Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence: Resources for Getting Help

Sometimes starting the journey of learning to love yourself can be difficult – especially if you are in a situation with a partner who is putting you down, ridiculing you, calling you names, threatening you, physically abusing you, sexually abusing you, manipulating you, hiding your things, taking your things, telling you what you can and cannot do, and/or making you feel crazy.  All of these examples are examples abuse.  Abuse affects a person’s self-esteem, confidence level, level of self-worth, access to resources, and mental and physical health. (In this blog post, I use “survivor” to refer to people who have been and are victims of domestic violence.  I use “he” to refer to the abuser and “she” to refer to the survivor to reflect the majority of situations.  That being said, domestic violence is not only in heterosexual relationships and not only perpetrated by the man.  People in homosexual relationships or other LGBTQ relationships experience domestic violence, as well as men in heterosexual relationships.)

Whether you are in an abusive relationship, leaving an abusive relationship, out of an abusive relationship, or thinking you might be in an abusive relationship, the following resources may help you in some way.

PHONE NUMBERS
Immediate Danger (US): Call 911
MidWest US: Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) Help Line: 608-251-4445 or 800-747-4045
US: The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
UK: call Women’s Aid at 0808 2000 247.
Australia: call 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732.
Worldwide: visit International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies for a global list of helplines and crisis centers.


BOOKS
Why Does He DO That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft  – This book is amazing. Some women I know call it their bible. Bancroft had been working with abusive men for over 15 years when he wrote this book.  He tells of their motives, patterns, mind-sets, and characteristics.  This book is useful for determining if you are in an abusive relationship and for trying to understand why your abuser does the things that he does.


ONLINE

Emotional Abuse: http://www.bandbacktogether.com/emotional-abuse-resources/

Quizzes, Getting Help, Helping a Loved One, And Everything In Between- http://www.loveisrespect.org/

For Teens – http://www.thatsnotcool.com/


These are not all the resources out there – obviously – but they are a good start to understanding your situation or the situations of a loved one.

“WHAT KIND OF HELP COULD I GET?”

  1. Emergency Shelter
  2. Someone to Listen/Talk to/Safety Planning (Help Lines)
  3. Meet with an Advocate in Person – Safety Planning
  4. Legal Advocacy – Help with understanding and navigating the Legal System
  5. Support Groups
  6. A Safe Place for Your Pets

Taking care of you starts with you.

Learning How to Say “No” – BOUNDARIES

Boundaries are AWESOME.

Boundaries are frickin’ empowering.

Boundaries are a part of “self-care.”

In my year of being 23, I learned how to say no to things I didn’t want to do.  It took me a while to figure myself out, but once I did, I called my “saying-yes-to-everything” tendency my “obligation anxiety.”  Here is how it would go:

  1. An opportunity would arise/ someone needs help with something.
  2. I would sign up for something because I felt it was something I should do to (be a better person, build my resume, be ambitious – ie: become a caregiver, host/plan a fundraiser, volunteer somewhere, etc).
  3. I would start doing this activity.
  4. Said activity would start to expect more from me/I would expect more from me regarding said activity. (ie: asking me to work holidays, weird hours that didn’t fit with my schedule, plan events I didn’t actually have time for)
  5. I would say “Yes” to said expectations.
  6. I would get anxious about carrying out said expectations.
  7. I would do said expectations until I burned out OR I would flake out and ignore any duties and simply not do said activity anymore. (Usually the latter.)

In my year of being 23, I learned at that I could totally delete steps 2 – 7 out of my life by REALLY thinking about the opportunity/assistance needed and saying “No” AT STEP ONE!! AMAZING!! THIS WAS MONUMENTAL!

Instead of flaking out on obligations that I created, I could just not make them obligations in the first place.  I STARTED SAYING “NO” TO THINGS I DIDN’T ACTUALLY WANT TO DO! IMAGINE THAT!

It wasn’t until I started my year of being 24 did I actually learn that what I learned to do was SET BOUNDARIES.  Now that I can put a name to what I learned, I’m setting boundaries all over the place!

And now that I’m setting boundaries, I’m noticing the boundaries that other people are setting.  I’m seeing the boundaries, I’m calling them boundaries, I’m understanding those boundaries, and I’m respecting those boundaries.

Boundaries, Boundaries, BOUNDARIES. (I just typed it so much that it’s starting to not look like a word.)

HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES

  1. Be cognizant of what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable.
  2. Once you notice what is uncomfortable, set a boundary.
    1. EXAMPLE: Someone you met on a dating site is texting you too much.  You want some space.  SET A BOUNDARY.  “Hey, I need some space.  Text you in a couple days, ok?”  BOUNDARY. BOOM.
    2. Setting a boundary requires honesty, but remember that your amount of disclosure is up to you.  You could be breaking a boundary by getting a little TMI with your boundary explanation – especially if you’re setting a boundary with a co-worker, acquaintance, or random person.
      1. EXAMPLE: A co-worker says that they DESPERATELY need you to cover a shift for them.  But you don’t want to cover their shift.  Maybe it’s your only day off.  Maybe you just don’t feel like it.  Maybe you have plans already.  You do not need to come up with some excuse as to why you can’t work it.  You don’t need to give them any reason. By not sharing your plans, you are setting a boundary.  By not taking the shift, you are setting a boundary.
  3. Enforce said boundary.  Let this person know that you are serious about this boundary.  Setting boundaries and going back on them isn’t good for you or the person/people you are dealing with.  Be consistent with your boundary markers.

What boundaries have you set?  What boundaries do you think you need to set?

Learning to Love Your Scent: Vulva and Vagina Edition

This is the single best article about the scent of vulvas and vaginas.
The article is called

“Vulvas and Vaginas Smell Like, Well, Vulvas and Vaginas” 

I think this topic is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT.  I have wayyyyy too many girlfriends who don’t like cunnilingus because they are insecure about their scent.  If any guy or gal going down on you thinks you’re going to smell like peaches and strawberries, they are mistaken and need to learn that vulvas smell like vulvas.  (SPOILER: Most people who go down on women know that vulvas smell and taste like vulvas.  Those of us on the receiving end need to learn this fact and learn to love our scents.)

Martha Kempner wrote this article.  She deserves a serious low five.

She starts with a very important anatomy lesson:

VULVA = “everything on the outside between your legs – your labia majora, labia minora, mons pubis, clitoris, clitoral hood, urethral opening, vaginal opening”

VAGINA = “the muscle that connects your uterus to your body”

My biggest pet peeve is when people call vulvas “vaginas.”  VULVA is an awesome word.  We should use it more.  Especially correctly.

Kempner goes on to talk about what vulvas should smell like and how vulvas should be taken care of.
(SCENT SPOILER: However you smell is normal.  Be concerned if your smell changes – then something is up.)
(CARE SPOILER: Taking care of a vulva is easy peasy.  Do almost nothing.  Read the article for more info.)

Which Menstrual Cup is Right for YOU?

A few days ago I wrote a post about having an eco-menses.  All of the products that I recommended are based on my personal experience.  Not everything that works for me is going to work for you.  Here’s a great article a friend shared with me about alllllll the different types of menstrual cups!

If you’re considering a menstrual cup, this article is a great guide to figuring out where to start on your journey!

Some things to think about when choosing a cup:

  1. Have you had children or are you over the age of 30?
  2. Where does your cervix sits – is it high or low?
  3. How heavy or light  is your flow? (Cups work great for both!)
  4. How firm do you want the cup to be?

The article explains each in this list and even has come awesome comparison charts and photos.

Ch-ch-ch-check it out!

Learning to Love My Breasts: Going Braless 101

Three years ago I decided to stop wearing bras.

Yeah, I just stopped.

First summer going braless. Look how happy I am! FREEDOM!

Growing up, the demarcation of being a woman was having breasts.  Like, BIG ONES.  I figured because everyone in my family had BIG ONES that I’d have BIG ONES.  And, girl, was I mislead.

For a very long time, my breasts were a great source of insecurity.  They were the focus of my comparisons with other women.  I thought of myself as less of a woman because I have small breasts.  I never believed a lover when they said they liked them or when they said that they preferred small boobs.  Nope, in my mind they were just saying that to make me feel better.  It never did make me feel better because I didn’t like my boobs anyway.

When I was 21, I decided that I was going to start liking my boobs.  I noticed a customer at work had small boobs like me and she didn’t wear bras.  I had an epiphany!  I wasn’t going to wear bras either.

So I stopped wearing bras and decided that I was going to start thinking nice things about the small lovelies on my chest.

I stumbled upon this article about the perks of going braless (get it? perks?).  Besides going braless to feel better about my chest, I learned that there was a good chance I was doing my humps some good!

It took me a long time to accept them.  For a while, I liked them when I looked at them in the mirror, but the minute I could compare them to anyone else’s, I did and I would not feel happy about them.

