Early Warning Signs of Abuse

The best way to protect yourself from an abusive partnership is to avoid an abuser altogether.  It is far more difficult to leave an abusive situation once you’re in it than to never begin in the first place. Abusers are master manipulators.  They may hide these signs or mask them early on.  They often appear to be nearly perfect partners until they believe they have their target on the hook.  So, if you see some of these signs in your dating relationship, keep an eye on your partner.

1. Love Bombing

Love bombing feels amazing.  Your partner will shower you with attention and affection early on and make you feel special, loved, and appreciated. Love bombing lowers your defenses and makes you feel closer to the person than you really are. 

Love bombers will tell you how amazing you are from the start, sometimes before you have even met.  They may say you are their soulmate or they’ve never felt so connected to someone before.  They’ll tell you you’re special and unique.  They’ll share secrets with you they claim to never have shared with anyone else and ask you to share yours. 

They’ll spend all their free time with you.  They’ll call and text you constantly.  They’ll keep you up on the phone all hours of the night- keep in mind sleep deprivation lowers your defenses.

Love bombing is incredibly intense, incredibly early.  You may find your gut questioning how this person can really have these feelings so soon.  But, if you ignore that gut instinct, the love bomber will likely start to devalue and demean you once they feel they have you. The best way to react to love bombing is asking the person to slow down.  If they say they will, but don’t respect your boundaries, or if they become angry or defensive, you know you are being love bombed.  True love grows as you get to know someone, and getting to know someone takes time.

2. Moving the Goal Post

In the beginning, an abusive partner is anything but abusive.  They are generally doting, kind, and affectionate. They often mirror your values and goals in order to reel you in. But, over time, that changes.  

If your partner begins to change their opinions and values quickly during your relationship, that’s a sign your partner may be abusive.  For instance, maybe when you met, your partner told you how much they admired your hard work and devotion to your career, but now, you notice subtle digs about how you’re always working or you should stay home with your children. 

This inconsistency applies to day-to-day disagreements as well.  A disagreement that may have been easily resolved a few weeks ago can easily lead to a knock down, drag out fight that continues for weeks on end the next time. After this long fight, your partner will likely shower you with love and affection or promise to change. 

The cycles of confusion with intermittent positive reinforcement creates a strong chemical reaction in your brain called “trauma bonding.” Trauma bonds cause the target to become unconsciously addicted to the abuser.  The brain responds to the intense highs and lows and conditions you to crave the abuser and hold out hope that they’ll become the loving person you first met once again. Trauma bonding is one of the reasons the average victim of abuse will leave seven times before leaving an abuser for good.

3. Isolating You

At the beginning, an abusive partner may compliment their targets friends and family and want to spend a lot of time with them to appease their target.  But, over time, the abusive partner will start to pull away from the target’s loved ones and encourage the target to pull away as well.

An abuser can isolate their target through several tactics.  First, the abuser may text and call non-stop when the target is out and expect immediate responses.  When the abuser doesn’t get an immediate response, the abuser will likely become angry at the target.  The abuser may accuse the target of flirting with or cheating with others.  They might start fights with you when you come home or before you leave. The abuser may say that they were just worried about the target’s safety. But, the target often slowly pulls away from friends and family to avoid the conflict with the abuser.

Eventually, the abuser will place seeds of doubt in the target’s head about their friends and family.  The abuser may refer to the target’s loved ones in derogatory terms like “sluts” or “idiots.” The abuser may tell you your friends and family are speaking poorly about you.  The abuser may say your friends or family are flirting with them.  When a target has a strong support system, it’s harder for abuse to thrive.  Abusive partners recognize this and work to pull their targets away from those support systems.

4. Owning You

An abusive partner doesn’t truly see you as a person.  They see you as a possession. Early in your relationship this manifests as the abusive partner saying you are “theirs” or claiming you are their boyfriend or girlfriend very early, sometimes even before the first date.  Though you may feel flattered at the attention, claiming you early is a bad sign.

