me into a depression that took over a year to break.

dontDViate19 karma

Yep, we service primary and secondary victims. If your whole family can't fit in our shelter, we will find you a shelter that can take you all. Families shouldn't be torn apart when their trying to come together and heal for trauma.

dontDViate8 karma

Congratulations on kicking depressions butt!

michelle_est_triste8 karma

That's nice you're LGBTQ friendly. I hear it's not uncommon for shelters to turn away trans people especially.

dontDViate15 karma

Yeah, we've had to taken in trans-folks because people turn them away sometimes (which is being remedied nationally). Its hard to help someone become safe and bring them into a shelter when they have no transportation (or no money for gas), and half a state or more away. We have to be creative with safety plans

ChasmFlame14 karma

What is the best success story you've been involved in?

dontDViate43 karma

There are so many different kinds of success that its hard to find a perfect answer to your question. My first client to ever leave shelter and go to her own apartment had to fight through a detox, no supportive family, discrimination from others (she was a lesbian in a rural community), no job history, some mental health issues, plus trauma. When I was helping her move furniture into her apartment she was so scared. She had never been on her own before. We talked about how she did have people here for her (she had a girlfriend) and came up with a plan for she was ever feeling down or alone. I actually wrote (unknowingly at the time) what she wanted to tell her girlfriend when she proposed to her. The girlfriend said yes, and I see them walking around town every now and then.

notreallyc3po10 karma

How do you follow up and keep people safe who do not want to leave an abusive relationship?

dontDViate8 karma

Having a careful and realistic plan for those moments where abuse can happen or recognizing a build up before it occurs. Following is typically in the hand of our clients because of our concerns with being confidential and keeping the situation at the least dangerous level as possible.

random_side_note9 karma

Do you have any advice for someone who'd like to work or volunteer in this line? I think this would be a really excellent way to give back, and help someone else out, especially having been in a similar position myself (maybe nothing hands on, or one on one, necessarily, just looking for a way to help out).

As a survivor, I'd just like to thank you for everything you do.

dontDViate6 karma

Be an everyday hero. We need more of them. By leaving cards for your local domestic violence or sexual assault center you could potently be finding the way for someone to find a safe haven and that's just one example. Around my rural community we are always in need of volunteers and give out trainings to community groups or groups of individuals about the topic.

Advice? Hmmm. It's okay to have a softheart if you can accomplish your goal of supporting a victim/survivors wishes. Be a person they can come to for safety and keep in mind it can take a couple of times to leave. You must meet them where they are at.

arsmith5319 karma

Do you find any conflict in the shelter with housing male and females? I spent some time in one myself and other than minor children, males were not allowed. I can think of a number of people that would have been traumatizing for. Also, I would think problems could arise with developing unhealthy relationships when people are in such a vulnerable situation. I now do a lot of volunteer work with dv shelters and I've not encountered any coed ones so I'm curious how yours handle that.

dontDViate14 karma

it's not realistic to avoid men. If someone in shelter needs there own space, we have quiet rooms they can use as needed. Most females are uncomfortable at first but once they see that their not going to be abusive, they come out of their shells. My experiences with men and women living together have been awesome and I wish more men knew there are options out there for them. The unhealthy relationships that I find in my work is with drug abuse.

offEND__7 karma


dontDViate5 karma

If she's In a seriously dangerous situation, like being choked or burned, reiterate how danger it is. Let her know there are options and help out there for her if she wants them. Advice can be patronizing and most victims know what they want and how they want to do things. In the end they will do things their way, so talk to her about how she does things. This is just an example and I'm not suggesting to for her to leave but Like if she's leaving, not leaving the bags where they could find them. Having a 911 phone charged that she could get too easily is a quick safety plan you could talk to her about. Being supportive and meeting her where she's at can be hard if your struggling with the things she's telling you, your local domestic violence shelter should have some kind of counseling services for the trauma that you to are vicariously experiencing.

allthecoconutstuffs7 karma

Do shelters like these typically take/need donated items? Can people help give anything?

dontDViate8 karma

Yes! Linens, Towels, Underwear, Socks, and toiletries are things we are in constant need of. Canned goods, or fresh veggies are a nice treat too.Old cell phones can be used to call 911 and furniture can be used to upkeep shelter or furnish new homes.

boobieaficionado6 karma

What information can you provide for people who may be looking to donate time or money to help with this cause?

dontDViate6 karma

You can contact your local domestic violence or sexual assault center for more information. Domesticviolenceshelters.org could be a place to start looking.

remulean6 karma

It's so nice to hear you provide help for men. Thanks for that! In your experience are there any differences in how you help men or women? Or does it fundamentally come down to similar advices?

dontDViate16 karma

Men face unique barriers because of the ways societies push "what being a man really is". Women and men face different challenges and stigmas. I'm always upfront and realistic (but not hard) with people though so it doesn't change the way I serve them.

hlwroc4 karma

I've seen articles that state that rape is more about power than it is about sex. Have you seen this in your experiences?

dontDViate14 karma

Yes. Rape is used as a tool to gain power and control over someone. It is not sex or a "crime of passion".