Now, things didn’t just magically get better after going braless.  For a while, I was comparing how my braless boobs looked to chests that were wearing bras.  And I was like “Oh, poor me.  My boobs are so small.  Waaah waah.”  But then one day I put on an old bra just see how it looked and WAAA POW!  My boobs looked BIG!  And then I realized something I already knew – bras are an illusion.  DUH.  All this braless time up to this point I was down in the dumps comparing my boobs TO PEOPLE WHO WERE WEARING BRAS.  THIS MAKES NO SENSE, SELF.  And this was the tipping point for me – I realized that I didn’t really know what other women’s breasts looked like.  I only knew what the media was showing me in porn and Playboy and magazines.  THIS WAS MONUMENTAL FOR ME.  How could I compare myself to other women when one – they are all wearing push-up bras or regular bras, two – I didn’t know what anyone’s boobs actually looked like, and three – I didn’t wear bras to even know what I looked like in a bra.

So then I had to actively decide to stop comparing myself to others.  Which was hard, but a very possible thing to do.

Life with my chest got ONE MILLION PERCENT better after this.

Living braless is a way of life for me now. I don’t even think about it. Unless I’m writing a blog about it, of course.

I still have moments where I find myself thinking negative things, but they are few and far between.  When these times happen, I have to actively tell myself to be kind to myself.  It works. And then I pat myself on the shoulder for being nice to me.

EVERYONE LIKES LISTS, SO HERE’S A LIST ABOUT GOING BRALESS

  1. Do it for you.  Don’t do it for anyone else.
  2. Do it because it feels good and right.  Don’t do it if it doesn’t feel right for you.
  3. Sometimes people will notice, especially when you’re cold.  In time this will not bother you.  Guys’ nipples poke through their shirts all the time and no one cares.
  4. Sometimes undershirts are nice (like when you were a little girl, before you needed to wear bras).  They’re nice when a shirt is a little see through and you’re not ready to show the world the color of your nipples, too.
  5. You might notice how lop-sided you are.  That’s ok.  Nearly all women are.
  6. Here’s an article about what a woman learned when she went braless for a week.

VIDEO: How to Love Yourself 101

tyrannosauruslexxx made a great video about how to love yourself.

These same nine things are the exact things I went through to start loving me!  I thought she outlined them very well.  I will bullet-point them for you here with some of my own thoughts.

HOW TO LOVE YOURSELF 101 (per tyrannosauruslexxx)

  1. Stop putting yourself down.
  2. Replace negative thoughts with things that you like about yourself.  Or at least follow-up the negative comments with a positive comment about yourself.
  3. Treat yourself.  Indulge in something for yourself. Give yourself “me” time.
    1. KATE NOTE: For example, I take myself on a date at the beginning of every month.  I also take pole dancing classes (find out what they’ve done for me here) once a week for an hour.  As for “me” time, I don’t say “yes” to things when they interfere with “me” time and I choose to sleep by myself a few nights a week.
  4. Look at how you relate to others.  Treating others in a positive way will help you treat yourself in a positive way.
    1. KATE NOTE: This will also help others treat you positively. (Insert cliche saying “Treat others how you want to be treated.”)  
    2. KATE NOTE: This helps me with my road rage. :D  When I am getting angry, I try to be nice and pretend they are in a hurry because someone is in labor in that vehicle and that’s why they’re driving like an asshole and cutting me off (or trying to). So I let them cut me off, with a smile, because in my mind there in a pregnant woman having 10 sec contractions in that vehicle.  And I breathe, in, and out. Just like I imagine the woman in the vehicle in breathing. 
  5. Don’t be afraid to get rid of rubbish people in your life.
  6. Have goals – big and small.
  7. Know your worth.  Demand more from the world and people around you.
  8. Pick certain people who you look up to and emulate them in certain situations.
    1. KATE NOTE: “WWKD?”  What would Kate do?  You can even emulate me if you want.  Find your inner Kate.
  9. Fake it til you make it.  This applies for #1 through #8.  Do these things even if you don’t believe yourself, and you’ll start believing yourself because you deserve to love yourself and be happy.

MY ADDITIONS TO THIS LIST:

  • If you don’t have a mirror – get one!  If you have one and it’s covered up – uncover it!
  • Make eye contact with yourself in the mirror.
    • If this makes you cry, cry. If this makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why it does.  If this makes you want to punch the mirror, don’t.  If this makes you happy, be happy.
  • Smile at yourself when you look in the mirror.
    • I had no idea that not everyone did this until I was bartending one night and it came up in conversation.  Try it.  Seriously – it works.  :D
  • Stick a positive note on your mirror that will make you smile!  Here are some ideas:
    • You are smart.
    • You are kind.
    • You are important.
    • You look great!
    • All this and brains, too.

Check out the video below!