Hanover Safe Place

Promoting Freedom from Sexual and Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Part 2

Survivors of sexual and domestic violence face a number of challenges in accessing services, but their choice to reach out is often viewed as a personal decision. The question of “Why can’t a victim of sexual and domestic abuse just leave their partner?” can be more complex than we think. Over the course of this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we will be posting weekly blogs about the barriers survivors face when leaving dangerous situations, and how to be an ally to survivors in seeking help.

Children Witnessing Domestic Violence

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Justice Department, 1 in 15 children have been exposed to domestic violence between parents or a parent and their intimate partner. Exposure to violence as a child can be a risk factor for adverse effects on mental and physical health, poor educational outcomes, and, eventually, perpetration of violence as an adult.

Domestic violence in the home can be a traumatic experience for children of all ages, but particularly during the early stages of development. As discussed in last week’s blog, when someone is experiencing a violent or otherwise upsetting event, the brain has an automatic reaction of releasing hormones meant to protect the brain and body from physical pain. In a child’s developing brain, this survival response becomes embedded, regardless of whether or not the child is truly in danger. A child’s perception of traumatic events impacts the development of healthy neurological pathways for responding to stress, and hinders their ability to develop healthy coping skills. The impact of this type trauma on the brain can actually cause greater impact among infants and toddlers than older children due to their stage of development.

However, although the research shows the adverse effects of children witnessing violence, concerns for the well-being of their children are often cited by survivors of domestic violence as a reason for not leaving their abusers. This can be for a wide variety of reasons, including, concerns that they will lose custody of their children or that they will be removed from their legal guardianship if they report violence in the home, not wanting children to have to change schools or neighborhoods, wanting their children to have a relationship with both parents, and, in some cases, threats by the abuser to harm or kill the children if they try to leave.

While the experience of living in a home in which domestic violence is occuring can be traumatic for children, leaving the living situation can also cause a great deal of stress. They may be leaving a home they’ve lived in their entire life, and are often forced to leave all of their belongings behind, an emotional experience even under safe circumstances. At Hanover Safe Place, we value the relationships between children and parents, and recognize the impact of domestic violence on children’s development. Emily, our Children’s Services Coordinator, states, “Children’s services are important because the parent is going through their own crisis, and may not recognize the impact it has on their children. Providing support and resources to the families gives them the space to cope and heal together.”

References and Additional Resources



  • U.S. Department of Justice (2011). Children’s Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Other Family Violence


Abby Picard is an intern at Hanover Safe Place and a graduate student in the Master’s of Social Work program at Virginia Commonwealth University.


Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Part 1

Survivors of sexual and domestic violence face a number of challenges in accessing services, but their choice to reach out is often viewed as a personal decision. The question of “Why can’t a victim of sexual and domestic abuse just leave their partner?” can be more complex than we think. Over the course of this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we will be posting weekly blogs about the barriers survivors face when leaving dangerous situations, and how to be an ally to survivors in seeking help.


Trauma and the Brain

One of the biggest misconceptions about domestic violence is that the most common form of abuse is physical harm. Research shows, however, that perpetrators of abuse specifically target emotional and mental health of their partners as a means of power and control. The field of trauma studies can give insight into the ways in which physical, mental, and emotional abuse can have long lasting impacts on a survivor’s health.

Trauma is the combination of the experience of an adverse event or series of events and the perception of that experience by an individual. A trauma reaction refers to all of the processes in the brain and body that take place when an individual is exposed to a stressful event and the emotional response that follows. The brain responds to situations of high stress by going into “survival mode,” with the goal of survival above all else, sometimes called “fight or flight.” The parts of the brain that control rational thought are taken over by the “emotional brain” and the body is flooded with hormones to protect the brain and body from pain.

However, what many people do not know about the body is that “fight or flight” are not the only reactions people can have to a traumatic event. The third response we discuss is “freeze,” in which a person experiencing violence may be unable to move or speak. This can be confusing for survivors of sexual and domestic violence and lead to self-blame and guilt for not “fighting back” or trying to run away from their attacker or abuser. It is important to tell survivors that this reaction is not their fault; their “emotional brain” has taken over their logical thought.

For someone experiencing domestic violence, potentially traumatic events are occurring and reoccurring over an extended period of time. This can lead to the brain getting “stuck” in this heightened state of fear and anxiety, which can have a significant toll on the brain and body.  The release of stress hormones into the body becomes constant, keeping the brain in a perpetual state of fear. This experience and the resulting after-effects are sometimes referred to as “complex trauma.”

The healing process for survivors incorporates learning and relearning how to regulate their emotions after they have left the relationship or traumatic experience, but continue to experience the trauma response.

