One woman. One horse. 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

Check back often for the latest updates and stories from Meredith and Apollo as they journey 10,000 miles on a four year ride around the USA.






A Centauride Gift Guide

Whether you’re shopping for the holidays, or to treat yourself to something nice, we have something for anyone on your list and for any gift-giving occasion!

Better yet, all your purchases help Apollo and I continue our mission to ride to 48 states for domestic violence awareness!

Please visit the following links to start shopping!
(Note: To keep prices as low as possible, different items do require shopping on different websites or by emailing me directly.  Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.)

Books

Apollo’s Alphabet - Apollo tells about his life as a traveling horse, while teaching young readers the ABC’s.  Beautifully llustrated with scenes from the ride.
          Order “just a book” (Amazon) $14.99 paperback
          Order a signed book  (contact me) $15.99 plus shipping
          Order a signed book with hand-knitted Apollo finger puppet (contact me) $22.99 plus shipping

Have Horse Will Travel - a multi-book collection of short stories from the ride.
          Volume 1: Pacific (order on Amazon) $11.99 paperback/$5.99 kindle
          Volume 2: Mountains (order on Amazon) $11.99 paperback/$5.99 kindle
          Volume 3: Heartland (order on Amazon) $11.99 paperback/$5.99 kindle
          Order a signed book or all three (contact me) $12.99/each plus shipping

Calendar

A Year With Apollo 2020 Calendar - each month features a photo of Apollo from our travels.
           $19.99 plus shipping.  Contact me to order


Centauride apparel and other cool stuff


T-shirts, mugs, water bottles, pillows, beach towels, posters, shower curtains (yes, really!), and more!
Order on the Centauride Store hosted by Threadless.com
Please note! Women’s shirts should be ordered one size larger than you normally wear.  Unisex shirts and children’s shirts are sized normally.  
For order problems, please contact Threadless - they will replace any problem orders including sizing issues at no cost to you (or me). 
(And a big thanks to my friends for modeling their Centauride shirts!) 

Want to support the Centauride, but don’t need any stuff?
Well, thanks a bunch! Please visit the GoFundMe page!

Order your “A Year with Apollo” 2020 Wall Calendar


Apollo is proud to announce his first wall calendar!

12 months of color photos featuring your favorite golden horse (a few of which are also with yours truly), including through-the-ears, Apollo’s-view, and many of your other favorite pictures from the last year’s ride.

Get yours for
$19.99 plus $3.85 shipping

Orders may take up to 2-3 weeks to ship.

Order your copy now, just click on the paypal button below,

or send a check made out to “Meredith Cherry” to 
2036 Nevada City Highway #580, Grass Valley CA 95945

Local orders (Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Auburn CA only!)  can be ordered for pickup and save on shipping by emailing me.




Speak Up, Speak Out




I mentioned two things you can do in my prevention post earlier this month:

Increase the conversation -  Domestic violence is still largely a silent problem.  Of course people who are still being victimized will continue to stay silent, for their own safety if nothing else. But those of us who have already gotten out, or those who have a good friend or family member who has experienced abuse, should not stay silent. Your experiences can change other people’s lives! Those who haven’t been in an abusive relationship before need to know the truths about it - not just statistics and general facts. You don’t need to write a book or jump on a horse to do this, but do consider sharing your story when an opportunity arises.  (And if you do share your story, please don’t downplay it with such statements as “it wasn’t that bad” or “but he never hit me” etc - that does not do justice to yourself or to whoever would be helped by your story).

Speak up  - If you meet someone you suspect is a victim, don’t just wonder and be silently sad.  There are things you can do. Even if it’s a total stranger, you can discretely give them the info for your local crisis center or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  Some crisis centers print up business cards that don’t say what it’s for, so a victim can safely keep it in their purse until they’re ready to call - ask yours for a few to hand out. If it’s someone you know, make sure they understand you’re there if they need help.

Here’s a few more things you can do:

Get informed. Learn what abuse is, what the signs are when someone is being abused, and how to help someone if you suspect they are being abused. Every person can be an advocate for their neighbors, friends, and family!  Help others be informed too by sharing what you learn on social media.