As the relationship progresses, the abusive partner will slowly begin to have opinions on your life.  These opinions may include what you should wear, who you should hang out with, and where you should go when.

5. Disrespecting Others

Does your partner make derogatory comments about others?  Does your partner call other people names? Has your partner told you that they dated someone “crazy” in their previous relationships? Does your partner have close relationships with others? 

An abusive partner may appear charming at the beginning.  But, if you pay attention to how they talk about others, you’ll likely find that they are disrespectful.  Abusers may call co-workers names like “idiot” or “stupid.” They may call their mother or other women “slut,” “whore,” or other derogatory terms.  They may touch or pinch you in ways that make you uncomfortable. If they talk to and about others disrespectfully, it’s only a matter of time before they talk that way to you as well.

6. Expecting More From You and Others Than They Do Themselves

Abusers often have double standards.  They will look down on others for the same things that they do. For instance, abusive partners may call someone derogatory terms because they slept with their partners, but the abuser has had even more intimate partners.  Or, they may tell you you spend too much money, but they buy themselves something even more expensive.

7. Blaming Everyone Else

Abusive partners often blame others for their own actions.  They usually only take responsibility for their actions when they’re trying to manipulate someone. For example, abusers will tell their victims that the abuse is the victim’s fault.  They will say the victim “made” them do it. But, they also won’t take blame for other issues in their lives either.  Watch out if your partner gets in trouble at work and tells you it’s because everyone is out to get them or their co-workers are jealous. Abusers may also blame the police for their past arrests.

8. Pushing Boundaries

In order for abusers to thrive, they have to be able to break your boundaries.  They will start in small, subtle ways. This could look like continuing to leave their dirty dishes in the sink after you’ve asked them to rinse them and put them in the dishwasher. But, over time, they encroach more and more on your boundaries.

They may begin to text and call you constantly when you’re spending time with others.  They will begin to coerce and guilt you into doing things you don’t feel comfortable doing.  When you push back, they’ll lash out or try to convince you things aren’t happening the way they are.  

It’s easier to get out of abusive relationships earlier.  If you see these signs in your relationship, know that they won’t get better.  If you are ready to get out, make a plan to get out safely and visit your local domestic violence organizations for resources and advice. 

Find your local domestic violence support service at NOMOREDirectory.org


About Sarah Stewart:

Sarah is a domestic abuse survivor, mom, attorney, author, and speaker. She lives in the U.S. where she strives to change the narrative and culture surrounding domestic violence. Her first book, The Monster in My Home: Surviving Evil, was published in October 2022 and chronicles her own experience with domestic violence and teaches others how to avoid or leave abusive relationships

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16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls

Like many 23-year-olds, she left on a once-in-a-lifetime trip through Europe with only a backpack, her phone, and an Instagram account to share her adventure. She had planned her trip carefully, but also knew that any question she might have or new arrangement she might make could easily be answered by the myriad of available travel apps. It was all going as planned until the unthinkable happened — she was sexually assaulted in a foreign country whose language she did not speak. Terrified and alone, the information, and crowd-sourced and expert recommendations she had at her fingertips, could not help her find the aid and advice she really needed. While once true, that is no longer the case thanks to the NO MORE Global Directory

This first-of-its-kind, comprehensive international directory of domestic violence and sexual assault resources in every UN-recognized country and territory in the world is intended to serve as a global hub of information and resources for victims and their loved ones.

It’s a lifeboat in a flood of pain and emotion, and the epitome of what NO MORE was meant to be when it was founded nearly a decade ago.

November 25th marked the first day of UN Women’s annual global campaign “16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls.” Running through December 10th, “16 Days..” brings organizations like NO MORE together from around the world to highlight and raise awareness of the continued challenges women and girls face globally — challenges including limits on education, free movement and economic freedom to domestic and sexual violence, restricted reproductive rights, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM). 

