Ten to 11 years ago, I was invited to MC an event because the original person who was supposed to MC canceled. The organization was called Day One, and they teach domestic violence awareness in public schools in New York. … One young lady after the next started telling their story about being a domestic violence survivor… I’m standing there hearing all these stories knowing that my sister was murdered. … Finally, I just blurted it out, when I got up to the podium, I said, ‘My sister was murdered.’ I knew that there were signs of domestic violence in the home. I lived in Chicago, [and it was] specifically this moment [that] I knew: I heard a commotion in my house. I ran downstairs and my sister and a significant other was there. She had a huge knot on her head, the table had been knocked over—it was just a horrible scene. I said, “What’s going on here!” And he said, “Oh she fell over the table.” I knew that was a lie. I grabbed her, and I got a broom and started to threaten him, like, Get out of my house. … I went upstairs and nursed my sister, put her to bed… I woke up the next morning and he was back in my house, in bed with my sister. I kicked them both out.
When you think about domestic violence, you may think of married couples, or longtime partners, or grownups, at least. But it turns out that teen relationships aren’t immune from emotional and physical abuse, either.
I would venture to guess that many of us don’t think about this all that often, but we should.
Being a teenager is hard enough. Trying to figure out who you are and where you belong. The brand-new romantic feelings. Talking to parents can be hard. It’s easy to get in over your head and become isolated.
And abusers take advantage of all of these things.
According to a company called Day One, “1 in 3 teens report experiencing some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships.” One. In. Three. That’s the disturbing statistic that ends the powerful video that Day One just released in February which is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
“We really don’t see clients anymore that aren’t experiencing some sort of abuse that isn’t based in the use of technology,” says Stephanie Nilva, the executive director of the anti-domestic violence youth organization Day One. Digital abuse can include constant texting, geolocation tracking, and the release of revenge porn, she notes.
Technology can intensify harassment and stalking because it increases an abuser’s access to their target. Nilva says her organization, which provides education and remediation to people 24 and younger, often helps clients remove spyware or keyloggers from their phones, get revenge porn taken down from social media platforms, or removes sockpuppet accounts that purport to be the client and spread harmful content to their friends and family.
We recently spoke with Michele Paolella, LMSW, director of social services and training at Day One (a New York-based nonprofit organization focused on domestic violence and sexual assault among young people), about ways to support victims of sexual assault and trauma—and avoid re-traumatizing them.
Survivors of sexual assault and harassment are our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members, and despite our good intentions, there might be some things we’re doing that could inadvertently make their situations harder.
Greatist: The first question for friends and family members of survivors of sexual assault is often "now what?" What do we do next?
Michele Paolella: If your friend or a family member has just told you that they experienced a sexual assault, the first thing to do is take a deep breath and ground yourself so that you are able to deeply listen to what they are sharing with you. You don't have to have all the answers at your fingertips; listen to really hear and not to respond.
Remember first and foremost that a survivor of sexual assault has been through an experience that took away their power and control, and the healing process can start as soon as they are able to regain some of the power and control that was taken from them. This means that no matter how tempted you may be to tell them what to do ("Call the police, get to the emergency room, etc."), it's better to support them in making their own decisions.
“It can feel challenging to balance the desire to send young children positive messages around consent and their body autonomy with the fact that they still need adult guidance and assistance with many daily tasks and survival," Bachman says. “If a child is being asked to do something but doesn't want to, it is important that adults take their reservations/refusals seriously, ask about/listen to their concerns, and explain why exactly it is important that they do what is being asked of them.”
Bachman explains that with very young children who are not yet expressing themselves with many — or any — words, this will look slightly different, but should still include the same reflection and explanation process on the part of the adult, like giving a step-by-step explanation while changing a child’s diaper.
Caitlin Prior, Day One training supervisor and staff attorney, who facilitated the training at Jacobi, said she believes that technology is just another "tool in the abuser's toolbox."
"What is important to me is making folks know that tech abuse is not always a 'spyware' infected phone," said Prior, adding that abuse could be constant texts asking the partner who they are with and what they are wearing, or posting compromsing photos to Facebook or Instagram.
Read Article (go to page 36).
The Mary Kay Ash Heart of Courage Awards Steering Committee, which is comprised of leaders from the National Network to End Domestic Violence Hotline, Break the Cycle, Futures Without Violence, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, voted to honor the following individuals and/or organizations in five categories:
Trailblazer Award – Kathleen Buhle Biden – a domestic violence advocate and strong supporter of her former father-in-law, Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who worked to pass the Violence Against Women Act. She currently serves as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project whose mission is to provide pro bono legal services to domestic violence victims.
Digital Champion - Beverly T. Gooden – a social activist, speaker and creator of a viral Twitter movement. #WhyIStayed was named by TIME as one of the Top 10 Hashtags That Started a Conversation. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and NBC's TODAY to name a few.
Media Visionary – Melissa Jeltsen – a senior reporter at HuffPost where she covers domestic violence and other issues related to women's health, safety and security. She has published blunt, impactful articles shedding light on the issue of domestic violence.
Leader in Prevention – Day One – since its launch in 2003, Day One has become a primary voice of expertise in New York City on the issue of dating abuse and domestic violence among youth. Since its inception, it has educated more than 75,000 youth about how to identify and maintain heathy relationships.
People's Choice: Voice of the Year – Charmagne Helton – a domestic violence survivor who was three months pregnant the first time her husband beat her, bursting her eardrums. Today, she is a zealous fundraiser, organizer and public speaker for domestic violence issues.
4thU Artivists, a NYC-based creative nonprofit, will produce two staged readings of Writing on the Wall to raise funds and awareness to help end violence against women and girls. To date, 4thU Artivists have raised over $110,000 for numerous organizations. Proceeds from the October 13th and 14th performances will benefit Day One and One Billion Rising.
