Imagine something extremely violent happening to you in which you have no control over, no matter how much you protested. Imagine feeling physically violated, with your previous ideas of personal safety, security and trust completely desecrated. Imagine feeling paralyzed with fear and imagine what your state of mind might be like if you were too scared to report the crime. Imagine your life or the lives of your family being threatened if you do report the crime. Imagine getting up the nerve to report it, but then you are judged and re-victimized every step of the way. Imagine others not believing you, playing down what happened to you, blaming you as if the crime against you was your own fault, and your assailant receiving no consequences. Now, imagine if what happened to you was sexual assault. What would you do? Where and to whom would you turn for help? What if this happened to your loved ones or even to your child?
This April marks the twenty-first annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we need to draw attention to the prevalence of it, as well as educate people and our communities about how to prevent it. In the United States, sexual assault takes place every 68 seconds. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, in the U.S. alone, nearly one in five women and one in 67 men have been raped at some time in their lives, and one in four girls and one in twenty boys is sexually abused by the age of 17.
Adults and children alike easily use screens, technology, and social media to connect us with others. Sexual harassment, abuse, and assault can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime, including in online spaces and social media platforms. But unfortunately, the harassment, cyberbullying, and sexual abuse happening all over are seen as unavoidable online behaviors. Online harassment, including online sexual harassment is an extensive issue, with one in four U.S. adults having faced some sort of online harassment, and 6% having faced sexual harassment online specifically.
First and most foremost, it's imperative to state that sexual assault is the perpetrator's fault only and avoid victim-blaming all together because it is NEVER the fault of the survivor. Victim blaming can include comments and questions like, “Are you sure that’s what really happened?”, “He/She would never have done that to you”, "Why didn't you report what happened?", “Were you drinking?”, "You shouldn't have gone to that party", or "What were you wearing?" While these questions and comments may not be made with ill intentions, they can still be very damaging and re-victimizing because they shift the focus away from the issue at hand and contribute even more to victims’ self-blaming.
The impacts of sexual assault can be long-term, lasting far beyond the event itself. Survivors usually blame themselves, are very likely to struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and are more prone to face several other health conditions, including but not limited to anxiety, eating disorders, substance use disorders, sleep disorders, and depression.
We all need some sort of a support network to help us work through the struggles in our lives and when we’ve been impacted by severe trauma, support from others is extremely important in a person's healing process. This may include a combination of trauma-informed therapy with an individual therapist, group therapy, and peer support. You may be able to find a support group for survivors of sexual assault in person or online, and these groups are often free. A trauma-informed therapist can be found by searching the web, asking your doctor for a referral, contacting your insurance company, or signing up for an online therapy website. If you are currently a student in a college or university, you may be able to find resources on-campus. Also, sexual assault advocates can offer one-on-one personal advocacy and help you walk through the legal and judicial system, as well as help with finding the right resources for you and your needs.
Together, we can make a difference to build inclusive, safe, and respectful, thriving communities for us and our children, both online and off. We can shape online communities to be free from sexual harassment, abuse, and assault by practicing digital consent, intervening when we see harmful behaviors, and promoting online communities that value inclusion, safety, and respect. Talk to your children and let them know about concerns and the plausible dangers of what can happen both online and in the real world.
We must do all of what we can to prevent sexual assault from ever happening in the first place. Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses (HLHAS) in Conrad, MT breaks the silence and stops the cycle of violence by helping others improve personal and professional reactions, giving a voice and support to survivors and their families, and offering as many services, resources, and referrals as we can to survivors. We can also provide a multitude of training workshops to promote public awareness and education. For additional information and resources on Sexual Assault Awareness Month, call Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses at 406-278-3372 or check out: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam
This January marks the eighteenth National Stalking Awareness Month, an annual call to action to recognize and respond to the serious crime of stalking which affects nearly 7.5 million people every year.