From the start, NO MORE has had a dual purpose — to be a voice for survivors and their families, and to educate and engage those of us who have not been directly impacted by violence and abuse to help prevent it going forward.

Our many tools, like the Global Directory, do both, letting victims, survivors and their family and friends know there are people by their side, ready to help. 

And through its broad adoption and availability by partners like The World Bank, UN Women, Trip Advisor, Avon, and more, the Global Directory serves as a symbol that though there is more to do, there is a common thread connecting everyone working to end domestic and sexual violence.

At NO MORE, we continue to focus our efforts on ending domestic and sexual violence. Alongside our 1400 allies, supporters and survivors, we raise awareness and create useful tools that provide education for friends, family members, colleagues and first responders to help improve the response to domestic and sexual violence. We want to be sure that if and when someone they know discloses domestic or sexual violence to them, they feel confident responding and empowered to find the services needed.


With your support, we can continue to help survivors of domestic or sexual violence around the world access specialist information that is regularly updated and checked for accuracy.  This includes 24-hour helplines, shelters and emergency contacts.

Click here to support NO MORE

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Throughout FIFA World Cup 2022, Join Avon and NO MORE to Say #IAMASUPPORTER of Ending Domestic Abuse

What does the World Cup mean to you? Excitement and pride – or fear of your partner?

This year, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence coincides with the FIFA World Cup 2022. For many, such sporting events are a time of great camaraderie, community, and national pride. But for those in an abusive relationship, it can also be a dangerous and fearful time. Regardless of winning or losing, domestic violence cases can increase by 26%.

Make no mistake. Football doesn’t cause domestic abuse, and it is never an excuse. But just like COVID lockdowns or the holiday season or alcohol consumption, the tournament can aggravate or exacerbate pre-existing abusive behaviours. 

1 in 3 women globally experiences abuse in their lifetime – statistically, we all know someone who has experienced or is currently experiencing abuse, so all of us can make an impact in tackling gender-based violence.

That’s why Avon and NO MORE have joined forces to encourage fans around the world to say #IAMASUPPORTER of ending domestic abuse. We’ve developed resources with information on the signs of abuse and how to support friends or loved ones who may be experiencing it, during the World Cup and beyond.

Our social media campaign, running throughout the World Cup, highlights matches each day and directs people in those countries to a toolkit that they can safely and easily download. The toolkit not only helps to increase understanding of domestic violence, but it also offers information on what to say to someone you know who is experiencing abuse and what you can do to help them. 

It can be challenging to know what to say, what to do, and how to ensure their safety. By downloading the #IAMASUPPORTER toolkit, we can all be more prepared. We can listen without judgment and offer practical support, from a safe space to store important documents to a professional helpline. 

Understanding more about domestic violence, and raising awareness is crucial to helping to end it.  Join us during the World Cup and beyond, to say #IAMASUPPORTER of ending domestic abuse.  Every conversation, every share on social media, and every download of the toolkit is a winning goal against gender-based violence. 

Click to download the #IAMASUPPORTER Toolkit

UK National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) data The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the dataset included 1678 respondents (1312 female and 366 male) reporting domestic violent crime. Lancaster University, 2013. https://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1781.pdf
Global, regional and national estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women was developed by WHO and the UNDP-UNFPA-UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP) for the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence Against Women Estimation and data: 2018 https://www.who.int/news/item/09-03-2021-devastatingly-pervasive-1-in-3-women-globally-experience-violence


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I have spent many hours talking to people about domestic and sexual violence, advising they try not to pass judgement when someone discloses or push them to take actions that they are not ready to take. I tell them how important it is to let the person who was impacted make the decisions for themselves and regain the power that was taken from them.

Well, I learned firsthand recently how difficult that is to do when the person who has been hurt is someone you love — in this case one of my closest friends.

The details of the story are not important. Suffice to say, violence and abuse was perpetrated and the criminal justice system was involved. And this is where I fell down — hard.