Choose your words wisely.  While “Domestic Violence” “Shelter” and even “Battered Woman” are still commonly used, these and other such verbiage perpetuates the confusion and misunderstandings people have about abuse.  “Domestic violence” leads people to think that only violent abuse (such as hitting) is real abuse, and that non-physical domestic abuse somehow doesn’t count.  Same goes for “battered woman” - a phrase that also downplays how many men are victims.  “Shelters” are now trading in that term for “crisis centers” or “domestic violence agencies” or “domestic violence services,” to help overcome the idea that they’re just for people needing a safe place to sleep while they escape their abuser - when in fact they provide so many more services than that. (And yes, I know I use the word “domestic violence often in this blog; having already named my ride as being “against domestic violence” it was too late to change when I realized how it could be improved).

Fight against victim shaming/blaming.  Choose your own words wisely in this area too, and also be willing to speak up if you hear someone saying something that shames or blames a victim of abuse. Rememeber, it is never the victim’s fault!

Volunteer.  Your local crisis center can use your help in so many ways.  It can be as easy as setting up chairs for their next event!



Change the Laws


In the last blog post, I talked about some changes that could be made to improve the way police handle domestic violence calls.  The police’s job is to enforce existing law, but when the legal system itself doesn’t protect the victim, there is sometimes very little an officer can do.

Federally, there are some felony laws about domestic violence.  It is a felony to cross state lines to harass, stalk, or physically harm an intimate partner. Federal law does not apply to the same crimes committed without crossing a state line. It also only applied to “intimate partners” which does not include dating violence, or if you had never married and are now living separately when the violence occurs, and some other such situations.   It is also a felony to possess a gun if you’ve been found guilty of certain domestic violence laws. This does not cover all domestic violence convictions.

Not all states have criminal laws against domestic violence.  Approximately 12 states leave it in the civil code, where the potential penalties for abusers is much reduced - and when it’s not a crime (ie, not in criminal code) it is difficult if not impossible for police to arrest an abuser.  If it’s a civil crime, the victim may need to file a lawsuit to have their abuser brought to justice - an expensive and difficult process that few victims want to, or would be able to, successfully do. Stricter laws for abusers and increasing the penalties for committing domestic violence are needed in many states. Abuse should be a crime, period.

Further, most states’ domestic violence laws - whether criminal or civil - only cover physical crime, and sometimes harassment or stalking.  Emotional, psychological, financial, etc are not usually covered under the law.  Physical abuse that doesn’t involve actual battery - such as withholding access to food or other needs from the victim - may not be covered. Domestic violence is more than just battery; it should be against the law to commit any kind of abuse.

Less than half of states consider it a crime to commit domestic violence in front of a child witness. Of those that do, most only will charge for that crime as a kind of bonus to other charges, and not as a separate offense (this does matter, although I’m not a lawyer and can’t explain the nuances well). Children should be protected from witnessing domestic abuse in every state.

No state agrees on what exactly constitutes a relationship that qualifies for “domestic” abuse - is it just spouses and ex-spouses? Also other relatives? Also someone you’re dating? Etc. Every victim of domestic abuse should be protected, regardless of marital, housing, or other status, and their families too.

Further, different states have different criteria - and even different names - for what is generally called a restraining order or a protective order.  Pennsylvania, for example, calls it a Protection From Abuse (PFA), which is more limited in its scope than a more standard PO. There are also different rules about enforcing it if you receive a PO in one state and then move to another state. It can also be difficult to get a PO if you’ve moved across state lines first, for safety, but still want to be protected by this legal device. There are too many loopholes and problems with being able to receive legal protection such as a PO. 

Some states have mandatory reporting laws for medical professionals who suspect their patient is a victim of abuse.  Interestingly, Wyoming and New Jersey both have laws that ANYONE who suspects abuse must report it (I would be willing to bet that it hasn’t changed the number of reports made, versus other states, but it is an interesting law in theory). Mandatory reporting is good in theory but it has been shown to prevent women from seeking medical attention for fear of retribution when their abuser is questioned. Perhaps a solution could be found? 

Some states have good laws, like the ones that allow victims to terminate a home lease early without penalty, if they have proof such as a PO or police reports of abuse. However, some states laws allow a landlord to evict their tenants if the police are called too many times. Early termination laws are a good example of the law helping victims. Bad eviction laws are obviously not. 

Court procedures could also use some changes.  Too many times, the victim is forced into court with her abuser.  This is psychologically beyond-awful, and potentially dangerous too if the abuser can take the opportunity to cause harm (especially if the victim has been in hiding).  When the court matter could be resolved between opposing lawyers and a judge or mediator, courts should be more lenient with requiring a victim to attend in person.

