Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

I don't know about you, but I only learned about fight or flight in school. They taught that your body had only two normal responses to a stressful stimulus: fight it or run away.
In recent years, I've heard a lot more about the third response: freezing. I think we've done a lot of harm by labeling the first two normal and neglecting the third option altogether. Especially when, in the most stressful[...]
When Home Isn't Safe

When Home Isn't Safe

We're pretty good at safety in the US. We teach our kids to look both ways before crossing the road. We tell them not to talk to or take candy from a stranger. We lock our homes and cars, put up cameras, and install alarm systems. As an added layer of security, some of us have dogs or fences to intimidate potential intruders. But what happens when the danger isn't on the outside? What if who you fear lies in bed with you or[...]
Domestic Violence Can Happen to Anyone

Domestic Violence Can Happen to Anyone

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month - It's time to recognize the prevalence of domestic violence (DV) and do something about it.

We've all heard of DV and probably feel like we have a pretty good understanding of it. But maybe society's idea of violence and abuse isn't quite right. Domestic violence can happen to anyone. Victims aren't all from a certain demographic; they are found among every race, ethnicity,[...]

Hope in the Darkest Times

Hope in the Darkest Times

You're not the only person struggling. I can promise you that.
When I first got into the social work field, I had never heard someone talk about suicide. Now I'm not shocked to hear someone tell me they've considered it- or even attempted. Life is hard- especially for victims and survivors- and shouldn't be endured alone. That's just not how we were made to live.
Of course, there are all[...]
Healing Life's Deep Emotional Wounds

Healing Life's Deep Emotional Wounds

Growing up in the midst of instability left me with some wounds that were hard to heal. The bumps and scrapes of my childhood healed quickly; the uncertainty and fear, not so much. It was hard to focus on the things normal kids focus on: school, sports, friends. I wasn't sure where my next meal was coming from or when we would get kicked out of our apartment again. My mom did a good job considering what she had: 3 kids to[...]
Confessions of a Girl with the World on Her Shoulders

Confessions of a Girl with the World on Her Shoulders

Sometimes it's easier for me to write than to talk out loud. After a year of these counseling meetings, I was starting to trust her, but with everything? I wasn't sure. She had handled the surface stuff well, but it was hard to imagine telling anyone about all my thoughts. I knew I couldn't talk to my mom about it; she had way too much to worry about already. My siblings were too young to understand and most of my friends[...]
Survivor Series: A letter to my abuser

Survivor Series: A letter to my abuser

Four months. That’s how long it’s been since I asked you to leave. That’s how long it’s been since you sat on the couch, looked me straight in the eyes and told me you were going to continue to see your affair partner. That’s how long I’ve been living a life free of your abuse.

I want you to know that I never loved you. I fell in love with the person that you created just for me. You[...]

Trauma After A Sexual Assault

Trauma After A Sexual Assault

If you talk to someone who has never been sexually assaulted, they might tell you to get over it. If you talk to someone who doesn't understand trauma, they won't know why you're still "stuck on it."

If you talk to someone who is trauma-informed, they get it. They will listen to you and sympathize with your pain and struggle. Because they understand the awful reality of trauma, they won't ask you to "move on." They won't[...]

Forgiving yourself for the “should haves”

Forgiving yourself for the “should haves”

"Why didn’t you just leave?"
This is a question our survivors hear a lot. Unfortunately, loved ones, strangers, and even professionals don’t always understand the complexities of abuse and trauma. It's not something you can easily walk away from and it can happen to ANYONE. One survivor shares her perspective:
I was a certified domestic violence advocate when I found myself in[...]
Survivor Series: Breaking Free

Survivor Series: Breaking Free

~Continued from Survivor Series: Drowning in Infidelity and Emotional Abuse~

It had been almost a year and a half of the lies, the half-truths, and the manipulation. I started to forget what it felt like to be happy. Peace of mind or stability? They didn't exist for me.

In February of 2020, my husband resigned from his job to begin working closer to home. After finishing the old job, he asked if we could go for a[...]

Survivor Series: Drowning in Infidelity and Emotional Abuse

Survivor Series: Drowning in Infidelity and Emotional Abuse

On November 14th, 2018, my husband of nearly 6 years came home from an overnight work trip and seemed off. He didn't even acknowledge me when he came in. Something was definitely wrong. As he was unpacking his bag, the text tone of his phone went off. Up until this point, we had had a completely trusting marriage. But something felt different this time. I asked who the text was from, and he immediately tensed up.
Leslie's Story: Neglect & Love

Leslie's Story: Neglect & Love

"Gotcha!!" The outburst came from somewhere in the back of the room, followed by hushed protests. It was reading hour and the kids should have been silently reading their books (or at least pretending to). Jennifer didn't have to lift her eyes from her own book to know who the culprit was.