Stalking can be defined as a pattern of malicious behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to experience substantial emotional distress or fear of being injured or killed. It impacts victims’ physical and mental health and research shows it can lead to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. While every case is different, people who stalk can be extremely dangerous. Stalkers may threaten, attack, sexually assault, and/or even kill their victims. It involves non-consensual communication with someone who does not want to be contacted. These behaviors can take place in-person, online or through a mixture of both methods. Although the majority of victims are stalked by someone they know, such as a current or former intimate partner, acquaintance, or family member, there are cases where it is by a stranger. While victims are typically female and most perpetrators are male, anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of stalking. Nearly 54% of female victims and 41% of male victims experienced stalking before the age of 25, and about 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking in their lifetimes.
Fear is contextual and what’s scary to one person may not be scary to another. In stalking cases, most of the behaviors are only scary to the victim because of their relationship with the stalker. For example: A bouquet of roses isn’t scary by itself. But when a victim receives a bouquet from an abusive ex-boyfriend who she recently relocated to get away from (and she did not think he knew where her new home was), this flower delivery suddenly becomes terrifying and threatening. It is essential for responders to ask about and understand why certain behaviors are scary to the victim.
Stalking often involves an escalation of behaviors as perpetrators try to maintain power and control. These tactics can include but are not limited to:
Do not blame yourself, the stalking is not your fault. Trust your instincts. Victims often feel pressured by friends or family to downplay the stalker’s behavior, but stalking poses a real threat of harm. Your safety is of utmost importance. Call the police if you feel you are in any danger and explain why the stalker’s actions are causing you fear. While victims cannot stop or control the stalking behavior, they should feel empowered to take steps to keep themselves, their families, and their loved ones safe. Please listen, show your support, and never blame the victim. If you or someone you know is a victim of stalking, tell someone about the situation and take steps to ensure safety. Aware communities are better able to support victims and help combat this crime. Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses in Conrad, MT can offer help, support, and resources to victims, in addition to training workshops to promote public education and awareness. For more information or if you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at 406-278-3342, or our 24/7 crisis line at 1-800-219-7336.
Are you in a situation where you’re afraid of someone who is abusing you, harassing you and/or threatening you or your family? What would be necessary for you and your family to feel safe? Do you need to request an Order of Protection, and if so, what is it & what is needed?
A Temporary Order of Protection (also commonly referred to as a Restraining Order) is a no-cost order issued by the court to stop violent and harassing behavior and is meant to protect the petitioner (person requesting protection from the court) and their family from the respondent (person afflicting/threatening violence). It also requires the respondent stay a certain distance away from the petitioner, the petitioner’s children, and other family members. This means not only must the respondent stay away from the petitioner’s residence, but also their place of work and the petitioner’s children’s school or childcare facility. The respondent is prohibited from threatening to commit or committing acts of violence, as well as harassing, annoying, disturbing the peace of, telephoning, contacting, or otherwise communicating, directly or indirectly, with the petitioner, any named family member, any other victim of this offense, or a witness to the offense. The respondent is also prohibited from removing any child named in the order from the jurisdiction of the court. In addition, if the judge deems it applicable, he/she may include terms related to child custody, visitation, and child support.
If you have petitioned the court for a Temporary Order of Protection and the court granted it, the court will set a hearing within 20 days to determine whether or not to keep it in place and change it to a permanent Order of Protection.
The following are legal excerpts from Montana Code Annotated explaining eligibilities the courts look for before issuing an Order of Protection:
40-15-102. Eligibility for order of protection.
(1) A person may file a petition for an order of protection if:
(a) the petitioner is in reasonable apprehension of bodily injury by the petitioner's partner or family member as defined in 45-5-206; or
(b) the petitioner is a victim of one of the following offenses committed by a partner or family member:
(i) assault as defined in 45-5-201;
(ii) aggravated assault as defined in 45-5-202;
(iii) intimidation as defined in 45-5-203;
(iv) partner or family member assault as defined in 45-5-206;
(v) criminal endangerment as defined in 45-5-207;
(vi) negligent endangerment as defined in 45-5-208;
(vii) assault on a minor as defined in 45-5-212;
(viii) assault with a weapon as defined in 45-5-213;
(ix) strangulation of a partner or family member as defined in 45-5-215;
(x) unlawful restraint as defined in 45-5-301;
(xi) kidnapping as defined in 45-5-302;
(xii) aggravated kidnapping as defined in 45-5-303; or
(xiii) arson as defined in 45-6-103.