Trauma informed care is a method of practice that recognizes the impact of complex trauma on an individual, and the recognition that the individual’s thoughts and behaviors are impacted by the traumas the individual has experienced. At Hanover Safe Place, we value the use of trauma informed care in all facets of the work we do. Our direct services to address trauma experienced by survivors include individual therapy, support groups, and trauma informed yoga practice.


“Counseling services support survivors in connecting with and integrating both their emotional and physiological responses to their trauma(s), regaining a sense of safety and stability, re-establishing social connections and connection with self, finding meaning, and fostering empowerment and resiliency in a safe and healing environment. This is facilitated through interventions that are client centered, holistic, and trauma informed.”


“Trauma is a disconnect from the present moment,” states Morgan, the trauma informed yoga instructor for Hanover Safe Place, “Yoga is a way to help someone integrate their experience and find connection in the present moment.” Morgan explained that the use of yoga with survivors of sexual and domestic violence allows them to regain control and become aware of their own body and find a balance between the “effort and ease” in regulating their emotions.

References and Additional Resources

Trauma and the Brain video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-tcKYx24aA

  • Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman M.D.
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
  • Treating the Trauma Survivor by Cassie Clark, Catherine C. Classen, Anne Fourt, and Maithili Shetty
  • “When Stress Constitutes Trauma and Trauma Constitutes Crisis: The Stress-Trauma-Crisis Continuum” by Catherine N. Dulmus and Carolyn Hilarski


Abby Picard is an intern at Hanover Safe Place and a graduate student in the Master’s of Social Work program at Virginia Commonwealth University.


Financial Empowerment is Key

Financial Empowerment

Economic issues are a significant barrier for survivors to escape these relationships as they are cited as the primary reason that women don’t leave. Studies show a positive relationship between financial education and economic empowerment among female survivors. In our Financial Education Program our Regional Director of Financial Education, Daveida Murphy-Hasan, uses an evidence-based curriculum to work with the clients on an individual and group basis to enhance their financial circumstances and build skills for long-term financial stability.

So what does our Financial Educator do?

Safety first: Daveida helps the client recognize signs of financial abuse, plan for financial safety while leaving an abusive relationship, and connect to resources to serve immediate financial needs (Child Support, SNAP and TANF benefits, etc.).

Budgets, budgets, budgets:After safety is addressed, the program helps clients create a budget, spending plan, and explore banking options. They will review the budget and spending plan each time they meet, discussing strategies to improve and altering it based on changing expenses.

Credit concerns:Often, one of the biggest concerns clients have is their credit. Clients are usually very worried about their credit score, Daveida does an excellent job of reassuring them that it is “not as bad as you think” and provides tips to improve their score. Credit is tied in with housing, and she works closely with our Housing Specialist to explore housing options with clients.

GOALS!:Finally, the Daveida will discuss long term financial goals including savings, continuing to improve credit, getting loans for automobiles and houses, and investing.

Our Financial Education has proved very effective and in FY17 served 171 individuals! Daveida will keep working hard with clients through economic empowerment to promote their progress towards financial wellbeing.

For more information about economic empowerment and survivors of domestic violence see https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/alpha-consumer/2015/01/30/how-financial-literacy-can-fight-domestic-violence.


The Link Between Sexual Violence & Poverty

By: Emily O’Keefe

Sexual Violence is conduct of a sexual nature which is non-consensual, and is accomplished through threat, coercion, exploitation, deceit, force, physical or mental incapacitation, and/or power of authority.

SV & Poverty

There is a clear link between poverty and the rate of sexual victimization. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey data, women in the lowest income bracket with annual household incomes of less than $7,500 are sexually victimized at 3.7 times the rate of women with household incomes of $35,000 to $49,000 and six times the rate of women in the highest income bracket. The stressors that women in poverty face make them less able to control their sexuality as they often face barriers and are more dependent on others for survival. This can cause them to have less control about consenting to sex and less recognition of being victimized and ability to seek resources.

Sexual assault can further destabilize women economically as it can disrupt their lives, ability to work, increase the likelihood of mental health/substance use issues, and chances of homelessness.

At Hanover Safe Place, we strive to economically empower the survivors we serve through our Rapid Rehousing and Financial Education programs.

The Financial Educator works with clients to create a budget, improve their credit, increase their income, and make both short-term and long-term financial goals. Our Housing Specialist helps clients identify affordable housing, and provides financial assistance for rent and security deposits.

At Hanover Safe Place, we recognize the undeniable connection between poverty and sexual violence, as we understand the compounded oppression individuals experiencing poverty face.

For more information, or help, call 804-752-2702.

My Experience At the Women’s March 2017

By Kaitlyn Gatti, Randolph-Macon College Intern

Last year, I went to the Women’s March on January 21 in Washington, D.C. This was the first protest march that I had ever been a part of, so I woke up excited to see how the day would unfold. I didn’t realize how crowded it was going to be until I arrived at the metro: although I had bought my ticket days before, I ended up being stuck for almost an hour. I was surrounded by women who I could tell by the signs they held and the way that they dressed that we were all heading to the same destination. The metro finally started back up and I quickly arrived – there were people everywhere!