Leslie. It was always Leslie.

Taking a deep breath and summoning all her patience, Jennifer marched across the classroom. She stopped[...]

Hurting People Need You

Hurting People Need You

In the 30 seconds it will take to complete this sentence, an average of 12 people will have been raped, physically assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner.  Let that sink in for a moment. When you wake up and brush your teeth (dentists recommend 2 minutes), that’s another 48 people.  While you take 15 minutes to eat your breakfast before work, that's another 360 people.  If you work a standard 8[...]
A Day in the Life of a Sexual Abuse Survivor

A Day in the Life of a Sexual Abuse Survivor

7:36 am
Gina woke up and rolled over to shut off the blaring alarm. When her eyes caught the sight of the cookie crumbs on the nightstand, she groaned. “Ugh, not again!” How was it that her body was constantly battling against her? She had been trying so hard to lose weight, but every time a pound or two came off, she found herself sleep eating.
It was a battle to drag herself[...]
When Life Gives you Lemons (aka COVID-19)...

When Life Gives you Lemons (aka COVID-19)... make lemonade.
Most of us have heard this optimistic statement before. But now might be the time to put it into practice. If life has ever given us lemons, this is it.
We're living in an unprecedented time. A global crisis is causing us to hit pause on our lives. Things are changing quicker than we can keep up. No one knows what to expect and most people are afraid.
The Deeper Problems behind Human Trafficking

The Deeper Problems behind Human Trafficking

Common Ground
We all agree that human trafficking is a heinous crime. We know that forcing or coercing men, women, and children into performing sex acts is wrong. We push awareness and make sure posters are up at every airport, bus station, and mall.
"See something. Say something," is the mantra. We want the public to be vigilant and ready to intervene if something strange goes down in[...]
Letter to Teens: What I wish I had known about love

Letter to Teens: What I wish I had known about love

To my lovestruck teenage friends:
First off, I'm not judging you. After all, I was you for a lot of years. And if I'm honest, sometimes I still fall into your dreamy, can't-see-past-that-gorgeous-smile ways. I know you want to be in love. And I'm sure this guy or girl in your life seems like the best thing to ever happen to you, but I have a few questions. I'm not telling you to break up with him or her. I[...]
Stories of Stalking: Part 2

Stories of Stalking: Part 2

It started out innocent. He messaged me on Facebook, asking if we could meet up and talk. In a public place? Check. During the day? Check. What's the harm in that? I thought.
We met up for coffee, and I immediately knew I wasn't interested. Any attraction was one-sided, from his end. I was polite; I talked to him for a half-hour and then left. I fully expected that to be the end of the story. I listened to[...]
Stories of Stalking: Part 1

Stories of Stalking: Part 1

I used to love her. At least I thought I did. Being manipulated feels a lot like love if you've never experienced the real thing before. And I hadn't.

We met the summer after my junior year. She was gorgeous, the kind of girl who could hook you with just a glance. Every guy was fighting for her attention so when she set her sights on me, I snatched her up.

We started dating shortly after we first hung out, and a whirlwind[...]

5 New Year's Resolutions of a Domestic Violence Survivor

2019 was a tough year for many of us. Maybe you left an abuser, dealt with a stalker, or were raped. The effects of violence are real.
Can't sleep? Feeling hopeless? Anxious? Self-esteem so low it's non-existent?

You can't change the past, but there are things you can do to change your future. 2020 offers each of us a chance to begin again, to change those thoughts and patterns that haunt us. If you've[...]

Human Trafficking: Not What You Think

Human Trafficking: Not What You Think

If you've ever seen the movie "Taken," your view of human trafficking might be warped like mine was.

Girls kidnapped and kept in cages. In foreign countries. Never seeing the light of day.

While all this made for a thrilling, Liam Neeson film, it doesn't match reality. Those things can be true of trafficking victims, but they’re not the norm. Experts tell us that human trafficking is often much more subtle. It[...]

The Truth About Trauma:  ACEs and Their Outcomes

The Truth About Trauma: ACEs and Their Outcomes

The best way I heard it described was as a “dark filter.” Like every good Instagramer, I know the impact of a filter. It changes everything about a picture: the color, the mood, the meaning. It can make the difference between a hit post and one that will be ignored entirely.
Unfortunately, dark filters don’t just exist on social media.
You find them over the eyes of many[...]
5 Ways to Create Space for Important Conversations

5 Ways to Create Space for Important Conversations

Have you ever felt like someone was hiding something from you? If you're like me, it's one of the most frustrating things to experience. Especially when it's someone you love. The other day I was talking with a friend who said she was in trouble...