Rather than listen, I lectured. Rather than understand, I vented my anger. Rather than just support my friend, I got frustrated with the direction they were heading and the decisions they were making. 

Until…I realized what I was doing — and instead of making it about me and what I wanted, I started to really explore what my friend wanted and what would be best for them.

For my friend, closure was not about punishment, but about feeling heard and being free to move on. It was about finding peace. 

For me, it was about learning to practice what I preach — and how difficult it is to put what you think is right aside when a person you care about has been hurt. 

At their core, domestic and sexual violence are about one person exerting power and control over another. A key part of healing is regaining that agency over your life and making your own decisions — even if they are not the ones family and friends want you to make. 

I am still processing how I reacted to the situation and have learned a lot over the last few months — most importantly: the path to healing is different for everyone — and is not about me or what I want. 

If you are someone you know who is interested to learn about NO MORE, please visit our website



If you or someone you know would like to look for resources and support, please visit


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For the past couple of weeks, the news cycle has largely revolved around the issue of sexual assault. On Thursday, the nation watched and reacted as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford detailed her memories of the assault she experienced in high school.

Last week, NO MORE Executive Director Tracy DeTomasi joined CNN’s Christi Paul and columnist Anushay Hossain to discuss the trending Twitter hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, a hashtag survivors used to share their reasons for staying silent about abuse.

On Saturday morning, DeTomasi joined Paul once again to discuss survivor responses to sexual assault, how this news cycle can trigger survivors, and what this moment—this attention to the epidemic of sexual assault—means for our country.

We’ve seen that these events are truly impacting survivors. On the day of Dr. Ford’s testimony, RAINN experienced a 200% increase in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline. It’s apparent that while watching Dr. Ford, thousands of people felt empowered to speak about their trauma.

We must keep up this momentum. We must commit ourselves to education, engagement, and action.

Right now, DeTomasi and NO MORE are hopeful that survivors are demanding to be heard. We are hopeful that people are recognizing the toxicity of victim-blame, and are standing up against statements like, “boys will be boys.” We are hopeful that more people are taking action, organizing in their communities, and making change at the local level.

We recognize how much work is left to be done. We are still living in a society that shames and criticizes survivors, protects perpetrators, and encourages domestic and sexual violence. But for however brief a moment, the country is paying attention, and many seem willing to learn.

We must keep up this momentum. We must commit ourselves to education, engagement, and action. For the sake of the millions of people who have experienced sexual assault, for future generations, and for ourselves—we must not let this moment slip away.

If you have experienced sexual violence and are seeking support, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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Left: US Olympic’s Gymnastics Team: Laurie Hernandez, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocain / Right: Judge Rosemarie Aquilina

I pledge my allegiance to over 150 women who stood up in Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s courtroom, found their voices, stepped into the national floodlights of attention and gave themselves an experience in courage; a sparkling courage that is rippling out to us all. What grit! What moxie! What lightning bolts of inspiration is each and every one of them.

Another set of accolades I send out to Judge Aquilina. Armed with her judicial power she fostered an incredibly important act of empowerment in this 21st Century movement for resistance to and elimination of the sexual exploitation that has existed as long as history has been recorded.

Both sides of this equation are absolutely necessary for the eradication of sexual exploitation in all its horrendous forms: Survivors standing tall, with cameras rolling, telling their stories, and a representative of the power base clearing the room, providing unlimited space and time for those stories. Take as long as you need to say all you want to say she told them. How can I even express the vast importance of that level of validation? It has ramifications – the yet to be seen results and consequences of these acts of courage and use of power.