“The stealthing partner has unilaterally decided what kind of sexual act will be participated in by both parties,” says Caitlin Prior, a staff attorney and training supervisor at Day One, an NYC-based organization that works to end dating abuse. “The stealthing partner has made decisions about the other partner's health, well-being, future, family plans, emotional and physical well-being without a care for the other partner's position.” That’s sexual assault.
Today, we are proud to feature Andrew Sta. Ana.
Andrew Sta. Ana is the Director of Legal Services for Day One, an organization that partners with youth to end dating abuse and domestic violence through education, supportive services, legal assistance, and leadership development. Through advocacy and direct representation in cases concerning family law, immigration, and criminal justice, Andrew works to protect the rights of young survivors. At Day One, Andrew provides trainings on dating violence, the rights of young people within the legal system, and the use of technology regarding intimate partner violence (violence by a person against their spouse or partner.)
Throughout his career, Andrew has also advocated for the rights of low wage workers, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, transgender people of color, immigrants, and survivors of intimate partner violence. For his work, he has won several awards—for instance, in 2011, he was awarded a Courage award from the NYC City Anti-Violence project for his work to set up and administer a free legal clinic for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence.
Stephanie Nilva, the executive director of Day One, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that works with youth to combat domestic violence, said in an email interview with Rewire that the risks to domestic violence survivors are multifaceted. She explained, “Domestic violence shelters and organizations rely on grants that range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars and more. Those grants fund counselors who support survivors suffering from trauma; offer a safe place to sleep for someone who fled a home with children; help a teenager get an order of protection against a classmate stalking them. From another angle, removing or redirecting resources that support enforcement of Title IX … places young people at extreme risk.”
“People forget that it didn’t start bad: a date, a dinner, let me get your coat and hit you in the face,” said Stephanie Nilva, who runs Day One, a group in New York City committed to preventing dating and domestic abuse. “It is good in the beginning and people love each other. Things that can become abusive can be mistaken for intense attraction and obsession.”
That early intense attraction can be a warning sign, too. When someone you’ve been dating for two weeks wants you to himself, “flattering and disturbing get mixed up,” she said.
Stephanie Nilva is an attorney and the Executive Director of Day One, an organization that partners with youth to end dating abuse and domestic violence through community education, supportive services, legal advocacy and leadership development.
PureVPN: Do you think Cyber Stalking laws are mature enough to a cover majority of these cases? Do you think the legislation and the law enforcement agencies can keep up with the fast-paced Cyber Ecosystem and Advancements?
Given the rapid rate of technological advancement, legislation can barely keep up. Most laws take several months or even a year or two to pass, whereas we see technology evolving much more quickly. New tools that can be used to harass and stalk people online are emerging every few weeks.
Most existing laws that protect against abusive tactics were passed at a time when no one could conceive of the arsenal that would be available to threaten or harm someone through various forms of technology. Day One offers support to young people experiencing abuse online by advocating with law enforcement and the court system in areas that are still unfamiliar to authorities. Police struggle to respond to allegations of online threats, and courts are accustomed to issuing “stay-away” orders that would do little in an online context.
Day One also supports legislation that would offer accountability for abusive online behavior while also being mindful of the age-appropriate behaviors that young people engage in. It would be counterproductive to criminalize the conduct of a teen who shares an intimate photograph online that is later publicized by someone with harmful intent.
Armed with the disconcerting knowledge that 5 million children witness domestic violence in this country each year and 1 in 3 teenagers in NYC reports experiencing abuse in a romantic relationship, Day One has recently procured a grant to develop an innovative new program with elementary aged students and the adults in their lives.
Through key violence prevention education and social-emotional activities, students will build essential communication and reflection skills in order to ensure they grow into successful adolescents, teenagers and young adults prepared to help build a safer, more just and equitable world. Educators, school staff and caregivers will also have access to tools and resources in order to support students’ healthy relationship and leadership abilities.
Shifting the focus of community work toward actively defining and encouraging explicit consent, and away from post-incident accountability, is a good place to start. That’s the suggestion of Andrew Sta. Ana, the director of legal services at Day One, which works with youth — offering prevention-based workshops to high schools, community organizations, and professionals who work with youth — to prevent and end intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Stephanie Nilva, Day One's Executive Director, was quoted in this weekly advice column called Love, Lucy that is in the New School Free Press.
“Isolation is a form of abuse,” says Nilva. “It is an abusive tactic to try to reduce a partner’s support on other people in their lives, whether that’s family or friends or community groups, and without support, the less likely it is that they will try to become more safe.”
Featuring Sarina Gupta who has done some volunteer work for Day One!
In addition, Stephanie Nilva, the Executive Director of Day One, was invited to be the Co-Chair of the Prevention Committee of the Domestic Violence Task Force, which was assembled by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Victims of domestic violence are suffering in new ways under Trump’s immigration policies.
“An abusive partner can create a narrative for a survivor: ‘No one will believe you, no one cares about you, your concerns aren’t real, you deserve what’s happening to you,’” said Andrew Sta. Ana, director of legal services at Day One NY, a nonprofit organization that works to educate young people about domestic violence and provides supportive services. These tactics are compounded for undocumented or transgender survivors of domestic violence, whose abusers can — and often do — use their marginalized identities against them. “There are a lot of stereotypes about transgender folks being deceitful, or about undocumented folks pulling one over on the rest of the system, and that’s dangerous,” Sta. Ana said. “When these powerful stereotypes are allowed to creep in, they automatically challenge the credibility of the victim, and that discourages people from seeking protection.”