Snowbank_Lake4 karma

Can it be frustrating to deal with someone who feels scared and violated? What kind of techniques do you use to calm them down and help them feel comfortable? Thank you for what you do!

dontDViate4 karma

Never. I'm not sure who said it but where there is love it is never any hassle and thee is always enough time. It's not frustrating because I always try to think of how it relates to their trauma. We use grounding techniques and the power of mindfulness to get them feeling safe. If that doesn't work, we talk about what we can and can't control in life and find ways we can feel safe without control. By giving them the power of being the one to control the conversations we have, people normally just need a little help finding what they really want. Those with mental health issues though can be trickery you have to meet them at their level. If having a hairdryer is what they use to feel safe (or warm) then we have to come up with a plan to get a hairdryer while addressing that trauma.

notreallyc3po4 karma

What is the difference between yourself and a SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) nurse?

dontDViate7 karma

Sane nurses collect evidence and are there to provide medical support in a way that is as non-retraumatizing as possible. I provide information about a victims rights, what its like to report or not report, walk them through the exam and the aftermath of reporting and can provide them with new clothing, financial assistance, arrange transportation, and am there to help them know that they have a voice in the proceedings. They have the power to say what happens next, and I can help them convey that to the police and hospital staff. Also I help them feel like a person again- and can find things that bring them back to who they are. If that's finding out something their proud of or making them laugh or talking about how they now hate tequila and slacks, we can get through anything.

Raineydaze43 karma

How can I get into this field of work?

dontDViate3 karma

I know that we always need volunteers, so volunteering could be an easy way to get your foot in the door.

harmlessmusic3 karma

Maybe you can help:

I've taken it upon myself to help assist a man that has a history of domestic abuse (aggressor). There are some decent resources online about "how to tell if you're an abuser", etc. but I'd really like to get a professional counselor/therapist involved in helping him to identify and rehabilitate his behavior. There are LOADS of resources available for free help for victims, but I can't find any reliable information on free help for abusers. Any thoughts on where I should look?

(this in in the US, and the man has no insurance to help cover costs)

dontDViate7 karma

Also steer clear of anger management classes because they're not the same. By blaming it on anger then they don't have to take complete responsibility for there actions. I'll post more about the differences tonight.

dontDViate5 karma

Some domestic violence shelters have abuse intervention classes that abusers can sign them selves into (most go though because they're court ordered). Trying googling some local domestic violence shelters and call their offices (not crisis lines).

rbevans2 karma

Do you find people trying to take advantage of the support you're providing?

dontDViate9 karma

I get prank calls on the crisis line. I think people find us because we have "sexual" in our company name. In our shelter, we have a criteria for those who are in a truly dangerous situation. You have to have a reasonable fear of being in physically or mental danger or an advocate has to for you. If you are just homeless though and are safe to go to a homeless shelter, we talk about that to see if that is really what can safely work for you. People don't want to go to church missions or homeless shelters but we are an emergent shelter in a rural community with only 9 beds. We house anywhere from 1 to 18 people at any given time. Not to say we haven't had people who have lied, but in the 3 years I've worked in the shelter I can only think of maybe 2 or 3. Even though we are in a rural area we serve 100+ people a year so I think the 2 or 3 I've had is a pretty good rate.

Treeleafyellow2 karma

Do you encourage or pressure victims to go to the police? Most of the women I know have been assaulted, but none have gone to the cops.

dontDViate8 karma

No, we always make sure that victims know they have the power to control what can happen as far as reporting or not reporting. By pressuring people into doing something they don't want to we would be taking that power away from them and destroy the trust and confidence victims have in coming to us.

GiancarGoGetThatHR2 karma

is there any time in your line of work that you have been truly scared?

dontDViate1 karma

I had a lady who had seizures often, the first time I've ever seen her have a seizure she had a grand mal and it was so scary. She completely changed my life.

