Hanover Safe Place

Promoting Freedom from Sexual and Domestic Violence

DVAM Blog #4

At the core of an abusive relationship is a dynamic of power and control. The abusive partner will employ various tactics to maintain control over their partner. 
At the start of a new relationship, it is not always easy to determine the path the relationship will take. This includes being able to tell if your new dating partner is abusive. This is because abusive, controlling, or possessive behaviors do not often present themselves in the beginning, nor do they always happen overnight. These behaviors often begin gradually and worsen over time. While every relationship is different and not everyone’s experience of domestic violence is the same, there are warning signs or “red flags” to look for that may indicate that your dating partner is unhealthy or abusive. 
·       Moving the relationship along more quickly than you are comfortable
·       Your partner wants all of your time and is upset when you cannot
·       Not respecting your boundaries
·       Excessive jealousy
·       Keeps tabs on your day – where you are, who you’re with, what you do
·       Puts you down or criticizes you
·       Blames all previous relationship endings/failures on their former partners
·       Tells you that you never do anything right
·       Feel like you can’t make decisions for yourself because you will “get in trouble”
·       Being pressured to have sex or participate in sexual acts
·       Blamed for your partner’s behaviors
·       Feel afraid of your partner
·       Feel as if you cannot spend time with your friends or family – or being told you cannot
·       Feeling anxious, scared, or hypervigilant when your partner gets angry or frustrated
·       Walking on eggshells around your partner – trying to keep the peace
If you are experiencing these behaviors from a partner – it is not your fault. You did not cause your partner’s behavior. Everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship where they feel loved and safe. There are advocates available to help support and talk with you. You can reach an advocate by calling Hanover Safe Place’s hotline at 804-612-6126.
Remember, for more information on DVAM and Domestic and Sexual Violence, you can always follow us on social media.

November Self Care Check Up

It’s the start of a new month. Welcome November! It’s the perfect opportunity to try something new, and give yourself a reset. As we are navigating eight months of life in a pandemic, self-care may not be near the top of our “lists”. What will next year be like? Or tomorrow? But what do we need right now? Finding that and going for it, that is self-care!

Another way to reconnect with yourself is by intentionally setting time just for you. Life gets busy, and we can often struggle to take any time to rest, recharge, and renew. We’ve created a 30 day self-care challenge that we invite you to join us on and enjoy throughout the month. If you need a little extra motivation, feel free to share with a friend or loved one. 

Each day you’ll find quick activities to help “fill up your cup” and restore your mind and body. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. If you miss a day or start after the first, that’s okay! We’ve set the challenge up to follow any 30 days. Also, if a daily prompt doesn’t quite fit – that is okay too! You know yourself and what you need better than anyone else. It is never too late to start taking care of yourself.

A gentle reminder to please continue to practice social distancing and make the safest decisions for you and your family when participating in any activities.

Here is a written out version of the challenge, in case you need ideas. You will find the calendar below with a link to download it as well.

  1. Go for a walk – whether it be 5 minutes or a 5-mile hike, just get outside and get your feet moving!
  2. Meditate – meditation is a practice. You can meditate while walking, taking a bath, or even in prayer. Just a few minutes can help.
  3. Listen to your favorite song – Give yourself a few minutes to get lost in a melody and feel-good memories
  4. Get outside -play with the kids after school, enjoy your coffee or tea in the morning sun, or just go outside and take a deep breath
  5. Catch up with a friend – give someone a call just to say hello and that you were thinking about them, send a quick text – keep those connections!
  6. Have a healthy meal – When we get busy, we often go for something quick that isn’t always the best food for our bodies. This is an opportunity to intentionally fill up your cup with healthy foods.
  7. Journal for 10 minutes – you can set a timer or even a page limit, just a few minutes to get something on paper
  8. Treat yourself – whatever this looks like to you – a sweet treat, something you’ve been saving for, or something you don’t do very often
  9. Dance it out – throw on some tunes and get that body moving!
  10. Drink more water – being mindful of even having just an extra cup today
  11. Organize your space – our environment affects us mentally. This is a chance to clear up some clutter and literally create new space
  12. Take a nap – listen to your body, give it a few moments to rest
  13. Do something creative – grab a coloring book, do a craft, or create something with your kids
  14. Make a budget – self-care is taking care of our whole self. This is often what we think of as something we “have” to do, but it allows us to stay balanced and alleviates stress
  15. Read for 20 minutes – Grab that book you’ve been putting off and read the first or next chapter
  16. Practice a hobby – This could be a new hobby or one you haven’t done in a while – a puzzle, knitting, or painting
  17. Use towels from the dryer – This is comfort – just wrapping up and enjoying a warm towel!
  18. Thank someone – Take a moment to thank someone who’s helped you, checked you out at the grocery store, or even held the door open for you
  19. Try something new – What’s something you’ve wanted to try but haven’t – a new recipe, a new way to work, or a new band
  20. Practice deep breathing – This can be taking 2 minutes to concentrate on your breathing – slower deeper breaths. This can help clear mental space and create calm.
  21. Savor a warm drink – Whether it be a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Really enjoy your cup and feel the warmth!
  22. Do some yoga – Yoga is also a practice, even a few moments can help us
  23. Go to bed early – Give yourself that extra 15 or 30 minutes of rest
  24. Take a break – Take an afternoon break. Walk away from your project. Stand up and stretch your arms up. Give your brain a break for just a moment.
  25. Belly laugh at something – A funny video, tv show, or memory – laughter is contagious!
  26. Practice gratitude – Think of 3 things you are grateful for today. Write them down even!
  27. Stretch – You can try this right when you wake up to get you moving or before bed to help yourself wind down for sleep.
  28. Watch your favorite movie – allow yourself the break for your favorite 2 hour get away
  29. Write your goals for the month – What are your upcoming goals? What would you like to accomplish before the end of the year?
  30. Watch the sunset – Enjoy the end of the day and all of the beautiful colors nature provides for us before nightfall.

