Domestic violence is a story spread across newspapers, magazines, and televisions. Many people turn away from these stories without seeing the survivors who carry them and the courage it takes to share their experiences. The pandemic forced millions to be trapped with their abusers leading to an 8.1% increase in domestic violence. Simultaneously, the need and demand for mental health services shot up as survivors and victims around the world battled with isolation and quarantine with abusers.

Despite navigating the challenges on mental health associated with surviving domestic violence, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted many back into the survival mode they had learned in their abuse. It is common for survivors to come out of abusive relationships having to learn to adjust to living with anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This can complicate their healing and create a feeling of loss of control in their lives. Consistent stress and exposure to traumatic events may not always result in a psychological diagnosis, but trauma affects an individual physically and mentally. Survivors often have difficulties with concentration at work, school, with caregiving, and establishing healthy relationships. Their coping mechanisms and resiliency are challenged as they learn new tactics to cope that are healthy, only to be immersed in a time of uncertainty and stress in the pandemic. 

Not only have victims been isolated with their abusers, but mental health, financial, and crisis resources have gotten harder to access. Survivors found themselves re-exposed to triggers and have been revisiting their mental health toolbox and learning new self-care and coping techniques. The time it takes to try new interventions can be frustrating for some as they work through a list until they find what works for them. It’s a journey of healing and understanding yourself after abuse, which can seem hard to find by yourself. 

One of the strongest ways to support domestic violence survivors is to talk with them and be present after they leave the abusive relationship. There are several support services available through law enforcement, court proceedings, and therapeutic intervention. However, these are typically offered during crisis moments or ongoing cases and survivors can find themselves without support when the immediate danger passes. Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTSADV) is an organization that was made by survivors for survivors to provide education to our global communities and provide unique post-trauma aftercare. While most organizations focus on direct services, BTSADV provides a variety of support through programs and our international network to connect survivors across the world to those who can support each other in healing and life after abuse. 

BTSADV hosts two to three annual retreats, possibly our most notable program, for survivors and angel families. Angel families are those who have lost their loved ones to domestic violence. We connect and support these families through a variety of angel-focused programs to memorialize lost loved ones and continue to increase awareness across the globe. On our retreats, survivors and angel families participate in various workshops and activities. We immerse survivors into a holistic healing journey created by survivors, for survivors. We believe a peer group approach encourages and supports an environment of true transformation and accountability for growth for each of our attendees. Together, our time is devoted to promoting individual development, bridging relationships amongst survivors, empowerment, and increasing awareness on mental health practices to encourage effective healing after trauma. 

Since we began hosting retreats there have been over 350-plus survivor participants connected to each other to encourage post-trauma growth and healing and share their stories. Our survivor sisters come away with new relationships and feeling heard, as one sister shared:

“I can't really put into words the depth of love, understanding, and validation I felt. I was surrounded, and it was genuine, and lovely, and beautiful. I definitely got my voice back and gained a new and unique band of sisters to both give to and draw strength from ... simply by sharing our stories.”

We provide a confidential helpline with trained advocates for those who need someone to listen or are looking for resources. In 2020, our helpline answered 2,000 calls from across the United States and several other countries. BTSADV has also provided $74,950 in scholarships to support survivors and their families. Our programs are varied to meet the diverse needs of survivors so we can support them and their mental health as they learn how to shift from a surviving to a thriving mindset. 

How you can make an impact: 

Know your resources and primary organizations: 


Original contribution by Alice Miles, Administrative Specialist at Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence.

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