Domestic violence survivor tattoo

How to Get Help for Domestic Violence in the Netherlands

Domestic violence is something we hope no one ever has to go through. For parents in our community who find themselves in an abusive situation, the stress is often compounded by being in a foreign system and language. ARISE NL, a non-profit support organisation, has compiled their essential resources, in conjunction with the recommendations from the Dutch Ministries of Justice and Health.

Find Resources and Support

Protect yourself by asking for information and assistance from professional help workers and organisations, so you are able to make the right decision for yourself and your children. Inform your general practitioner (huisarts) of your situation, and when possible ask for a referral to your local social work team (sociaal wijkteam) or the domestic abuse helpline Veiligthuis.

To talk to someone about domestic violence (websites are in Dutch and English) you can contact:

  • Veiligthuis (National Domestic Violence, Child Abuse & Elderly Abuse Hotline): tel. 0800 2000 (24/7 free number)
  • Blijf Groep (North Holland domestic violence shelter group): tel. 020 611 6022
  • Stichting Korrelatie (for help with relationship problems): tel. 0900 1450
  • The primary aid line for help after sexual violence: tel. 020 613 0245

Organisations that provide information and support in English:

For undocumented individuals and asylum seekers:

  • ASKV/Steunpunt Vluchtelingen

For violent partners or family members, there is a programme for behavioural change where he/she can learn to control their aggression. In some cases, the victims of domestic violence find that once their partner joins such a group, the violence at home decreases. Addresses of such therapy and self-help groups are available from Veiligthuis, Blijf Groep, social workers, and women’s centres. For undocumented individuals and refugees, contacts at refugee organisations are available.

Create an Emergency Plan

An emergency plan can help you prepare for what to do in a violent situation.

Step by Step:

  1. Create a network of supportive friends and/or family who can offer temporary help when you need it. Inform trusted individuals (social worker, friend, etc) of what is happening to you, and ask them to keep in touch with you at certain points of the day for updates on your safety. Create a follow-up plan in case you don’t respond. They can also call the police (112) for you when you are unable to during a physical assault or in an abusive situation.
  2. Ask for help to arrange a shelter for yourself and your children that the offender does not know about. If at first it is impossible for you all to go to one address, arrange several alternative shelters and care providers for your child/ren. Various independent organisations have information about the different shelters available.
  3. Prepare an emergency bag or suitcase which contains clothes, mobile phone, emergency money, transport pass/es, and other items that you will need immediately should the situation become so bad that you have to leave home in a hurry. At a time like that, you might not even have time to dress yourself or your children properly. Keep the suitcase well hidden in a strategic but easily accessible place in the house or at a trusted friend or neighbour’s place.
  4. Gather important official documents such as passports, marriage certificate, birth certificates, your residence permit, bank cards, bank statements, diplomas, proof of residence, and a list of important telephone numbers and addresses. Keep them with your emergency bag, or with someone safe outside the home where you can collect them once you’ve left.
  5. Slowly move your valuable personal possessions to a location unknown to your partner, such as a secure storage facility or spread out with friends. This prevents your partner from destroying your possessions and makes it easier to collect your property at a later time if you are unable to go back to your home.
  6. Keep records, in any form, of everything connected in any way to the violence. Keep sms/e-mail/viber/WhatsApp, etc. messages, audio/video recordings, medical records, police statements, and court details and photos. Make copies of all important documents and have someone else keep them for you or uploaded to a secure cloud account that only you can access. You could need any or all of these later as proof of the violence.
  7. After you have left, turn off location tracking on your electronic devices and do not under any circumstances give the offender or their friends or relatives any details of your whereabouts. Be extremely vigilant. Always inform someone you trust where you are going and what time you plan to be back. Always take as many safety precautions as possible.
  8. Use the law and the regulations designed to protect you. Call the police (112). If necessary, seek a restraining order. If the case goes to court, request a lawyer to support you at all the hearings. Go through every legal procedure possible to convince the offender of their responsibility for their actions and to protect yourself. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated.
  9. If you have shared custody of a child, stay in the country until you have gained permission from authorities to leave. Under the Hague Convention, a parent who takes a child out of the country without the permission of the other parent can be charged with child abduction, even the reason is due to domestic violence.
  10. If you have limited Dutch reading/speaking/comprehension skills, seek help from an organisation that speaks your language or where the services of an interpreter are available. Always carry the telephone number of an interpreting centre in the area, or take someone with you who you trust completely and who can interpret for you. Courts provide a free translator – just remind your lawyer to request one for you. There is also a paid translation service (verbal and written) called Tok Telefoon: tel. 088 255 5222.

Report Abuse

If you need immediate help, call the police: dial 112. They are authorised to intervene in situations to keep you and your child/ren safe and secure.

The police are part of emergency services that can respond to situations such as psychological and physical abuse. When they come to your home due to you or your neighbour’s call, they will approach the offender about his/her behaviour and discuss what happens next. In some situations, a temporary restraining order is given to the offender. This means that he/she may not enter the house for a short period of time.

In cases of serious violence, the police can prosecute, in which case the offender will probably be taken to court.

You can also go to the police at any time. They will listen to you and explain what they can do. You can bring charges (via an aangifte police report), or you can report the incident to be recorded in the police records without pressing charges (an aanmelden police report). If you do decide to bring charges, they will ask for proof of evidence such as photos of bruises or wounds, medical records, or statements from witnesses.