YayThrowaway43211 karma

I can imagine the work you do to be truly nerve-wrecking. How do you unwind after a long day? How hard is it to keep a certain level of distance?

dontDViate1 karma

I go home and read. Or I will play with my Xbox or 3DS. Occasionally I will take myself on a date if it's been terrible week. Dinner, Wine, Candles near my bathtub. The works. Just like any social worker compassion fatigue is something that I have experienced. Doing the things that make me feel special is how I keep going.

dontDViate1 karma

You could try contact your state coalition for domestic violence and sexual assault

spiderlanewales1 karma

There is a WomenSafe shelter in my town. Obviously, they won't confirm if a person is or isn't there, but say an abused spouse leaves in the middle of the night and goes there. The abusive one might not have to think too hard to figure out where their spouse escaped to. What kind of physical protection normally exists at these facilities? If an abusive husband rolled in the front door with a baseball bat looking for his wife, who he believed (correctly) was there, what would happen?

dontDViate1 karma

Well someone would call 911. As every shelter is different and I don't feel comfortable talking about our methods of safety beyond confidentiality agreements, I guess I can't really answer your question... I'm sorry!

john_gee1 karma

What proportion of the people who use your shelter would you say are repeat visitors? Do you find that people tend to fall into one abusive relationship and then avoid them in the future, or is it more of a repetitive pattern?

dontDViate1 karma

For one abusive relationship, I believe the average times it takes to fully leave someone is 11 try's. Some people use shelter just to get to that cooldown phase or honeymoon phase. I can only think of one girl who had two different abusers.

Adamj11 karma

Do you get a lot of shit from people who call you things like "manhater?" My mom also worked that job and she got that.

dontDViate1 karma

I don't actually talk about my job to anyone except close friends or colleagues. Occasionally my classmates at college if I think I might do a project about my work. So I've never had that experience yet!

notreallyc3po1 karma

What was the hardest call you had to deal with?

dontDViate3 karma


sillymod0 karma

Pretty sure most privacy laws in most places (if not all) have exceptions for when there is the possibility of imminent threat of harm to a person.

dontDViate2 karma

Yep, but getting them to give you that address is hard. By asking if we can get help to them or have someone come talk to them we can get both!

sock20141 karma

Which websites do you recommend for people trapped in an abusive situation?

dontDViate1 karma

domesticshelters.org could help you find a shelter or center near you

sock20140 karma

Any others?

dontDViate2 karma

http://www.ncadv.org For those who are trapped it's best to have a unique safety plan made for you. little tips that you find online here and there of course are nice but really your safety is personal. Having a conversation with human who is trained in drama and abuse is a better method of coming up with a good plan to stay safe in my opinion.

mrericegg1 karma

I once heard there is more domestic violence in lesbian relationships. In you experience, is this true?

dontDViate7 karma

I'm in a rural community that doesn't have a lot of LGBTQ friendly services but we do know that some ladies lie when they come in and say their abuser was a man and once they get more comfortable with us then tell us it was a woman.

lolnottelling1 karma

What do you think of Milo Yiannapolous?

dontDViate2 karma

Honestly I had only heard of him in passing online or rather something about some rude tweets that some people said he made. I believe in free speech and expressing your opinions. Life has taught me that just because you respect someone doesn't mean you receive it in return. However discrimination has no place in a progressive society and should not be tolerated. That doesn't mean anyone should silence anyone, it means we should have a productive conversation and try and educate the community about the intentional and unintentional consequences of discrimination.

provanagotannat1 karma

Is there anything you think most people would be surprised to know about this subject? I know that's a broad question, but is there anything that is very different in real life in comparison to what we hear/see about the subject in media.

dontDViate2 karma

Really how people come together and support each other. Total strangers from very different walks of life can be the most helpful of support in a shelter for each other.

dontDViate2 karma

Also when I started working, the amount of people that I came into contact and told them about my job nearly everyone of them told me a story about a family member or friend who was going through such a thing as domestic violence or sexual assault. It was just so eye-opening how many people it impacts.

Ketrel1 karma

Are there free resources for people who are out of emotionally abusive relationships, but were left with massive trust and self esteem issues as a result?

dontDViate1 karma

Yes there are! I know that we offer free professional counseling to our clients and so I believe that anyone would be able to contact there local shelter to find if their counseling services are free!

_DrPepper_1 karma

Ever have someone come in and start abusing the other victims?

dontDViate1 karma

Not really, we had some assertive clients that didn't really go with some of our more introverted clients but that's about it. Its just a personality clash really.

1Nah1 karma

It seems like a very interesting and exciting career; you're always there to help others in need which is just fantastic and forming friendships in the process.