"What kind of trouble?" I asked her.

No answer.

It didn't matter what I said or did; she wasn't going to tell me.

"I keep my problems inside," she said.


If you're the parent[...]

Why No One Talks about Sexual Violence in Relationships

Why No One Talks about Sexual Violence in Relationships

We often think, when it comes to sex, anything goes if you’re in a relationship. But what happens when one person’s boundaries don’t match the others? Or when one partner pressures the other into doing things they aren’t comfortable with?
Sexual abuse happens within dating and marriage relationships all the time. It’s harder to notice because people rarely talk about it. We keep[...]
4 Ways you can start taking care of your mental health right now

4 Ways you can start taking care of your mental health right now

You’ve been abused, harassed, bullied, or traumatized.
Is life over now?
It doesn’t have to be.
Here at the Call Center, we see you. We hear you, and we weep with you as you mourn all you’ve been through. We hate injustice like you do. We listen to you, but we also want to help you take back your life.
Abuse is all about Power and[...]
Against All Odds: Escaping an Abuser

Against All Odds: Escaping an Abuser

There’s never a convenient time to leave. People ask me why I didn’t leave sooner or how I could put my kids in danger for so long. They wonder why it would be so difficult to get out; it’s not like he’s around 24/7.

They don’t understand.

I didn’t have a choice.

Living with John was a never-ending nightmare, but it was all I knew. I moved in with him when I was 17. I was young,[...]



This was it.

Every parent's nightmare.

His precious little girl with tears streaming down her face.

Broken. Hurting. Telling the most unbelievable story.

It couldn't be true? Could it?

His doubt was partially anchored in the who. His brother would never have touched her. It was unimaginable. He was a good uncle, friend, and father himself. He couldn't have done something so...awful.

And even if, in some bizarre world[...]

Why Emotional Abuse Hits Harder than Physical

Why Emotional Abuse Hits Harder than Physical

"I don't even know if I'm calling the right place..."
"He never hit me. I didn't think it was abuse if there were no marks. But then I realized my scars were much deeper. Hidden, but so painful."
"All day, her words swirl around in my head: 'You're worthless. Lazy. You'll never be able to keep a job. You're so lucky to have me. No one else would put up with your crap.' I used to try to block[...]
What in the world is an Advocate?

What in the world is an Advocate?

Victim Advocate.

The name sounded interesting when I saw it on the job listing site, but I had no idea what it meant. To advocate is to….fight for? Speak on behalf of? Defend? Support?

It turns out all were true.

Victim advocates do so much, but because what we do is confidential, most of it goes unnoticed. We walk survivors through the most devastating crises of their lives. We fight for the rights of those who[...]

Exhausted and Angry: The Signs of a Bad Student or a Domestic Violence Survivor?

Exhausted and Angry: The Signs of a Bad Student or a Domestic Violence Survivor?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Could time move any slower??

Brent* was struggling to keep his eyelids open, let alone pretend to pay attention, while the English teacher droned on and on about participles and subjunctive tenses and….oh honestly, she might as well have been speaking French. He hated English. The teacher probably hated him for sleeping through every class, failing tests, and forgetting assignments, but he was[...]

10 Ways to Be a Better Ally

10 Ways to Be a Better Ally

Here we are, the last week of June - which means Pride Month 2019 is coming to an end (*sigh* bye, glitter - until next year). Pride Month 2019 celebrated many victories for the LGBTQ+ community: Education systems are implementing better training for teachers and counselors on how to combat the high rates of suicide amongst LGBTQ+ teens, more and more restaurants, event centers, etc. are implementing gender neutral[...]

Why the Need for Pride?

There’s something about the month of June that just tends to put people in such a great mood, you know? June is typically the beginning of summer vacation for kids and teens, it’s the month when the sun really begins to shine and the weather warms up, everything becomes so green and lush, days can be spent by the pool or hanging out at a softball/baseball game, and many people begin to take their family[...]

Surviving R. Kelly: Let's Talk About the Wheel

If you’ve been on social media, have watched TV, or talked to basically anyone recently, you might have noticed that the hot topic of debate at the moment is Lifetime’s new documentary series titled “Surviving R. Kelly”. If you haven’t heard about it, the documentary series focuses on the testimonies of women who claim they are survivors of the multiplatinum singer’s alleged domestic and[...]

SURVIVOR SERIES: A Pot of Coffee and a 1-800 Number

Despite my begging Julia not to, she dialed the 1-800 number and looked at me with those demanding, “big sister” eyes. I heard the beeping of the numbers as she dialed. Each one, getting closer to someone on the other line. What would I say? Where would I begin? How much time could I spend talking?