(2) The following individuals are eligible to file a petition for an order of protection against the offender regardless of the individual's relationship to the offender:
(a) a victim of assault as defined in 45-5-201, aggravated assault as defined in 45-5-202, assault on a minor as defined in 45-5-212, stalking as defined in 45-5-220, incest as defined in 45-5-507, sexual assault as defined in 45-5-502, sexual intercourse without consent as defined in 45-5-503, sexual abuse of children as defined in 45-5-625, or human trafficking as defined in 45-5-701; or
(b) a partner or family member of a victim of deliberate homicide as defined in 45-5-102 or mitigated deliberate homicide as defined in 45-5-103.
(3) A parent, guardian ad litem, or other representative of the petitioner may file a petition for an order of protection on behalf of a minor petitioner against the petitioner's abuser. At its discretion, a court may appoint a guardian ad litem for a minor petitioner.
(4) A guardian must be appointed for a minor respondent when required by Rule 17(c), Montana Rules of Civil Procedure, or by 25-31-602. An order of protection is effective against a respondent regardless of the respondent's age.
(5) A petitioner is eligible for an order of protection whether or not:
(a) the petitioner reports the abuse to law enforcement;
(b) charges are filed; or
(c) the petitioner participates in a criminal prosecution.
(6) If a petitioner is otherwise entitled to an order of protection, the length of time between the abusive incident and the petitioner's application for an order of protection is irrelevant.
Do you need help with requesting an Order of Protection? We are committed to breaking the cycle of violence by providing help with Orders of Protection, safety plans, immediate confidential crisis intervention, critical support services and numerous other resources to victims of violence. We believe every person has the right to make their own decisions and we provide empowerment, information, and support regarding those choices. HLHAS networks with local law enforcement, businesses and community members throughout our service area year-round promoting partnerships, education, awareness, and fundraising.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence in immediate danger, call 911. You are not alone, and it is not your fault.
If you need an advocate, contact HLHAS at 406-278-3342, on our 24-hour Crisis Line at 1-800-219-7336, or stop by our office located at 300 N. Virginia St, Ste #307, Conrad, MT 59425.
Part 1 of 2, by Autumn Miller
There is a lot of fear and uncertainty in the world and now, more than ever we need to be caring and supportive of each other, even if it is from a distance. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a big toll on people’s mental health, and sometimes these emotions can have serious consequences. Not only has life become more unpredictable, but the routines, social connections and interactions that help people deal with their emotions have been curtailed. Finding ways to cope with stress in a healthy way can help make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Unfortunately, this health crisis has caused a severe spike in incidents of domestic abuse, not only across the United States, but globally as well. Domestic violence is about power and control and can be described as an ongoing perpetuation of intimidation, physical violence, sexual assault, emotional and financial abuse and/or other abusive behaviors as part of a methodical pattern of isolation, power and control committed by one intimate partner against the other. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s important to be cognizant of the fact that it was already a public health epidemic before COVID-19 came into the picture and it happens to more of those we care about than we could ever realize.
While lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing are essential to combating the spread of COVID-19, they can also trap victims with abusive partners who may take advantage of an already stressful situation to further isolate their victim. The lack of control a lot of people are currently feeling will likely be amplified for an abuser, and it is probable they will intensify their violence towards their victims. When a victim of domestic violence is forced to stay in the home or in close proximity to their abuser without access to the usual outlets that help to reduce tension, the threat looms largest where they should be the safest.