Some legal issues I’ve either experienced or heard about from other survivors are also good examples of bad laws.  Being unable to prove abuse happened is common, especially in combination with ineffective or hostile police intervention prior to the court proceedings. This leads to all sorts of injustices such as an inability to get a PO, difficulties with custody battles, etc. Sometimes, even when abuse has been proven, a judge will overlook that in his or her verdict especially in civil cases.

Then there is simply the matter of legal costs.  For most situations, a victim will need to hire a lawyer. This is terribly expensive. Depending on the type of case, a victim may choose to not press charges or file a lawsuit or fight harder in court for a fair divorce or custody, because they cannot afford to and/or because it is too emotionally difficult.  Court battles can drag out a very long time (something else that could be fixed in court procedures), especially if the abuser decides (as they sometimes do) to use the legal battle as a further means of hurting their victim through intimidation and financial ruin.

Please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, and this blog is from my own research and should not be taken as legal advice etc. Not being a lawyer, I wouldn’t even know how to go about fixing this either.  Yet something neeeds to change, as time and time again I hear from other survivors of the terrible injustices they faced in the legal system, whether for a daughter that was murdered by her boyfriend or husband, or a young mother who was filing for divorce and custody.  


Wrapping up another great year on the road


I would like to take a moment to give a big thank you to all of you who have supported my year’s ride with your love! Apollo and I couldn’t have made it the two-thousand miles we traveled in the last six months (or the 8,200 miles in the last three years) without you 🙂 

And speaking of support, please consider contributing to my winter expenses using my GoFundMe page.  While I will be working as soon as I get home so I can afford boarding, flights home and back again, living expenses, and other sundry costs through the winter, seasonal work does not pay well.  If you can help with a few dollars, please consider doing so! 

Apollo is all settled in and happy in his winter home, south of Manchester NH. The barn owner is very nice, I am as sure as possible that he’ll have a good break here. I will be asking for photos from her at least once a month, and I’ll be sure to share them with you all because I know you miss seeing him too!


This post does NOT mean that there will be nothing new and exciting for you to see until spring.  Quite the opposite.  Even though Apollo and I will be on opposite sides of the country, and I’ll be busy living a “normal” life (or something close to it anyway, lol), I have a lot of fun plans for blog pots, YouTube videos, new books (yes, plural!), and a new podcast channel for your enjoyment through the cold months. Keep watching for details!

Better Training for Law Enforcement


It is an unforunate truth that law enforcement, as a whole in our country, is doing a bad job of dealing with domestic violence.  I do not write those words to insult the blue, and I value and respect their work in protecting their communities.  However, the statistics don’t lie, nor do the untold number of abused women that I’ve talked to about their own experiences with police, not to mention my own nearly 100% terrible experiences as well.

First, though, I would encourage you to read this full report (click on “download pdf” to see the whole thing, not just the info graphic):
https://www.thehotline.org/resources/law-enforcement-responses/

To summarize, half the 500 or so women surveyed had at some point in the past called the police over a domestic abuse incident, and the other half had not.  Of those that had not, many had valid reasons not to (such as feeling they wouldn’t be believed, or that it would not resolve anything and just make it more dangerous for her - both of which are actually common).  Of those that had, most felt that it had not resulted in any positive outcome - either the situation remained the same or got worse because of the police involvement.  Many felt they weren’t believed, were accused of being the abuser instead of the victim, sometimes even arrested.

For myself, the police were called several times (not by me, I was too afraid of reprocussions for that).  Every single time they came out and talked to both myself and my abuser, they believed him.  Every. Single. Time.  The only time they were “on my side” was after I’d been able to flee half way across the country, and the officer was not talking to both of us at once; he had been called by my abuser to do a “welfare check” on me (he was trying to figure out where I was hiding) so it was a little different than the typical DV call, but still, the officer sided with me and agreed to not reveal my location. After so many bad experiences, I was a lot more shocked at being treated nicely than I should have been if the way police handle DV calls wasn’t such a common problem.

What was not addressed in that linked document was what happens when the victim is married to a police officer (or other emergency personnel).  I have met far too many women whose experiences were made so very much worse by the fact that their abusive partner wore a uniform, and that the police stood by their “brother” no matter what the evidence.  Some of the stories they told me were sick beyond words, when obvious harm had been caused and they merely told the abuser to calm down, or some such thing, and left.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As the document points out on the last two pages, there are a lot of law enforcement policies and training that can be improved. It is not a simple matter of training, although that is a part of it.  The small percentage of women who have had a good experience with law enforcement can teach a lot about how it should be done.  