My sister suspected something was going on when I went to the emergency room last year with a broken rib. She[...]

A Season of Necessities

Halloween has ended and so we enter the season of thanks. My fellow advocates and I have been reflecting on what we are thankful for and we certainly have a lot of answers! We’re very thankful for things like family, friends, our pets, and our work. These are all great answers, but I’ve been reflecting, and I feel there are some important ones that we’ve overlooked. 

What if we were to think about[...]

MEN: We See You Too

Let’s imagine the following scenario together: a friend is telling you about a co-worker they have who was recently assaulted by their spouse. Your friend explains that over the weekend, their co-worker had to be admitted to the hospital after a fight between the co-worker and their spouse escalated to physical violence. Your friend was shocked to learn this as they always thought that their co-worker had such a[...]

A Difficult Discussion on Trauma

Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Avicii. Tyler Honeycutt. You may or may not recognize these names and you may or may not see the connection between them.

Each one is a celebrity, but all have something much greater in common. All these people have committed suicide this year.

Suicide is a difficult subject for many and rightfully so. It is hard to understand how a person could take their own life. Family and friends are[...]

Coping After the Loss of a Loved One

After the loss of a loved one, the world can feel unempathetic and meaningless. We become so attached to the day-to-day routine of our lives, but when we lose someone we love, the day-to-day seems to have no purpose – no meaning. The days moving forward seem less significant because the one you love isn’t able to share the day with you. This feeling deepens when the one you love was killed by an act of violence.[...]

A Letter to Victims of Sexual Assault

Whatever happened to you, however long ago or recent it was, I want you to know it was not your fault. Whether you were a child, in a short skirt, or drunk out of your mind – it was not your fault. It doesn’t matter if you were flirting, or willing to “make out” – the second you felt uncomfortable or said, “no,” it should’ve stopped there. Even if you didn’t out-right[...]

Sexual Assault Survivors: Know Your Rights

Sexual Assault Survivors: Know Your Rights

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted (RAINN, 2017). Understand that sexual violence does not discriminate. Sexual violence affects all genders, sexual orientations, ethnicity’s, social strata’s, ages, etc. If you have not been directly affected by sexual violence, odds are that you know someone who has been affected by it. Because sexual violence is such a prevalent issue, we want to take the time[...]

Spring Break Hunting Grounds

When you google “spring break sexual assault,” links to national news stories come up of a girl who was gang raped in 2015 on the Panama City Beach while bystanders recorded. More links come up with the aftermath of this event: the men who were charged with sexual battery and the trials summed up into articles. Behind those links is so much more than just a story. There is humiliation and pain for a young woman[...]

Teen Dating Violence: What parents and teens need to know

Dating Abuse

            Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused by dating partners every year (NCADV). That’s not a small number. According to a survey through NCADV, majority (81%) of parents believe that teen dating violence is not an issue or don’t know if it’s an issue. With teen dating violence[...]

Is Abuse Romantic?

Is Abuse Romantic?

With Valentine’s Day approaching, and February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, it felt like a good time to talk about some realities our teens are facing with relationship expectations.

Let’s face it - We are all products of marketing whether we like to believe it or not: Fidget spinners, skinny jeans, name brands, etc. Everything from the clothes we wear on our backs, to the snacks we bring to[...]

Relationships: healthy, unhealthy, and abusive

As we wrap up national stalking awareness month and move onto teen dating violence awareness month, it is important to understand that the two often come hand in hand. It has been found that 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the US have been stalked in their lifetime. Of these individuals, 60.8% of females and 43.5% males report being stalked by a current or former intimate partner ( Stalking can be an[...]

Stalking Awareness Month: Tech Safety

Stalking Awareness Month: Tech Safety

Before starting my work as an advocate, the only time I had to worry about “stalking” was when someone said “Facebook stalking,” or “Instagram stalking,” etc. I came from a sheltered world where stalking seemed like a joke, and a “normal” thing to do to someone on social media platforms – not a serious matter. The reality of the matter is that stalking is easier than[...]

Domestic Violence And Stalking

7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the United States.  That’s not a small number.  The majority of these people are stalked by someone they know. The most common tactic of stalking for both female and male victims is repeatedly receiving unwanted phone calls, voicemails, and/or text messages.

When working as an advocate that serves survivors of domestic violence, we come to realize that stalking[...]

Safety Planning With Children

Safety Planning with Children

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse. These statistics prove what a necessity it is to start having conversations about safety while children are young. These conversations can be initiated by daycare providers, teachers, parents, or anyone who works with children.