If you’d like to download the calendar you can find it here

Domestic Violence Awareness Blog #3

Since March, families have been urged to change their daily living habits. We are now living in a world where social distancing, working remotely (if we can), virtual learning, limiting large gatherings, and staying at home as much as possible is the norm. 

For many families, home is a haven and safe place. However, home, when living with an abusive partner, even under the greatest of conditions, is not at all a safe place. Living with an abusive partner during a pandemic creates a set of circumstances that can be incredibly dangerous. 

Countries around the world have seen an increase in domestic violence since the start of COVID-19. The stress and strain of experiencing the trauma of living during a pandemic – fears of falling ill, being furloughed or losing a job, attempting to home-school children, cabin fever, facing a new reality – can create an environment at home that is a battlefield of triggers for abusive behavior.

Abusive partners may use the pandemic to their advantage, further isolating their partners, using gaslighting to manipulate their partners into believing that there is no help available now, and not allowing their partners to see their support system so as not to become sick.

So how can one experiencing domestic violence stay safe at home?

  • Create a safety plan
    • Reach out – Hanover Safe Place is still operating our 24 hour hotline – 804-612-6126 – and shelter as well as community services such as case management and counseling. There are advocates readily available to provide support – advocates who can help create a personalized safety plan. 
    • Be aware of exits, windows, and doors with locks
    • Stay away from rooms where there are not exits easily accessible or rooms where there are weapons or items that can be used as weapons
    • Find reasons or activities to get out of the home such as work, grocery shopping, or outside family activities
    • Keep track of necessary items such as keys, IDs, wallet/purse, medications, and money
  • Keep routines and structure for the family – this can help to lower stress levels, give purpose and normalize daily living
  • Self-care – this can be anything that helps relax, lower anxiety, and lifts spirits
    • Get outside
    • Fun activities with children 
    • Play with pets
    • Journaling
    • Anything that creates laughter – it is perfectly okay to play and even be silly
    • Keep in touch with support systems when available

If you or a loved one are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you can always call 911.

Hanover Safe Place is here for you and we want to help keep you and your family safe.

Remember, for more information on DVAM and Domestic and Sexual Violence, you can always follow us on social media.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Part 2

1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime, and on average there are more than 20,000 phone calls made to domestic violence hotlines daily. These survivors are our friends and loved ones. They are our co-workers and neighbors, and the statistics are often startling and alarming. Knowing what to say to someone or how to help someone you know who may be experiencing domestic violence can be overwhelming. However, there are ways you can help. An important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be an expert. You can be yourself, a friend, and a source of comfort.

  1. Listen: The first thing to do when someone shares their story or their experiences with you is to simply listen and listen without judgement. Allowing someone a safe place to share can lessens feelings of being alone, can help someone feel validated, and can break the silence a survivor may feel. 
  2. Believe: Very often a survivor may feel that the abuse is their fault. It is not. Let the person know that you believe them. Allow the survivor to set the pace of the conversation and share what they feel comfortable sharing. Acknowledge their courage in sharing and validate how they are feeling. 
  3. Ask how you can help them: The trauma experienced from domestic violence creates a feeling of loss, a loss of control, independence, and personal power. When we are wanting to help someone, it can be easy to jump in and give advice. However, it is important to let the survivor make decisions. A great way to support someone is to just ask how you can help, letting the survivor know they are in the driver’s seat.
  4. Support their decisions: The goal in supporting a survivor is to help them know you care and help them feel as supported as we can. The goals is not to tell the person what to do. A survivor may make decisions that we do not understand, but there are a multitude of reasons a decision is made to maintain safety. It is important to remember that they are the expert in their lives.
  5. Take care of yourself: Supporting someone in their experiences with trauma or violence can be overwhelming, and we can take those stories with us. These feelings are valid. It is okay and encouraged to take time for ourselves to do the things that re-center us when supporting individuals. It is also okay to find someone to talk with if you are feeling overwhelmed. This will allow you to honor your needs.

For more information: 



Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is here. That also means that Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2020 or DVAM is here. Domestic Violence has been an ongoing epidemic in the United States and around the world. This year, COVID19 has created an atmosphere where incidents of abuse have grown in number. During quarantine, it is often hard for survivors to find safety at home. The stress and trauma of living through this time of COVID-19 has compounded with the trauma, stress, and cycle of violence found in homes where domestic violence is present. It is a critical time for survivors and their families. It is imperative to continue to create awareness. 

DVAM, first observed in 1987, is the month that celebrates, mourns, and creates awareness for survivors. It developed from the “Day of Unity”, celebrated in 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which brought together advocates working to end violence against women. National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was declared by law in 1989. Every year after, October has been proclaimed as DVAM. You can find President Trump’s 2020 proclamation here.

The Day of Unity evolved into a week dedicated to events and activities that take place both nationally and locally. The intent has remained consistent where the focus continues to celebrate those who have survived, mourning the loss of those who passed due to domestic violence, and raising awareness and connecting those who work to end violence. This year, NNEDV’s (National Network to End Domestic Violence) Week of Action will be held Sunday, October 18, 2020 through Saturday, October 24, 2020. You can find information here on the activities that week. You can further find information from the Domestic Violence Awareness Project’s campaign for DVAM 2020 here

Of course, you can always follow us on social media for more information throughout the month about DVAM. 

Adapted from National Center on Domestic and Sexual 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.