Bouquets and Bruises: This Valentine's Day, Help Someone Experiencing Abuse

09 Feb, 2016, 16:56 ET from USAGov

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The greeting card aisle crams with shoppers, struggling to find the right sentiment. Buyers line up at the register with heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, and keep florists busy juggling orders for beautiful bouquets. It's all part of the excitement and romance of Valentine's Day. But for someone who's recovering from sexual assault or living with domestic violence, all of the cards and roses in the world can't make up for the pain.

If you want to support a friend in this difficult situation, or if you need support yourself, USAGov has gathered these resources to help:

When your friend needs you
"You really don't know unless you've been there." From the outside, it can be hard to understand why people hesitate to report a sexual assault or stay in abusive relationships. But there a lot of reasons: fear that no one would believe them--especially if the attacker is respected in the community, concern for their own or their children's safety, financial instability, or feeling--because of the abuser's mind games--that they deserve the abuse. Learn how to help your friend move toward safety and healing with these suggestions from WomensHealth.gov

When you're a bystander
If you're a college student, you might have heard about sexual assaults on your campus. Some of those assaults may have been prevented if bystanders had spoken up. The It's On Us campaign works to prevent sexual assault by changing the college culture. Its tips and tools teach you to trust that knot in your stomach when a situation doesn't seem right. It empowers you to move beyond being an observer to step in and help protect someone who's vulnerable or support a friend who's been assaulted.

When you're the one who's hurting
Living through rape or domestic violence can be isolating and shocking, and it can leave you wrapped in shame and hopelessness. Your partner may try to convince you that you're not really being abused, or that it's your fault. This list of signs of abuse can help you evaluate your relationship.

Even if you're not ready to make a report to the police, you can still begin creating a safety plan to leave a dangerous situation. And you can reach out for non-judgmental support anonymously, day or night, from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can also contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or find a rape crisis center near you. If possible, contact them from a phone or computer account that your abuser can't access so they won't be able to trace your call records or browsing history.

These organizations are ready to refer you to local help for counseling, treatment for stress, depression, or trauma, and housing and child care programs. With them, and with supportive friends and family, you won't have to be alone during this difficult time.

The government is filled with programs and services that can help make life a little easier and safer for you and your family. Let USAGov be your guide at USA.gov/explore.

USAGov is a federal program that guides you to tips and tools in English and in Spanish from hundreds of government agencies, departments, and programs. We make it easier for you to find answers you can trust about government information and services--online, by phone, e-mail or chat, and in print.

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