It has been shown that a majority (93%) of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attackers. [...]

What Is An Advocate?

This is the question we often get asked by friends, family, and even survivors who are wondering what kind of services we provide. If you looked “advocate” up in the dictionary you would see that it is defined as “a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.” This definition simply does not give our day to day work enough credit.

 Some days, being an advocate means[...]

"So... a call center?"

I work at the Iowa Victim Service Call Center.

“So… a call center?”

I’ve heard this from friends, family, and people in general when I tell them about what I do. I can hear the tone in their voice - as if working in a call center automatically devalues my job.  I won’t lie, I understand the hesitation. When I first applied for this position a little over a year ago, I imagined a dim[...]

Text Line Available!

We have added a great new addition to the Call Center! In an effort to ensure all victims have a comfortable and safe way to reach out for help, we have added a text line.

To use the text line individuals text ‘iowahelp’ to 20121. This text line is 24/7, 365 days a year with trained advocates to answer every text message. When individuals text in advocates will, depending on the individuals desires,[...]

Human Trafficking -- What is Your Role in Helping Victims & Survivors?

Human Trafficking -- What is Your Role in Helping Victims & Survivors?

According to the Walk Free Movement 45.8 million people are enslaved worldwide. Nearly 1 in 3 victims of slavery are children. Over half of victims of slavery are women and children.  The National Human Trafficking Hotline has received 13,454 this year with 31 human trafficking cases being reported in Iowa.

The Advocates at the Iowa Domestic Violence & Victim Service Call Center are among the 8.3 million[...]

Resources Available to Survivors of Homicide

Resources Available to Survivors of Homicide

Families and friends of homicide victims experience a sudden traumatic, life changing loss. Homicide is not a normal, lifespan death or illness. It is a crime. Your loved one has been suddenly taken from you and now you must try to reorganize your life and go on.  

Coping with a violent death is always difficult. Iowa Homicide & Other Violent Crimes programs were developed with the mission to ensure survivors’ and[...]

What We Want Our Callers To Know

Since October 2015 we have received 4,862 incoming calls from victims. Not from one specific part of the state, not from one specific gender or ethnicity and not from one specific age group. Violence affects low and high income, all gender identities and ethnicities as well as the young and the old. Violence knows no boundaries. As advocates answering your phone call we want you to know the following things:


Expansion At The Helpline

Expansion At The Helpline

The end of May marks Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline’s 8th full month of being in operation! Since October of 2015, we have answered more than 8,000 incoming phone calls from across the state of Iowa.

Many of you may have noticed the addition of ‘& Crime Victim Call Center’ to our name and logo. We are excited to announce that we have expanded, allowing our advocates to serve even more crime[...]

National Crime Victims' Rights Week

National Crime Victims' Rights Week

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) promotes victims’ rights every April, honoring crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf, with the recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW).  This year’s theme – Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope. – presents the opportunity to highlight the importance of providing needed services at the earliest stages of[...]

Prevention is Possible: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The countdown is on! Only six more days before Sexual Assault Awareness Month begins. What a great opportunity for us all to put our focus on such an important topic. Let’s all join together to recognize the strength and courage of sexual assault victims and survivors, partner with each other to make our resources stronger and focus energy in sexual assault prevention.

Let’s start with defining what sexual[...]

Celebrating NO MORE Week (March 6-12)

NO MORE Week is a national grassroots activation aimed at making domestic violence and sexual assault prevention a priority year - round. March 6th kicked off the 2016 NO MORE Week of Action and the Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline (IDVH) is proud to participate in the week long activities! 

Below are a few statistics from the National Domestic Violence Helpline (
  • On average, 24 people per minute[...]

February -- Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Do you have a teenager that is starting to explore the world of dating? If so, it is important for you to be aware and to educate them about teen dating violence. According to the National Health Information Center more than 1 in 10 teens, who have been on a date, have been physically abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend. 

According to an article posted by Northwest Community Healthcare, teen dating violence is[...]


Working for the Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline has been a very rewarding, inspiring, and eye-opening opportunity for me.   I can honestly say that I was blind to how prevalent domestic violence really is. 

The training to become a Helpline Advocate was intensive and prepared me for the day we started taking calls.  Something that I hold onto from my training is that being an advocate doesn’t stop[...]

Domestic Violence Doesn't Take A Break For Holidays

The holiday season is upon us and most of us are busy with traditions, family gatherings and the joy that holidays bring.  But for many, the holidays continue on as any other day; with an all-encompassing fear and feelings of isolation.  Domestic violence doesn’t take a break for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other holidays.  It still persists for so many people. 

There’s a[...]