How many survivors witnessing these acts are being fed a dose of validation and inspiration? I love that these women are standing – heads held high atop strong spines. Such a grand contradiction to the years my spirit lived well into my thirties crouched in a fetal position doing all she could to hold down my father’s crime because of his oft- repeated threat, ‘You tell anyone and I’ll kill you.’ I’m certain each time a survivor stands up and proclaims their experience a thousand sister and brother survivor’s spirits unfold, take a deep breath and have a good stretch. I wish I could stand before each and every one of these amazing women, look them right in the eye and say “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The responses Judge Aquilina offered after the victim statements were a grand about-face to the all-too-often victim blaming that happens. She underscored statement after statement with praise, gratitude, and support for the women who came forward. Things like, “The military has not yet come up with fiber as strong as you” calling them “heroine” and “superhero” and “Mattel ought to make toys so that little girls can look at you and say, ‘I want to be her.’ Thank you so much for being here, and for your strength.” What really choked me up was when she said, “Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things.”

Where, dear goddess, did this cowboy-booted judge come from? No matter – all that matters is she is here, now. Here for these young women who survived childhood sexual abuse, here for the millions of us like them. Here too, as a shining searchlight for all who have power – to follow her stellar example and use that power for the greater good, in the battle to end this epidemic.

One thing about the man Lawrence Nassar, I believe he wasn’t born an abuser. Whatever brought him to commit his crimes – like all abusers – must be purged from our culture for this epidemic to be stopped.

We are living not just a #METOO / Times Up moment – it is a movement and the gymnasts and judge are major engines in keeping the momentum going. You can, too. Join by giving gratitude to the doers, financial support to organizations serving survivors and your voice anywhere and everywhere you can use it. Come on along – this is one hell of a ride!


Author Bio: In 2009 Donna founded Time To Tell with a mission to spark stories from lives affected by incest and sexual abuse to be told and heard. She wrote and performs her one-woman play, What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest to Joy, which is based on her own experience of surviving incest and what she did to make her life worth living. Her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, a narrative of the choices she made and experiences she had that helped her heal from her childhood trauma, will be released by Levellers Press in Fall of 2017. For more information, go to www.timetotell.org.

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The Power of Sharing Your Story With the World

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, we’re teaming up with Bloom Journal to showcase inspiring stories of incredible changemakers that are making the world more just, equitable and inclusive. This story is part of a new series of blogs, Bloom Stories, featuring different and diverse perspectivesfrom survivors and advocates to entrepreneurs and academics to yogis and writers. First up, a Q&A with Laura McGinnis, NYC-based entrepreneur and founder of Bloom Journal, on overcoming obstacles and her commitment to empowering women and girls. 

How did Bloom Journal get started?

After college, I received a Fulbright scholarship to go to Uruguay where I started a girls’ soccer program to teach English through sport. That experience was incredible for me because I got to see blooming firsthand, in a different country and in a different context. The best part was that the experience was mutual—they helped me, I helped them, and we all learned so much from one another. Since then, I’ve always been enamored with the idea of blooming, the “hustle”, and personal growth.  After moving to New York City a few years ago, I realized that I wanted to take the next step in my growth through turning the hurt that I had from a sexual assault from college into healing. I knew that I needed to do something sooner rather than later because I was at risk of losing myself because I was thinking about this negative energy all the time.

For me, the best way to overcome my hurt, was to create a community of supportive and radiant people. So I started to reach out to my most ambitious, change making, and entrepreneurial friends to interview them about their stories of blooming and personal growth. Now Bloom Journal features badass, blooming women entrepreneurs, artists, and start-up founders to discuss their hustle. On top of that, I knew I wanted Bloom to be a community committed to authenticity, inclusion, and intersectional feminism and those values stay with me as we continue to expand.

You mentioned your sexual assault, which you shared publicly when you launched Bloom. What was it like opening up about your sexual assault like that with the world? How did that impact you?

Publicly speaking about my sexual assault was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. When I first started talking about Bloom’s origins privately with people, I got some mixed reactions and feedback. It was really painful. I thought that everyone would be incredibly supportive but many people were maybe a little bit afraid and ill-equipped to talk about it. The topic was, and still is, very taboo.

