Ending the cycle of abuse: Helena organizations offer resources

Posted at 1:04 PM, Jan 22, 2021

HELENA — The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says on a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

Leaving an abusive relationship and ending the cycle of abuse is not always easy.

Gina Boesdorfer, the client care director and operation manager at the Friendship Center in Helena, says that when it comes to the women who seek help, "they have been in an abusive relationship for so long that their sense of self, their confidence, all of the things that may be used to be a lot easier for them are very hard for them now."

Chelsea Nottingham, who is a Direct Services Advocate at the Friendship Center, adds that low self-esteem stems from the abuse that the women have experienced.

"The manipulation, the isolation, as well as someone else has experienced as well as the violence, and the name-calling, and the put-downs, it makes you feel like 'I am not crazy, like this wasn't made up, I am not dramatic, this actually happened to me'," Nottingham said.

Nottingham adds those feelings can weigh heavy on survivors of domestic violence and that abusers may also manipulate their partners with gifts or affection.

That can create confusion and uncertainty, and makes choosing to end the relationship harder.

"They are all of a sudden giving you all this attention and gifts, compliments, and it's just a tactic to keep you in longer," Nottingham said.

In some cases, she adds that people who have been abused and manipulated may feel they have no place to go. "The isolation that victims experience from their families and from their friends impacts their confidence, and their ability to move through life," Nottingham said.

"It might be leaving and going back and forth however many times, that the person needs to mentally prepare to leave the relationship," Boesdorfer said.

According to theNational Domestic Violence Hotline, a victim will leave an abusive relationship seven times before leaving for good, on average.

When they are ready to leave, Boesdorfer says they need to take steps to plan on doing so safely.

That includes collecting necessary paperwork and documents, such as securing any financial and vital records, like a person's birth certificate and social media accounts.

"And, make sure that your abuser does not have access to your account, or your account passwords, including social media," she said.

She adds that the most important thing to do is leave the abusive situation, even if that's with the shirt off your back.

The Friendship Center can also help a survivor find resourcesto help them obtain protection orders, if necessary, and other resources for a survivor to get the help they need.

The Friendship Center is still open and serving people during the pandemic, and their 24-hour hotline number is 406-442-6800.

More resources are available here. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 800.799.SAFE (7233).

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