The streets were packed with protestors. I loved seeing women of all backgrounds around me and the variety of guest speakers that spoke. It was amazing to hear inspirational words from household names such as Angela Davis, Janet Mock, and Janelle Monáe. As inspiring as attending a march is, it is crucial to understand that the work we must do to create change doesn’t stop there. There are so many ways you make a difference alongside marching: donating to a meaningful cause, calling and writing your local government representatives, boycotting organizations that go against what you believe in, and continuing to educate yourself and those around you. Education is the first step in realizing how dangerous systemic issues are, such as lack of affordable housing and accessible healthcare, for everyone. The Women’s March demonstrated that we are here, and that our voices will be heard. Together, we can make a difference.

March is…

Women’s History Month!


In 1987 the US Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month. This creates a special opportunity in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities to recognize and celebrate the often-overlooked achievements of American women. Each year there is a special Theme and women whose lives exemplify that theme are selected as National Honorees (National Women’s History Project).

This year’s theme is: Nevertheless She Persisted – Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The theme embodies women working together with strength, tenacity and courage to overcome obstacles and achieve joyful accomplishments.

Check out the list of honorees on the National Women’s History Project page by clicking here.

And THANK YOU to all the persisters!

Boundaries Are Important

Though we could all learn more about boundaries, teens experience unique pressures in relationships around boundaries. Not only do they have to navigate physical, emotional, or even digital boundaries, they do so with the added pressure of parents, peers, and the media. So what are healthy boundaries?

healthy boundaries

According to loveisrespect.org, “to have the healthiest relationship, both partners should know each other’s wants, goals, fears and limits. You should feel comfortable honestly communicating your needs to your partner without being afraid of what they might do in response.

If your partner tells you that your needs are stupid, gets angry with you or goes against what you’re comfortable with, then your partner is not showing you the respect you deserve.” All boundaries are particular to the person, and it is important to know what to do when someone crosses a boundary.

At Hanover Safe Place, our counselor, Jessica Bell, can help you figure out what boundaries you want to set and how to advocate for yourself around them. She’ll help you create an individualized plan and the skills to communicate them to your partner. She has experience working with children, teens, adults, and older adults.

Dating Abuse & LGBTQ Relationships

Hanover Safe Place is dedicated to promoting healthy relationships and providing services to survivors regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The agency prides itself on being a safe place for anyone who is in need of services, and recognizes that not all relationships look the same. The agency has held multiple trainings including LGBTQ 101 to educate volunteers and community members about LGBTQ issues and reduce discrimination.

This is important to us during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, because LGBTQ youth experience abuse as well.

Though LGBTQ youth have healthy relationships at similar rates of heterosexual couples, they are also at risk for intimate partner violence.

LGBTQ teens

This abuse can take the form of a partner or partners who don’t respect chosen gender pronouns or names, don’t respect boundaries, don’t give someone space to hang out with friends and family, and threaten to out their partner to people. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, we can help.

We provide a safe and supportive place to get counseling, resources, and safety planning. Please call our 24-hour hotline at 804-752-2072. And stay tuned for our next LGBTQ basics training, LGTBQ 201.

What is Digital Abuse?

digital abuse affects 1 in 4 teens

Technology has become such a huge part of our lives with 2.07 billion Facebook users, 330 million Twitter users, and 178 million Snapchat users. It only makes sense that it has been integrated into our relationships.

Though it can often be used to convey affection and improve communication and connection, it can also be a tool for abuse. Digital abuse affects 1 in 4 teens.

Abusive behaviors can include:

  • telling you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites,
  • sending you negative, insulting or even threatening messages,
  • using technology to monitor you, and
  • pressuring you to send explicit videos or sexts among many others.

With teens, it is important that they discuss healthy boundaries around technology with your partner.

Hanover Safe Place is always here to help. HSP leads in educational prevention programming in local schools to help teens navigate relationships, discuss digital abuse, and promote healthy use of technology in relationships. To learn more contact Patty Hall at 804-752-2728.


Information from Loveisrespect.

February is…

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and HSP is getting the word out!


Did you know that nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year? And 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors (source).

Though this is a pressing issue, only 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is an issue. Hanover Safe Place is dedicated to raising awareness, promoting healthy relationships, and providing services to survivors of any age.

Currently, our Director of Community Engagement leads a healthy relationship group at a local middle school. If you are a teen or a parent in need of safety planning, counseling, or resources, call our 24-hour hotline at 804-752-2072.

If you are interested in having a representative provide educational programming to prevent violence contact Patty Hall at 804-752-2728. Stay tuned for events relating to Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month!