*Police should have a “we believe you” attitude towards the victim. 
*They should understand that a hysterical victim is herself not to blame, but that hysterics are a natural response to being victimized.  
*The police should offer concrete, productive, useful, actionable solutions for the victim, such as making sure they know about local crisis centers or the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and even escorting them there. 
 *One example listed of an effective change was adding an advocate position to the police department.  
*Few police departments actually work closely with the local crisis center (although they’re always familiar with them, that’s not the same thing), and a good working relationship and colaberation on policy and community outreach etc can make a difference.  
*A center I spoke with, where they do work with the local police, is hosting a statewide forum on proper police etiquette and other important issues.  For example, how the reports are written can immensely influence the outcome of later court cases; a well-worded one can bring justice and a poorly-worded one can lead to the abuser walking away. 
*The lack of enforcing protective orders is something that both the survey and my own experiences in talking with survivors has shown me to be a huge problem. 

What can you do about it? Petition your local police department or even your city council to implement some of the changes listed above or in the document. Talk to your local crisis center and/or domestic violence state coalition to encourage them to take the lead in getting these changes made, too. 

Expanded Services for Victims and Survivors


I have visited quite a few domestic violence crisis centers around the country, and all of them are doing good work.  Some are even doing amazing work.  They are all equally overworked and understaffed, but they do not all offer equal numbers or quality of services.  Some of them are so limited that I can hardly imagine their clients are satisfied.  Others simply blow my mind with the comprehensive list of services available.

Here’s what they all have:

*Shelter (usually private rooms, often private bathrooms too.  Sometimes a dorm-style room if space is tight and two childless women have to share a room).
*Legal advocates.  What this means varies by center, however.  Some only deal with civil cases like child custody, others deal with criminal cases, occassionally they help with both.
*Counseling. Typically this means private counseling sessions, could mean group therapy also. Most shelters do not employ a child counseling specialist.
*Education.  What this actually means varies by agency. Often includes at least a few school assemblies or similar. Also includes education for clients on understanding what they’ve been through so they can watch for red flags and learn how to have healthy relationships in the future.

That’s all great stuff.  However, here’s some of what the more awesome of crisis centers offer to their clients:

*Handicap accessible rooms, whether that’s for wheel chairs, sight-impaired, hearing-impaired, etc, residents.
*Shelter with full communal kitchen or, better, healthy meals provided.
*Shelter with communal quiet rooms, play rooms, secure garden/outdoor space, etc.
*Shelter with excellent security measures, including safe evacuation point that doesn’t expose residents to public view.
*Shelter that is a different location from the rest of the center’s services, intake, offices, etc.
*Shelter options for more than 30 days (many now offer 90), and help finding transitional housing and/or permanent housing.
*Assistance applying for government assistance programs and other important paperwork such as health insurance, and making sure that every client knows what they can apply for or otherwise need to take care of to plan for future.
*Networking help for jobs, or easy access to job listings. Free interview-acceptable clothing and shoes. Help writing a resume.
*Childcare, or at least help in signing up to get free childcare somewhere nearby.  This is almost never offered, yet is one of the most needed things for a lot of women in shelter, so they can get a job and afford to take care of themselves and said children alone!
*Child-specific counselors/therapists.
*Canine advocates for children (ideally also adults), who provide emotional support in counseling and at court or other stressful situations.
*Alternatives to counseling, such as mediation space, yoga classes, art therapy, etc.
*Health care on-site, or help getting to health care appointments. Especially a good idea: on-site rape kits and on-call nurse to administer the test, as many victims will refuse going to the hospital and will feel more comfortable to have test done at shelter. Alternately, or additionally, a dedicated team of nurses in the local hospital who specialize in helping those there for rape or abuse-related injuries (special training is available for this, and such nurse teams do exist in some city hospitals).
*Asisstance with resident transportation for other basic non-daily needs like job interviews and court dates.
*Help with basic supplies, such as clothing for both women and children, personal care items, diapers, school supplies, etc.
*Legal assistance for all kinds of legal issues involved with domestic abuse. This can include criminal charges, child custody, divorce, law suits, etc.  Most legal advocates at crisis centers don’t help with divorce proceedings.
*Education for clients.  Surprisingly, though all centers have “education” listed as a service, it is generally limited to school programs. It is so important for victims to get the information they need to not repeatedly get into unhealthy relationships, yet this is not the standard at crisis centers.
*Self-defense classes.  Teaching women - whether just for clients or offering it to any woman or girl in the community - how to defend themselves if attacked, is an excellent but rare service.
*A “yes we can do that” attitude.  Everyone’s needs are different, and may not fit the mold of the crisis center’s services.  Too many centers are satisfied with the way they’ve always done it, and don’t talk with other centers to see what else they maybe could be doing.

