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At The Haven: Support Groups 101

Support Group PhotoIf you are a survivor, you may have considered joining a support group to connect with other survivors and share your experiences. Tri-Valley Haven (TVH) offers support groups for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.

If you’ve never attended a support group before, here is some general information about what we offer!

What is a support group?
Support groups provide a safe space for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault to share their experiences and connect with each other. Tri-Valley Haven’s support groups usually run 8 weeks and they are closed groups, meaning participants must sign up for the group in advance.

New participants are only accepted at the start of each support group. We do not accept for drop-ins.

What are the benefits of a support group?
Many survivors feel they are alone, so support groups give survivors an opportunity to connect with others who have also experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Often survivors are relieved to have a safe, confidential space where they can talk about the abuse or assault.

Our support groups also aim to support survivors as they begin the healing process and give them tools to help them along the way. We also focus on helping participants to develop healthy coping skills and practice self-care.

Who facilitates a support group?
Our support groups are facilitated by therapists or crisis counselors who have received special training to work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault through Tri-Valley Haven.

How do I sign up for a support group at Tri-Valley Haven?
All participants must call Tri-Valley Haven and sign up in advance. After participants sign up, the facilitator will give participants more details about the group, including the location of group meetings.

Domestic Violence Support Group in Pleasanton
Start date: Friday, July 17, 2015 (1 – 2:30 pm)
Sign up: Call Liz at 925.449.5845 ext. 2718
Participants must call ahead. No drop-ins.

Sexual Assault Support Group in Livermore
Start date: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 (5:30 – 7 pm)
Sign up: Call Jessie at 925.449.5845 ext. 2727
Participants must call ahead. No drop-ins.

I am a loved one of a survivor. Can I attend a support group at Tri-Valley Haven?
Currently we only offer support groups for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault. However both survivors and loved ones may receive individual counseling at Tri-Valley Haven.

Do you offer support groups for LGBTQ survivors?
Our support groups are open to LGBTQ survivors, though currently we do not offer separate support groups for only LGBTQ survivors. If there is enough interest, we may offer one in the future!

Do you offer support groups for men?
Currently we do not offer an all-men support group. We hope to offer specific groups for male survivors in the future. If you are a male survivor and would be interested in an all-men support group, please let our counseling department know!

How can I join a support group or find out more?
If you would like more information or are interested in one of our support groups, please visit our website www.trivalleyhaven.org or call:

Tri-Valley Haven Community Building: 925.449.5845
Domestic Violence Support Group: Liz @ 925.449.5845 ext. 2718
Sexual Assault Support Group: Jessie @ 925.449.5845 ext 2727

logoIf you or a loved one is survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, Tri-Valley Haven can help. We offer individual counseling, support groups, advocacy, shelter services and a 24-hour crisis line at 800.884.8119. We are a nonprofit organization that relies on the availability of grants and the generosity of our donors to fund our life-saving programs.

To learn more about our live-saving services and how you can help us keep our doors open, visit www.trivalleyhaven.org!

Speaking with Survivors of Domestic Violence: “Have You Experienced Any Kind Of Sexual Assault?”

Stephanie for blog

A guest post by Stephanie, our Legal Services Advocate at Tri-Valley Haven

Stephanie is our Legal Services Advocate at Tri-Valley Haven. Twice a week, she runs our drop-in Restraining Order Clinic. Below Stephanie shares her experience with asking survivors of domestic violence if they’ve ever experienced sexual assault.

“Have you experienced any kind of sexual assault?”

It is one of many standard questions that we ask during the intake process at our Domestic Violence Restraining Order Clinic. I never know what the answer will be. Some women answer very clearly “no.” A few will answer clearly “yes.” Others may hesitate a bit before denying that sexual assault has anything to do with the domestic abuse that brought them into the clinic seeking protection. And yet as I talk to them and find out more about their story, it sometimes becomes clear that they have indeed been sexually assaulted at the hands of their intimate partner or spouse.

Rene* came in our clinic to seek a restraining order from her abusive husband. They had been married for many years but she was tired of the abuse and ready to end the marriage. Though she had initially answered “no” when I asked her if she had experienced sexual assault, it became clear as she told her story that indeed sexual assault had been a regular occurrence.

Marital or intimate partner rape is any unwanted intercourse or penetration obtained by force, threat of force, or when the spouse/partner is unable to consent. Rene, like many people, did not associate sexual assault with marriage, which is no surprise since historically sexual assault in marriage was not considered a crime. But today marital rape is a crime in all 50 states.

Still it can be hard for survivors in intimate relationships with an abuser to recognize when they have been victims of sexual assault. Rene is a perfect example.