So when I launched Bloom Journal I wanted to share my own journey, and how I got to where I am today, which meant detailing my sexual assault and how it affected me. I was shaking and crying because I didn’t know how people would react. But I launched and received an overwhelmingly positive response, which I think speaks to the fact that we’re living in a very different time now. My assault happened seven years ago and at the time, not that many people were talking about it and now we’re in a place where this topic is dominating headlines and therefore more top of mind.

Over time, it has become easier for me to talk about it with others. At the same time, it also became a lot more difficult because I started to see how many people were affected by sexual assault and domestic violence and it’s still just astonishing.

I can imagine that is overwhelming, especially with sexual violence dominating the headlines. How do you take care of yourself?

When I first launched Bloom and started interacting with more and more survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, I had to take more moments than I do now to check in with myself. I would meditate or do yoga and try to eat the right foods. I would also reach out to my best friends and family, as well as, check in with my therapist when I started Bloom, just because it was so new for me to talk about this so openly. What I can say is that now, I’m at a point right where I am strong and feel that I personally have a moral obligation to speak out about this issue on behalf of other survivors or victims. I feel it’s important, at least for me, to speak out on other people’s behalf because of how pervasive sexual assault truly is. I don’t think I need to feel that way but I do—I have this voice in my head always telling me to do more.

What do you wish people knew about sexual assault?

I wish people knew that sexual assault is extremely common and that it’s a societal problem, not just a personal hardship. Some people can think or say, “I can’t believe that happened to her”, and talk about it at arm’s length, instead of realizing that it affects us all directly or indirectly. I wish more people knew how to support one another and talk about it without pushing any stigma, asking the wrong questions, or being uncomfortable. I wish that there was more heightened sensitivity around “locker room talk” and language that trivializes rape. I also wish that more men understood the lasting impact they can make by integrating respectful verbiage into their daily lives. For example, I’ve had friends jokingly use the word “rapey”—as in “don’t be rapey, bro!”— and I think a lot of people don’t know yet that using that language can be very upsetting or triggering.

After my assault, I was sensitive and hearing a lot of the wrong questions like: “What were you wearing?” or “Were you horny?” or “Did you ever flirt with him before?” or “Why were you wearing shorts like that around the house? Your legs are very curvy!” I wish that people knew how impactful language can be to a survivor and how based on statistics alone, you are quite frequently in the presence of someone affected. If we adjusted our vocabulary slightly and started asking the right questions, it could make such a difference.

Can you talk more about the process of coming to terms with what happened to you, in the immediate aftermath of your sexual assault?

Initially, I didn’t fully understand. I’m naturally someone who likes to take a lot of ownership in life, so if mistakes happen, I often first ask myself what I could’ve done differently. I know now that this was a situation where I couldn’t have done anything differently. But it was really difficult at the time. I like to consider myself a very independent woman; I definitely didn’t want to be a victim!

Immediately after, I remember walking a couple of miles in shock, not thinking about anything. And eventually I reached out to my friend to hang out. I started to explain what happened and she helped me realize that what had happened was serious and not okay. I started to understand, replay the events in my head, and acknowledge that this thing that I never ever wanted to happen actually did happen. It took me six years before I was ready to speak about it publicly, when I started Bloom. For me this has been a journey of forgiveness, wellness, and regaining control over my life whether through the Fulbright where I was working with girls to empower and inspire confidence, despite what I was dealing with emotionally, or through becoming more of myself again. Through time, the pursuit of growth, and a lot of self-care, I’ve regained my confidence and I’m happy! I’ve been working hard and it feels so good that things are working out.

So speaking of blooming, what’s is your goal for Bloom?

I’m really excited because I’m in the process of rewriting our mission statement to hyper focus on the “Bloom”—the hustle and the steps we take to achieve our goals and grow! This fall we are launching more events called ‘Bloom Chats’ where we gather women to share information on topics of interest like entrepreneurship, current events, relationships, wellness, and more. I love bringing my favorite people together and learning, I know we can take it further.

