Content warning: This article contains information about intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and relevant resources.
October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence—also known as intimate partner violence—refers to physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse within the context of a romantic or sexual relationship. IPV can impact survivors physically, mentally, and financially in both the short and long-term.
If you are a survivor of IPV, there are resources to help you process what you have experienced. While this article specifically references survivors of domestic violence, the majority of the following resources also support survivors of sexual violence that was not perpetrated by an intimate partner.
You are not alone, regardless of what you have experienced.
I am in immediate physical danger:
If you are in immediate danger, Georgetown recommends dialing the appropriate campus police depending on your location: 202-687-4343 (Main Campus), 202-662-9325 (Law Center); or 202-907-3061 (SCS). If you are off-campus, Georgetown recommends dialing 911 to reach the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
If you are not comfortable involving the police in your situation, there are other resources available. DC Safe is an organization based in D.C. that provides crisis intervention for domestic violence survivors. Call 1-800-407-5048 to speak with an advocate. If you need someplace safe to go, there are emergency shelters and housing services to which they can refer you. An advocate also can help you obtain an Order of Protection from your assailant. All services are free and confidential. For more information and a comprehensive list of resources, visit www.dcsafe.org/resource-map.
I need immediate medical care or evidence to be collected:
If you have been physically or sexually assaulted, it is important to obtain medical attention as soon as possible to assess the severity of your injuries and to ensure that you are physically healthy. In D.C., you can obtain this care for free through the DC Forensic Nurse Examiners at MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC). These services are accessible 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, even during the pandemic. You can take yourself to MWHC, or you can call the D.C. Victim Hotline at 844-4HELP-DC, who can provide you with safe transport to the hospital. Once you arrive, go right to the emergency room and say that you are there for a forensic exam.
The hospital will call a forensic nurse, who is trained to mentally and physically care for people who have experienced violence, and an advocate from Network for Victim Recovery of DC.
After the assault, it is best to avoid changing your clothes, showering, going to the bathroom, brushing your teeth, eating, or drinking until you can obtain an exam. If you already did these things, you can still go to the hospital and receive an exam. If you changed clothes and still have them, bring them with you in a brown paper bag.
During the exam, you will be asked to describe the assault. It is okay if you are unable to recall all the details, and it will not undermine the validity of what you experienced. The nurse will also ask about your medical history and any physical symptoms you are currently experiencing. The nurse will then evaluate your physical state, and do a full-body physical exam. They will identify and document any injuries and findings. If there are concerning injuries, other physicians might be consulted so that they can be treated. If you were sexually assaulted, the nurse will perform an internal exam and collect physical evidence, which can include bloodwork and swabs. You will be given appropriate medications and given referrals to other doctors or organizations for more long term support.
It is okay to be scared during this exam. Just remember that you are in control of every aspect of the exam, and have the right to deny any part of the exam, no questions asked. The entire exam is based on respecting your boundaries and honoring your consent.
For more detailed information about the forensic exam, please visit dcfne.org/faq.
I am in crisis, and I need immediate emotional support:
If you are in crisis after experiencing something traumatic, that is extremely common and understandable. There are many resources that can help you.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK to speak with a licensed professional at any time. The lifeline accommodates those with hearing difficulties and provides tele-interpreters for over 150 different languages. Lifeline also offers a chat feature if you do not feel comfortable speaking on the phone. Visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now. This is a free, confidential resource.
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) has a National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can call 1-800-656-HOPE or go online to hotline.rainn.org/online to access a chat. The hotline will connect you to a trained staff member local to your area to ensure you are properly helped. This is a free, confidential resource.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is an accessible hotline that caters to all people, and provides specific resources for indigenous survivors and survivors with hearing difficulties. For specific information, visit their website, thehotline.org/get-help. You can call 1-800-799-SAFE or go to their website to utilize their online chat feature. This is a free, confidential resource.
The DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) also has a hotline that can be reached at 202-333-RAPE. Their website, drcc.org/counselling/no-straight-path/tools-for-survivors, provides more information. This is a free, confidential resource.
Within the Georgetown Community, you can contact Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) even after business hours. Call 833-960-3006. This is a confidential resource.
I want to report what happened to me:
If you do choose to report, you deserve support, especially from those to whom you are reporting. At Georgetown, you can choose to file a Title IX complaint with the university. You can also file a criminal complaint with MPD. There are also other actions you can take. In order to decide what process would feel the safest for you, you can consider speaking to the following resources.
Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC) is an organization based in D.C. that provides legal services, advocacy, and resources to survivors. If you received a SANE exam after an attack, you most likely met an advocate from this organization during that exam. NVRDC can not only talk you through your options, but can also provide you with legal advice and advocacy throughout the entire process. To get in touch with NVRDC, call 202-742-1727. Leave a brief message with your name and phone number, and they will return your call as soon as possible. If it feels more comfortable, you can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit their website at nvrdc.org.
If you feel more comfortable staying within the Georgetown community, you can contact the Title IX office. There, you can meet with a Title IX Coordinator. During this meeting, you can learn about what support you can receive, and what the process of filing a formal complaint would look like. Speaking with a Title IX Coordinator is not a confidential conversation, which means that if you share any details about your experience, the university might have to investigate. However, you do not have to share anything in this initial meeting unless you are ready. To set up a meeting or for more information, visit sexualassault.georgetown.edu or call 202-687-4798. Samantha Berner, the Director of Title IX Compliance and Title IX Coordinator, can be reached directly at 202-697-9183 or at email@example.com
If you aren’t ready to start with the Title IX office, and would feel safer with a confidential counselor, you can either contact Health and Education Services by calling 202-687-8949 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or Counseling and Psychiatric Service (CAPS) by calling 202-687-6985.
Your experience is not any less valid if you choose not to report it to the school or the authorities. You get to define what happens next.
I am not in crisis, but I need to talk to someone:
Calling any of the hotlines mentioned above is always a great option for short-term support. If you are finding that you are in need of a more long-term support system, there are many resources available.
Therapy, for some people, is a vital part of their recovery from a traumatic experience. Depending on a lot of factors, it can sometimes be hard to find the right therapist. As previously mentioned, NVRDC is one organization that can refer you to mental health providers and support groups in the D.C. area.
If cost is an issue, you can still find professional support through organizations that can provide free therapy for domestic violence survivors. House of Ruth is a D.C. based group that provides trauma-informed services to survivors of trauma and abuse. In addition to psychotherapy, they provide many other services to help survivors heal safely. Call their support center at 202-667-7001 ext. 515 to schedule an initial consultation.
There are also resources within the Georgetown community. Health and Education Services (HES) can provide advocacy, crisis intervention, and a plethora of other services. Call 202-687-8949 or send an email to email@example.com to set up an appointment. These services are free and confidential. Note that HES does not provide psychotherapy. If you are looking for therapy on campus, contact Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) at 202-687-6985 to set up an initial consultation. CAPS can also make referrals to other on-campus programs (such as support groups) and other providers off-campus.
Campus Ministry, the Women’s Center, the LGBTQ+ Center, and faculty can also support you. With the exception of ordained clergy, these other resources are not fully confidential as most faculty and staff are mandated reporters. If there is someone you would like to talk to, but you do not know if they are a mandated reporter, ask them before you start to talk.
I want to support someone:
If a friend comes to you for help, thank them for coming to you, and reassure them that you are here for them. Keep in mind that for some people, it is difficult to ask for help, so it’s important that you meet their openness with kindness and understanding.
Under no circumstances should you place any blame on your friend for the abuse they endured. Statements like, “I don’t understand why you don’t just leave,” imply blame, and cause deep hurt. Ask what they need specifically, so you can support them in a way that is safe and comfortable. Consider suggesting they come up with an emergency safety plan, and provide them with the appropriate professional resources.
If you see something that doesn’t look right, say something in a way that is sensitive and kind. Considering the situation, you might want to initiate a conversation in person, as opposed to over the phone or through text message. Do not make any strong statements, and do not tell your friend how they are feeling. It is imperative that you do not define your friend’s experience for them. Instead, remind your friend that they can count on you to be a non-judgemental presence in their life.
It is crucial to remember that you are not a mental health professional, which means you are not equipped to deal with crisis intervention by yourself. There are some situations where a professional is needed to ensure everyone’s safety. It is also important to remember that you cannot support someone if you are not supporting yourself. Set healthy boundaries, and keep a close eye on your mental health. There are resources that exist to help you too.
As October comes to an end, so does Domestic Violence Awareness Month. With this being said, it is vital to have these conversations year-round.