My question is have you ever been put into a situation where your own safety has been threatened?

dontDViate1 karma

We had this woman who was in such severe danger. The abuser had found her from across the state and ended up texting her number (which she had had changed). They said they were watching our front door of shelter and knew what color it was and they were going to shot her and kids when they walked or one day. It is worth mentioning that they had already shot my client once before.

Prolapsedbeaver1 karma

Stuck on an island with a tree that bears sandwiches as fruit. What sandwich would your tree bear?

dontDViate2 karma

whew an easy question. A grilled avocado, hummus sandwich with pepper jack cheese!

dontDViate1 karma

I'll be back in a few hours to answer any more questions y'all have!

TommyFookingShelby1 karma

The media tends to focus on domestic violence on women. You work at a shelter and women are probably more likely to seek help, how does domestic violence against men compare to those against women?

dontDViate1 karma

I copied it from a similar question I had earlier: Men face unique barriers because of the ways societies push "what being a man really is". Women and men face different challenges and stigmas. I'm always upfront and realistic (but not hard) with people though so it doesn't change the way I serve them.

uaruna1 karma

In your experience, are children growing up in homes filled with domestic violence prone to be more aggressive when they grow up, or they tend to avoid conflicts?

I know there is no general rule, but I'm wondering if you and your colleagues have any observations about that.

dontDViate1 karma

No I have not really seen any children grow up yet I've only been there for three years. However when playing house with a couple of kids, we played a domestic violence household. I had one child who cursed me out and threw a pan at me because I wasn't eating dinner fast enough.

uaruna1 karma

Intense! Are those kids usually attending some sort of therapy/consultation?

dontDViate1 karma

They did! We offer counseling services for children too

sparkchaser1 karma

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Shelter Advocate.

What does that even mean?

Are there that many people who are pro Domestic Violence and pro Sexual Assault that an advocate against these is necessary?

I'm not trying to downplay the importance of your work but "advocate"?

dontDViate1 karma

I assist people in making decisions about what they need or want, contacting support systems, navigating the legal system, talking to law enforcement, arranging transportation for those who don't have any, showing them what services are available to them in the local area that they could benefit from, if they can't benefit from them what other things we can do... And am there when it all becomes too much, for support and empowerment.

whendidieatcorn1 karma

are you in Austin?

dontDViate1 karma

No but there might be shelters near Austin if your looking

dontDViate1 karma

Yep yep

Soakitincider0 karma

How many males do you have living in the shelter?

dontDViate6 karma

I can't give any numbers out, but we have had quite a few. Our outreach services are what most males come to us for.

Soakitincider2 karma

Can you describe these outreach services?

dontDViate7 karma

Assistance with order of protections, victims compensation, financial assistance, support, professional counseling, court advocacy, law enforcement advocacy, and 24/7 support available and more. All for free.

THanksIdiot0 karma

Do you have any opinions on the book The Gift of Fear?

dontDViate1 karma

Never read it, I'll have to check it out though.

elfeej0 karma

I'm a college student and recently I got highly intoxicated and woke up with an naked highly overweight with me in my bed. Should I file rape charges?

dontDViate0 karma

If you feel like you have any questions regarding a specific moment I suggest you contacting your local domestic violence and sexual assault center they will be able to help you more thoroughly and seriously.

The_Withheld_Name-1 karma

Is it a women's shelter?

dontDViate7 karma

We don't discriminate. Men, women, children, trans, and unidentify-ing folks are all welcome.

The_Withheld_Name1 karma

I'd guess 'unidentifying' people would be maybe 0.01% of humanity, but ok, it's good they get help. What do you think about women's shelters? I've been involved with donating food to one but I'm not allowed to go to the premises (& that's a reasonable sex-discrimination policy). Is there a place for sex-discriminating shelters, or should they be open to whomever needs help?

dontDViate1 karma

I believe in coed shelters. Because I think they are more realistic and if that's the only shelter around, then you could be taking people away from their support system if there isn't a male or female shelter near by. I've never had a problem with any of the men and women and shelter together. Once they remember that they are safe and this is a human being that is in the same position that they are in life, people calm down.

nawazsagri10-3 karma


dontDViate7 karma

Abusers? Rape typically happens with people the victim knows. These are people that could be friends or family members. I've yet to have a victim want to have someone kill their rapist. It is already so traumatizing and most want to leave this experience behind them and forget about it. rather than accept it they blame themselves for actions. I work with prisoners and all I can say is that I believe people can change if they want to, I believe in second chances for everyone. That doesn't mean I don't believe in accountability or people not having consequences for actions.