We’ve also launched this new section of Bloom Journal, called Bloom Stories, where women submit their stories and it’s become this unique space for women to share and discuss empowering and authentic narratives on growth, entrepreneurship, and driving goals. It’s very confidence driven and inspirational. Long term, I hope to build more partnerships with charities and add a microfinance piece to the brand.

I love that! So, how can people get involved and support Bloom?

Gosh! There are so many different ways to get involved! New Yorkers can attend our charity yoga session in October, benefitting Exhale to Inhale. In the winter, we will host a more intimate event for entrepreneurs and business minded women to idea share. I’m also looking for an intern to help with journalism, editing, and event planning.

You can also always get cozy, read, and share stories of change making, entrepreneurial, and intersectional feminists on Bloom Journal. If you or someone you know is interested in sharing your story of your hustle or blooming process, please reach out! Follow @bloom_journal to learn more about our upcoming events. And if you’re feeling really inspired, you can back a Bloom event by donating or contacting us as we are very open to help.


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Now is the Time for Moral Leadership in Addressing Campus Sexual Violence

“We’re not going backward in the importance of emphasizing and continuing to address (sexual violence) as an issue on college campuses,” said Carlow University President Suzanne Mellon at a mid-September Southwest PA Says NO MORE event in Pittsburgh.

This statement was met with enthusiastic applause by a standing-room only crowd of university personnel, law enforcement, state and local officials, advocates, students, concerned community members and media. They had joined together to celebrate an impressive collaboration between 13 college and university presidents in the Greater Pittsburgh area to prevent sexual violence. Even as we anticipated changes in US Department of Education guidance to colleges on investigating campus sexual violence, we unveiled a new video series featuring all 13 presidents delivering powerful messages of support to victims and encouragement to come forward, report and ask for assistance.

“Change starts with leadership from the top. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, college and community leaders are stepping forward in bold new ways to work together with a focus on prevention.”

This collaboration first launched in February 2015 when the presidents of 10 Pittsburgh colleges and universities (Carlow University; Carnegie Mellon University; Chatham University; Community College of Allegheny County; Duquesne University; La Roche College; Point Park University; Robert Morris University; Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; University of Pittsburgh) declared campus sexual assault to be a shared priority across the city’s campuses. They committed to work with rape crisis centers, law enforcement, sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) from several hospitals, researchers and funders to ensure that victims of sexual violence are met with support and to focus on preventing assault from happening in the first place.

Thus far, these schools have hosted an in-depth training for their teams and community partners on Title IX, held a training for all first responders, worked closely with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) to ensure that every victim who reports is offered an advocate from PAAR as well as support from Title IX staff. Now, every victim is offered medical care by teams of specially trained SANEs. Title IX coordinators, campus police and municipal police now work closely with the District Attorney to ensure that all victims are responded to promptly and effectively. Last spring, the schools worked together to train 100 staff across 10 universities in the Green Dot model of bystander intervention, an evidence-based model to prevent domestic and sexual violence. More information about these activities is available here.

Leadership in addressing campus sexual violence started a decade ago in Westmoreland County, a suburban and rural area east of Pittsburgh. In 2007, Seton Hill University joined Blackburn Center, a local domestic and sexual violence program in Westmoreland County, to form an institutional partnership aimed at addressing the root causes of sexual assault and domestic violence and preventing these crimes. In addition to a range of campus programming, prevention messages are now embedded in curricula and changes are being measured and evaluated by campus researchers. Since then, the program has been institutionalized and expanded to other area schools—the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg joined the effort in 2014, and initial efforts are underway at Saint Vincent College and Westmoreland County Community College. More information about these efforts is available here.

Change starts with leadership from the top. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, college and community leaders are stepping forward in bold new ways to work together with a focus on prevention. The progress we’ve made gives me hope that, one day, students will be able to learn in an environment free from fear of sexual assault. We’re not there yet, but collaborations such as these bring us closer to the day when we will finally end sexual violence.