Rene’s husband would often make sexual advances that she felt powerless to refuse because she knew that if she did, he would become violent as he had done many times in the past.  Thus she had sex with her husband even though she did not want to because she faced the threat of violent physical abuse if she didn’t. This kind of choice is no choice at all. Rene’s husband raped her, plain and simple.

Other examples of intimate partner rape include (but are not limited to):

  • Forcing sex with a spouse or partner who is asleep, intoxicated, drugged or unconscious
  • Sex when the spouse or partner feels or has been threatened with violence or harm if they refuse
  • Forcing sex by emotional manipulation, such as verbal abuse, threatening divorce, to harm or take the children, or to “get it from some else”
  • Any time the spouse or partner feels they have no other choice but to submit to sex. The absence of choice is quite simply the absence of consent.

Some may think that this type of sexual violence is not “as bad” as being raped by a stranger. But in fact, the trauma can be worse for victims because the abuse is likely to happen repeatedly. Many times survivors of domestic violence feel trapped in the relationship and face pressure from their community to persevere. Further aggravating the trauma that survivors feel is the profound sense of betrayal from someone they should be able to trust with their safety and well-being. Children from the relationship are also adversely affected by witnessing the abuse and its impact on their parent.

If you or someone you know is experiencing this kind of intimate partner violence, there is help available! Call our hotline at 1-800-884-8119 for crisis counseling, information and referrals. For more information about our bi-weekly Restraining Order Clinic, call (925) 449-5847 x 206.

*Names have been changed.

Safety Planning for Survivors in a Digital World

Violence Against Women in a Digital World training!Last week, some of our staff had the opportunity to attend the Violence Against Women in a Digital World training hosted by the City of San Jose and the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy. This training featured presenters from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. It was a fantastic opportunity for our staff, so we wanted to share some of what we learned with all you!

Many abusers and perpetrators may misuse technology to harass, stalk or harm survivors. The abuse can range from sending harassing messages to survivors over Facebook to using GPS or Spyware to monitor survivors. Abusers may also deny survivors access to technology (for example, taking away cell phones or computers) to isolate them from family, friends and resources.

We live in an increasingly technological world. Access to jobs, housing, credit, and more requires us to interact with technology, so the misuse of technology can have major impacts on the wellbeing of survivors. For many people, including survivors, it isn’t possible to stop using technology. This is why it is important for survivors and their loved ones to strategize how they can use technology safely.

Below are some general tips to reduce your risks (whether you are a survivor or loved one) while using technology. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list but rather a few tips to get started.

  • Check your privacy and security settings. Go through any privacy and security settings on any devices you use, as well as any websites you have accounts on. Many devices, apps and websites have “public” set as a default, so it’s important to always check your privacy and security settings.
  • Make sure Bluetooth and Location settings are either limited or turned off. Most phones and smart devices have Bluetooth or Location settings that can be adjusted. Be sure to check if unknown devices are synced with your phone or tablet.
  • Opt out of sharing personal information online. Many websites ask for identifying information; however users are not always required to give this information. If a website requires you to enter personal information, check to see whether this information will appear publicly. Be mindful of what identifying information you post online.
  • Use different usernames and profile pictures. When signing up for multiple online accounts, consider using different usernames and profile pictures for each account. This will make it more difficult for people to search for you online.
  • Talk with your family and friends before they post something about you online. Many social media websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, encourage users to share their location and ‘tag’ who they are with. Tell your family and friends whether or not you want them to tag you in posts or share photos of you. Discuss what information you are comfortable with your loved ones sharing online.
  • Use a safer computer/device. If you believe your computer, phone or electronic device may be monitored, try using a different device that the perpetrator would not have access to – such as a trusted friend’s phone or a computer at a local library. When you are on a safer computer/device, change passwords and usernames.
  • Connect with an advocate. If you or your loved one is a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, contact an agency that provides services to survivors of domestic violence/sexual assault. If your partner is misusing technology to harass, stalk or harm you, there is help!

Remember, these tips may not work for everyone. It is important to trust your instincts and do what works best for you. You know what will work or won’t work in your situation.

For more safety tips, we recommend checking out the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s resources on technological abuse: http://nnedv.org/projects/safetynet.html

You can also contact Tri-Valley Haven for shelter and support services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness and hunger. Call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-884-8119 or visit our website at www.trivalleyhaven.org


3a92488Jessie is the new Sexual Assault Advocate on staff at Tri-Valley Haven. She was one of the staff members who had the opportunity to attend the Violence Against Women in a Digital World in San Jose last week.

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