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Building a Support System in Your Community

When you’re going through a tough time, you often feel alone. You are not. There are people all around who can help. Consider reaching out to these members of your community if you're in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.

Friends
Try reaching out to your friends but be careful about what you share. Friends can provide a lot of support, but they can also spread information you’d rather keep private. Make sure to specifically point out anything you want to keep secret and share the fact that breaking your trust may put you in danger.

Teachers
Do you have a favorite teacher? Try talking to him or her for support. If you aren’t close with this person already, it may be awkward. Stay after school and start by discussing your homework or questions about class. Once you feel comfortable, let them know you need to talk. Understand that your teacher may be required to tell someone about your situation, depending on the state or school policy. 

A Faith Leader or Mentor
Someone in your faith community may be a good choice to open up to because they probably share your values, are willing to talk with you and may be able to speak confidentially. If you don’t know the person well, tell them about yourself first and see how they react. If they’re judgmental, they’re probably not a good choice.

School Counselors
Consider talking to your school counselor -- they may be trained on dating abuse and should know the related campus’ policy and resources. They may also be able to help you talk to your parents, campus police or school principal. Try approaching your counselor about a different problem. Then, based on their reaction, decide if you feel comfortable talking to them about your relationship.

Coaches
If you have a coach you feel comfortable around, hang around after practice or approach them during a free period at school. Since coaches often focus on both mental and physical well being, yours may be able to provide a unique perspective on your situation. Again, know they may be required
to report any abuse to their superiors.

Extended Family
Consider your extended family when looking for support. A close aunt, uncle or cousin may be able to help you. Be upfront with your family member about your needs. It’s ok to say you’re only looking for someone to listen if you’re not ready for advice. Also, be sure to point out any information you want to keep confidential and clarify what's ok to share with others. 

Campus Safety or Police
Ask your local or campus police for help before and after an abusive incident. Feel free to use them as a resource by asking questions about your rights. Campus police should be aware of school policies about dating violence and may know resources available on campus. Local police hopefully have similar information about the law and community services. Consider requesting an officer to periodically stop at your residence and check on your safety.

If you ever feel unsafe, be cautious and call your local law enforcement. Once you’re safe, make sure they file a report on the incident.  

Building a Support System at Home
Your family may be a great resource if you’re experiencing dating abuse. They may know you best and be around the most, but it can be really hard opening up to a family member. What if your parents didn’t want you to date at all, and now you’re in an abusive relationship? Will you get in trouble? How can you even bring up the topic to your family? What if you confide in a sibling and they tell your parents? It’s understandable to be embarrassed or scared to approach family members.

We want you to feel empowered to get the support you deserve. No one should have to go through an unhealthy or abusive relationship alone. Consider these steps when turning to family members for support.

Identify a Family Member You Trust
No one knows your situation or family better than you do. Who can you talk to in your family about what you’re going through? Who's a good listener? Who has your best interest at heart? Consider which family member you are most comfortable just being around. Also, think about that person’s experience with relationships. If you admire their relationships, maybe they can help you figure out what to focus on.

Ask Yourself, “Am I Ready to Share?”
Just because you’ve picked a family member, doesn’t mean you’re ready to talk yet -- and that’s ok. If you feel close to your sister but haven’t spent time with her lately, try to bond more before bringing up the topic. Spending time together may help you feel more comfortable when you’re ready to share. Test the waters by bringing up a related topic and gauge how your family member responds.

Bring Up the Topic
It can be hard to talk about dating abuse. If you can’t find the words to start, consider a creative icebreaker. Ask your family member to watch a movie with you and pick out a film like Lifetime’s "Reviving Ophelia." Or share an article that discusses dating abuse via email and talk about it when you get home that night. No matter how you approach the topic, you’re doing the right thing by speaking out.

Set Your Boundaries
Once you've decided to share your situation, consider what role you want your family member to play. If you only want to talk and not receive advice, kindly let them know. If you want what you share to be confidential, tell them that upfront. Know that the family member you tell might inform someone else. If physical abuse is happening and they're worried for your safety, they may inform your school or even the police. If you tell a sibling, they may feel overwhelmed and involve your parents. Sharing can be a risk, but the support you receive may outweigh any violation of trust.

Be Prepared for a Strong Reaction
What happens after you share? Often, family members react in a way that makes you feel like they’re mad at you, when they’re really mad at your abusive partner or the situation. They're upset because they love you and don’t want you to be mistreated. If they start ranting against your significant other, let them know that it hurts and isn’t helpful.  


Building a Support System at Work 
Most people prefer to keep their professional and personal lives separate. However, if you're in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, this separation can be complicated. We know it can be hard to tell anyone about your situation, but talking to your coworkers may help keep you safe. Here are some ways to create a support system at your workplace.

Confide in a Coworker
A coworker can provide emotional support and play a role in your safety. Before confiding in someone, consider the same steps we suggest for selecting a family member. Make sure the person is really trustworthy and supportive.

Tell the coworkers you trust what your partner looks like, so they know not to let him or her into your workplace. Also, ask them not to reveal your work schedule so your abusive partner won't show up unannounced or know your daily routine. If you don’t want to share your personal information with everyone at work, make sure to tell your trusted coworkers to keep your situation private.

If you feel comfortable talking to your boss or someone of authority at work, you may find out there’s a policy in place or a friendly manager designated to assist you. Also, you can provide those you tell with a copy of your protection order if you have one, and they can then help you enforce it by calling the police if your abusive partner shows up.

Make Friends with Building Security
If you feel your abusive partner may come to your job, leave their picture with the security guard and ask they never let your partner into your workplace. Also, consider asking to be walked out of the building if you don’t feel safe.

Find Accommodations
Does your company or organization have additional job sites? It may be possible for you to switch locations without any penalties to your status at work. If you relocate, it will be harder for your abusive partner to find you. You may also be able to ask for time off for court hearings or counseling without losing your job.

Know Your Rights
Some states consider domestic violence as "good cause" to leave a job. If you live in a state where this is true, you may qualify for unemployment benefits if your abusive relationship is interfering with your ability to work. If you are in an abusive same-sex relationship and fear disclosing your situation will cause you to be discriminated against at work, there may be laws in your state protecting you.