Kristy Trautmann is the executive director of FISA Foundation, a charitable grantmaking organization devoted to improving the lives of women, girls and people with disabilities in Southwestern Pennsylvania. FISA, along with The Heinz Endowments and United Way of Southwestern PA, founded Southwest PA Says NO MORE, a regional movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Photography by Brian Cohen.

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Three Women Rising: A Journey to End Childhood Sexual Abuse

THREE WOMEN RISING on their journey to end childhood sexual abuse – that’s what you’ll see in this video. Rythea Lee, Producer/Director/Writer, brought me and Filmmaker/Writer/Activist  Aishah Shahidah Simmons into THREE WOMEN RISING, her 19th Episode of Advice from a Loving Bitch. What a privilege and delight to be included in Rythea’s groundbreaking work. We all survived childhood sexual abuse and we all spoke to the same questions about healing and activism.

Here are the questions we spoke to:

  1. What is a glimpse into your story that you feel is worth sharing? 
  2. What is your activism around the subject? 
  3. What can you say about Joy? 
  4. Please talk about why engaging in a conscious healing process is worth it.
  5. What do you think about self-love and healing from sexual abuse?

I encourage all the survivors reading this posting to ask your own self these questions, maybe not all of them, maybe only one or two – the ones that jump off the page to you. Go one step further – write out the answers and then read them back to yourself out loud. Hearing our own voices saying what is true for us is incredibly empowering.

I am deeply grateful to be connected to these two women. What a jungle of feelings I’ve macheted through to get to this clearing – this place of feeling my wholeness, my not-so-aloneness in a circle of survivor sisters. Hearing each other’s experience helps shed the shame. Witnessing each other breaking the silence adds up to a collective shattering.

The experience of making Episode #19 was a great one for me – to join with two sister survivors in breaking the silence. The months long process of making the video was a lesson in collaborative power – each one supporting and getting supported, all three becoming a chorus for justice. I hope you are as touched by viewing it as I was in the making of it.

Thank you for reading and watching.

Author Bio: In 2009 Donna founded Time To Tell with a mission to spark stories from lives affected by incest and sexual abuse to be told and heard. She wrote and performs her one-woman play, What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest to Joy, which is based on her own experience of surviving incest and what she did to make her life worth living. Her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, a narrative of the choices she made and experiences she had that helped her heal from her childhood trauma, will be released by Levellers Press in Fall of 2017. For more information, go to www.timetotell.org.

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Join the Purple Purse Challenge: Help Domestic Violence Nonprofits Win $700,000 from The Allstate Foundation

One in four1 American women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime. While most people think only of cuts and bruises when they think of domestic violence, 99 percent2 of all domestic violence cases involve financial abuse. Financial abuse can include abusers preventing victims from accessing money, ruining their credit, harassing them at work so they lose their jobs and more.

That’s why The Allstate Foundation has invested more than $55 million through their Purple Purse campaign, helping women obtain their financial independence and break free from abuse. In June, Serena Williams, tennis champion, entrepreneur and philanthropist, joined Allstate Foundation Purple Purse as the program’s new ambassador. Williams will raise awareness of the often invisible role financial abuse plays in keeping women trapped in abusive relationships and urge the public to help break the cycle of domestic violence.

“Standing up for women’s rights has long been a passion of mine,” said Serena Williams. “I am honored to join Allstate Foundation Purple Purse to bring financial abuse and domestic violence out of the shadows and into the public conversation. I hope people will join the Purple Purse movement and work with us to end abuse against women.”

Each year, The Allstate Foundation hosts the Purple Purse Challenge to support hundreds of organizations that help victims of domestic violence. This year, up to 250 national, state, and local nonprofit organizations will compete for a total of $700,000 in grants and get access to fundraising resources, including an exclusive purple purse. The friendly fundraising competition begins October 2nd, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Join tennis champion and Purple Purse program ambassador, Serena Williams, to help nonprofits serving domestic violence survivors.


Learn more about The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse® Challenge here.

Find a domestic violence shelter in your area at www.domesticshelters.org.

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

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