Improving Victim Access to Services



Several times a month, I receive a message from an abuse victim who needs help that they either can’t get, or don’t realize they can get, from their local crisis center.

Sometimes, helping them simply involves letting them know who to call and what services are available there.  Sometimes, they have some reason they don’t want to call the crisis center (often because of misconceptions about what its like to live in a shelter, or because they think they won’t qualify for services).  Other times, they have called but don’t know the right questions to ask (and for some reason, the crisis center doesn’t guide them well enough over the phone), or the crisis center is simply at capacity.

In each instance, their crisis center has somehow failed them - even in the instances where they haven’t even called.  I don’t want this blog post to sound like an attack on crisis centers.  They do good work for their communities.  Yet, there are so many ways that nearly all of the dozens of crisis centers I’ve met with, continue to fail their communities.  Not by any means intentionally, yet every woman who needs help and fails to get it for any of these reasons is an example of what needs changed.

If you work at a crisis center, please take note! If you have a crisis center in your community, email them some suggestions! (Or better yet, volunteer).

Need for more community outreach.  I covered this in depth in the previous blog post but it bears saying again.  People who need services, need to know the services are available! That seems like a no-brained, yet too many centers are doing too little to make sure their communities know that they are there, what they offer for services, and who is eligible to receive them.

Secrecy cuts two ways. On one hand, it’s important for shelters to keep their information secret, to protect their clients’ safety.  On the other hand, too much secrecy will prevent those who need to find their local center from being able to access it, or even knowing it’s there.  Every center should have a clear and easy way to be found for intake purposes (such as a separate office from where the shelter is), and be sure to have a web presence too.

Increase capacity.  Obviously this is a much more complicated problem to solve, and often more expensive than many crisis centers can achieve. However....

Turn no one away.  Some centers will help a victim seeking shelter even when there are no beds, either by calling around to other shelters until they find her one (even into other states) and arranging transportation to get there, or by making agreements with local hotels to house them there (often this is how they provide shelter for male clients). These are great solutions. Unfortunately, not all centers are that well connected with other local or regional centers, or simply don’t think to offer it when they’re full.  Sometimes, they don’t even have a waiting list for those women who are ready to leave but feel safe to stay until a bed is available, or maybe they have a list but don’t remember to ask those seeking shelter if they’d like to be on it.  A policy of “no one gets turned away” is actually possible, with some creativity and cooperation.
 
Break the stigma. Another unforunate thing I’ve found in talking to so many people for the last three years, is that there is a stigma about staying in shelter.  Also, there is a lot of confusion about what other services are offered by crisis centers and who qualifies for them.  Centers need to do a MUCH better job at informing their communities about these things, and also about what it’s like to live in a shelter (ie, that it’s not a giant room with dozens of cots and no privacy). Most “shelters” offer much more than shelter (such as legal services, counseling, and sometimes other help such as job boards, free supplies or clothes, and even yoga).  You don’t have to live there to access the services, nor do you need to prove income, have kids/not have kids, be a certain gender or ethnicity, etc.

Improved access for rural victims.  Rural victims wishing to access services have two primary setbacks. First, that there are not often centers nearby, so it’s even harder to find out who to call (or even if they know about the center in town, they may think they don’t qualify because they don’t live in town). Second, that it can be difficult if not outright impossible to get there (having limited or no use of a personal vehicle is common for abuse victims).  Crisis centers that serve an entire county will often only do community outreach in the largest town in the county, and/or the town where they’re located, but should make special effort to reach the whole area they serve. There should also be policy in place for how to transport a victim to shelter if they can’t drive themselves and don’t feel comfortable having the police involved.

Vermont, an autumn wonderland


We did Vermont, the Green Mountain State, and our 30th state to venture through! 


We started out in Bennington, with an event at PAVE (Project Against Violent Encounters). Bennington was the largest town I rode through, and the only one that had a domestic violence agency (there are numerous in the state, I just didn’t go through their towns).


Bennington’s most famous building is the battle monument, visible from pretty much anywhere in town. It commemorates an important victory against the British in 1777. Although the battle took place just over the NY border, it was fought to defend the armory at this site, and was fought by militias from VT and NH.  


Vermont’s white steeple churches are so scenic.  Nearly every town has at least one. This picture was taken in Brattleboro.