Here are some ways abusive partners could use COVID-19 to uniquely oppress their victims:
Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses (HLHAS) is a non-profit organization always committed to breaking the cycle of violence by providing immediate confidential crisis intervention, critical support services and numerous resources to victims of violence. We believe that every person has the right to make their own decisions and we provide empowerment, information, and support regarding those choices. HLHAS networks with local law enforcement, businesses and community members throughout our service area year-round promoting partnerships, education, awareness, and fundraising.
We are currently collaborating with Gary & Leo’s IGA in Conrad to raise both money and awareness with our 2nd annual “End Violence Donation Drive”. All proceeds will go to helping victims of violence throughout Pondera, Toole, Teton, Liberty, Chouteau & Glacier counties. We are also helping the Great Falls YWCA/Mercy Home Program with being the local drop off site for their shoe drive. Anyone wanting to donate their new or gently used shoes can drop them off at our office located in Conrad at 300 N. Virginia St #307 (by Norley Hall) during office hours M-F 8:30-4:30. Additionally, HLHAS is now part of Amazon Smile!! It's an easy and awesome way to show your support with no fees or additional cost to you. Please go to smile.amazon.com and consider choosing Hi-Line's Help for Abused Spouses, Inc. as your charity of choice and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases. We sincerely appreciate the public’s continued donations and support of our program!
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, we are always here to help. You are not alone, and it is not your fault. Please do not hesitate to call HLHAS at 406-278-3342, on our 24-hour Crisis Line at 1-800-219-7336, or stop by our office located at 300 N. Virginia St, Ste #307, Conrad, MT 59425.
~by Autumn Miller, Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses
~by Autumn Miller, Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses
During the long winter months of constant darkness and cold, looking forward to spring is the only sparkle that seems to add warmth to our souls. Trees will soon be waking up from their long period of lifelessness. The first flowers will be shooting up, infusing life into brown rough soil. Spring can be an exciting and beautiful time of year. William Shakespeare once wrote: “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” In Montana it’s more like Doug Larson’s “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”
For some, Spring is just another season, April just another month. For some, weather and season changes don’t hold any real luster or cheer. For some, their fearful world is full of torment, abuse and neglect without access to safety or justice.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness month and now, more than ever, we need to recognize the importance of families and communities working together in order to validate survivors and challenge the culture which questions the actions of victims, rather than those of their attackers. These crimes do happen in our rural communities and regrettably, quite frequently. We must work together and do all we can to prevent child abuse and sexual assault from ever happening in the first place.
Unfortunately, society tends to turn a blind eye and/or blame victims. When a survivor of child abuse or sexual assault decides to open up and talk about their traumatic experience(s), the best way to respond is simply to start by believing. The first person they tend to confide in is usually someone they trust, like a friend or family member. A positive, supportive reaction can increase the chances they will report to law enforcement and reach out for help from other sources, as well as enhance the progression of their healing. Sadly, most victims never report the crime to law enforcement, sometimes because of the responses they receive from friends and family members. One failed response can more than likely lead to continued abuse and additional victims. Survivors are often very hesitant to speak out, thinking others won’t believe them, or that they themselves will be blamed for what happened. Knowing how to respond is important because a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where there are no consequences for the perpetrators. It is important to simply listen, offer support and whatever types of assistance they need; let them take the lead. Let them decide what they want to tell you about the abuse/assault – don’t force them to talk if they aren’t ready. When in doubt, just ask how you can help. Let the survivor know you are there for them, but always let them make the choice to accept your help or not. Refrain from asking the “why” questions. Even with the best of intentions, these can sound accusatory and cause survivors to self-blame. Here are a few suggestions on what you could say:
No one deserves to live in fear. Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses (HLHAS) in Conrad, MT breaks the silence and stops the cycle of violence by helping others improve personal and professional reactions, giving a voice and support to survivors and their families, and offering as many services, resources and referrals we can to survivors. We can also provide a multiple training workshops to promote public awareness and education.
For additional information and resources on Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month, call Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses at 406-278-3372 or check out: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam and https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/