Woman covers her head

*Please note, this article is written from the perspective of a mom, to other moms, because that is my personal frame of reference. I recognize there are domestic violence scenarios in which men and fathers are also victimized.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month hits me a little differently now that I’m a mom and my life is so intertwined with that of my child.

In motherhood, domestic violence is no longer about a singular human being abused, it’s about a unit of people — a mom and her children — being victimized. Domestic violence is different if you’re a mom, because the abuse is no longer just impacting you.

As backward as it may seem, sometimes we women can get pretty judgy about other women we see or hear about who are dealing with domestic violence.

“I don’t understand why she doesn’t just leave.”

“If I were her, I would’ve left a long time ago.”

“I can’t believe she doesn’t care enough about her kids to just pack up and go.”

Instead, I urge you to imagine yourself thinking about all of these things — at the same time — in the middle of a traumatic, dangerous situation: housing, shelters, money, physical safety, packing away important documents, work, daycare, school, lawyers and court and custody battles, getting your kids taken away, navigating public benefits, and everyone’s mental health.

It’s exceptionally more complicated than: “Well, I’d just figure it out.”

So let’s take a collective minute, regroup, and inform ourselves about ways we can (safely) help someone escape and recover from domestic violence. 

1. Listen

There’s a difference between being a listener and being a problem solver. Before you jump in to help someone who is experiencing domestic violence, take the time to REALLY listen to their story. Be a safe and confidential place for them to unpack what’s happening and how they’re feeling.

2. Affirm

Affirm that people have the right to be in a romantic relationship that feels safe — emotionally and physically. Remind them that they don’t deserve to be hurt, and it’s not their fault. Acknowledge that their situation is scary, difficult, and lonely. Be someone who helps them feel empowered and capable.

3. Help make a safety plan

Find a safe place for them to go if they do decide to leave. Make sure they have access to a hotline and other emergency contacts. Help them make and hide an emergency bag with important documents, keys, cash, a burner phone, etc.

4. Respect their choices

It’s difficult to leave an abuser, and sometimes it’s very dangerous. It’s not helpful to criticize, talk down to, or make them feel guilty. Remember, it often takes a victim of domestic violence several attempts to leave for good. 

5. Volunteer

The following organizations provide wonderful services and have many ways you can help: Casa Myrna, HAWC, The Network/La Red, Rosie’s Place, and REACH

You have the strength to be the one to break the cycle.

The National Domestic Violence 24/7 Hotline is 800-799-7233, and there is also an option to chat online.

SafeLink is Massachusetts’ 24/7 statewide domestic violence hotline and can be reached at 1-877-785-2020 for English and 1-800-930-9252 for Spanish.

Chelsey is a "central Mass" girl who married her 7th-grade sweetheart. She attended both undergraduate and graduate school in Boston, then taught high school on the North Shore for seven years. After living in Winchester and Melrose for several years (and moving too many times), she and her husband finally settled in Groveland in 2015. She loves the North Shore and everything it has to offer, and she enjoys raising her daughter there. Chelsey is the community engagement coordinator for Boston Moms and is mostly a stay-at-home mom. She spends lots of time advocating for children with disabilities, arguing with insurance companies, and looking for disabled influencers, inclusive companies, and materials that celebrate neurodiversity. She avidly listens to audiobooks, hates everything about coffee, and, most importantly, loves being a mom.