A cute town I visited (by car), Chester, had a nice downtown shopping district. I especially enjoyed the pie cafe and the used bookstores.


Speaking of sweet stuff, Vermont is of course known for being the maple syrup capital. Maple is used  to flavor ice cream, pie, liquor, and coffee, just to name a few things. By the way, if you want to eat soft serve ice cream in Vermont, it’s called “creemee.”    


I was very lucky to be here during leaf season. What better way to be a “leaf peeper” (what tourists who come to see the leaves are called), than in the saddle!


This was my best leaf picture.


The views from the top of each hill were fantastic.


Every day, and every bend in the road, brought more beautiful fall colors.


What a lovely and delicious place to visit.  Thanks, Vermont!  

Prevention is the best solution



“Awareness + Action = Social Change”.

I love this quote.  Awareness is important, but so is taking action.  Change will not happen without both! There are many actions that will, added up together, lead to great social change, but for my first domestic violence awareness month blog I’d like to focus on prevention.

Obviously there are many ways to raise awareness about domestic violence, and there are also many approaches to that message of awareness (I’m not even going to get into the many, many facets of what “awareness” can mean). My own ride is one way; most shelters have outreach and education programs that go to elementary schools and/or high schools to teach kids about healthy relationships.  Other people have tried to raise awareness through such means as books and film.

Yet this important message is not consistently reaching those who need it - not just victims, but those who have never experienced it and need to know what to watch for, and those whose friends or family are being abused and need information to help them.

A part of the problem with creating awareness is the simple lack of time and resources for that domestic violence agencies who do such outreach programs already. Yes, most crisis centers (or shelters, if you prefer - but I don’t - that’s for a later blog) do perform some kind of outreach to local schools.  Not all do, however.   Crisis centers are nearly always overwhelmed in dealing with crises, and even if they have a dedicated outreach staff member, are typically pretty limited in where and how involved they can get in their educational program. Most common are visits to local schools, and it is unusual for a shelter to do any greater community outreach than that.

However, this is not just the job of crisis centers.  This is a job for everyone! Here are a few ways - including some very simple ones - that you, too, can help prevent domestic violence.

Better youth outreach - not just to schools, but to youth groups of all kinds.  Check with your kids’ school, scouts troop, chess club, sports team, church group, etc to see if they have scheduled someone from your local crisis center to speak to the kids, and if not, encourage the group leader to do so!

Better community  outreach - also improve outreach to the community at large, so victims, survivors and their families/friends have the information they need. If you’re helping plan any kind of community event (for your neighborhood, church, club, or town), invite your local crisis center to participate!  If you own a business, check into co-hosting an event, ask them about arranging a meeting to teach your employees about DV and how to get help, or even just ask the crisis center for informational material to hang in your business (the bathroom is often recommended as a “safe place” for victims to be able to read such things and even call for help).  “Just” an employee? Make a suggestion to your boss to do these things!

Improve the message - there is so much that needs said, that is not being said well or at all! For example, there are still many common misconceptions even among those who’ve been through an abusive relationship, such as whether a relationship can be “domestic abuse” without it being violent (it can), or even about what services are available for victims (actually quite a lot, in most places) and who qualifies to receive them (everyone).  I’d like to see shelters review and improve their literature and web resources. For the rest of us, sharing on social media when you see a post about domestic violence is a good start.

Increase the conversation -  Domestic violence is still largely a silent problem.  Of course people who are still being victimized will continue to stay silent, for their own safety if nothing else. But those of us who have already gotten out, or those who have a good friend or family member who has experienced abuse, should not stay silent. Your experiences can change other people’s lives! Those who haven’t been in an abusive relationship before need to know the truths about it - not just statistics and general facts. You don’t need to write a book or jump on a horse to do this, but do consider sharing your story when an opportunity arises.  (And if you do share your story, please don’t downplay it with such statements as “it wasn’t that bad” or “but he never hit me” etc - that does not do justice to yourself or to whoever would be helped by your story).

Speak up  - If you meet someone you suspect is a victim, don’t just wonder and be silently sad.  There are things you can do. Even if it’s a total stranger, you can discretely give them the info for your local crisis center or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  Some crisis centers print up business cards that don’t say what it’s for, so a victim can safely keep it in their purse until they’re ready to call - ask yours for a few to hand out. If it’s someone you know, make sure they understand you’re there if they need help.

Do you have other ideas to increase awareness and help prevent domestic violence? Please share in the comments below!