If you have a dependent visa status, you are entitled to an individual residence permit if you separate or divorce due to domestic abuse. You will not have to leave the Netherlands.

Further Reading and Listening:

Amsterdam Mamas Podcast episode on domestic violence

Reporting Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Editor’s note: The resources in this article were compiled by the ARISE NL Foundation, with help from the brochure “Protect Yourself Against Violence” produced by MOVISIE and the Shakti Foundation.

ARISE NL is a newly established national non-profit organisation providing comprehensive English documentation and information exclusively to mothers, men, LGBT, and their children suffering from domestic abuse. From the moment an individual wishes to leave an abusive situation, to the courtroom, to changes to government policies, we work every day to give them and their children, and those who care about them, the tools they need to live a safer and healthier life. We aim to provide Awareness, Rights, Information, Support & Empowerment through Education in English in the Netherlands. We envision an empowered abuse victim free of barriers in the Netherlands.

Black Dot campaign: Domestic violence victims speak out using Facebook and felt-tips

It already seems to have helped a number of victims, who have used the idea to speak up about their experiences and seek help.

*Trigger* I have a story to share that someone has sent me since I started this campaign, it moved me so much I asked to…

Posted by Black Dot Campaign on Thursday, 10 September 2015

In the 5 days since launching this campaign we have reached 4.2 million people which is amazing in itself- thank you.I…

Posted by Black Dot Campaign on Sunday, 13 September 2015

The campaign has now spread – and women across the world are drawing black dots on their palms to show they are survivors of abuse.

But it has also been criticised for simplifying a complex problem and potentially endangering if a victim, should their perpetrator see the dot. Many have pointed out that professional support charities and organisations may not be aware of the black dot campaign and will have not received training on what to do when confronted with it.

Others expressed concern that the subtlety of the dot could cause people to miss it, or assume it’s a birthmark.

On its Facebook page, the organisers wrote: “This isn’t the solution that will help everyone, if anything it should help people realise what abuse is, how it affects people and how to access help.

“Putting such a campaign on Facebook was about raising awareness on a social media platform. When people contact us we open the gates of communication and put them in touch with people who can really help.”

Survivor Ink: Rachel Esther

By: Meghan Mausteller

On May 18, 2014, a date that is now commemorated on her left bicep, Survivor Sister Rachel Esther of New York left her abuser for good.

Esther was married to her abuser for four years and in that time, he abused her in every way imaginable. She experienced physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse, as well as complete isolation from all her friends and family. She wasn’t allowed to have a job and rarely left the house.

Two years ago, she took an important step in her healing process–she got a survivor tattoo.

Shortly after leaving her abuser, Esther learned about Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence and began following BTS on FaceBook. At the time, BTS was a few months into the ongoing “Survivor Ink” campaign, where survivors across the globe get tattoos referred to as “Forever BTS” tattoos. They have the signature BTS infinity symbol and letters “BTS.” Through this campaign, BTS asked that tattoo artists charge at least $30 for the tattoo and donate the proceeds back to BTS in order to help fund the organization and continue providing survivors with the tools they need to leave their abusers and rebuild their lives.

On Facebook, the #SurvivorINK photo album overflowed with images of fresh tattoos on the arms, feet, ankles and legs of other survivor sisters. In January 2015, Esther took the plunge and got her own survivor ink.

Her survivor ink has the standard infinity symbol and “BTS” letters, but she gave it a unique twist. Her tattoo has the infinity symbol standing vertically, rather than horizontally, which allowed her to transform the simple infinity into a purple domestic violence awareness ribbon. The bottom half of her tattoo has the date she left her abuser.

By personalizing her tattoo, she transformed it from a simple symbol of unity and strength among survivors into a tool she can use to spread awareness about domestic violence. According to Esther, people often come up to her and ask what the ribbon means, which gives her the perfect opportunity to talk about domestic violence and BTS with strangers.

For Esther, getting her survivor ink was an empowering decision that demonstrates just how far she had come in her journey of healing. Getting her tattoo showed that she has taken back control of her life and it is a symbol of her own inner strength.

“ I wasn’t even allowed to get a haircut,” Esther said. “I never could have gotten a tattoo, especially not in such a visible place.”

Her tattoo also creates a visible connection between herself and other survivor sisters across the country.

For other survivors looking to get inked, Esther has these words of advice,

“It’s a big, personal decision. You have to make sure you’re in the right place with your healing.”

But she also says that she has “no regrets” in making the decision to get her own survivor ink.

Since this campaign began almost three years ago, people across the globe have come together in order to show the strength that comes from breaking your silence. People continue participating in this campaign and some have gotten their tattoos as recently as a few months ago, according to the most recent update on the BTS FaceBook page.

Esther’s tattoo is contributing to a larger group of survivors and their support systems, all of whom are working together to put an end to domestic violence. Through her survivor ink, she not only shows the strength she possessed in order to leave her abuser and change her life, but also the strength that a supportive community has to change the world.

On 8 September 2015, victims of domestic violence were offered a sliver of hope when the Black Dot Campaign told them that they could silently call for help by drawing a black dot on the palms of their hands:

The Black Dot Campaign is to enable victims who can not ask for help verbally to ask for help with a simple black dot and people recognise this and help. This is a campaign to help the most vulnerable victims of Domestic Violence. They simply draw a black dot on their hands and agencies, family, friends, community centres, doctors, hospitals can recognise this person needs help but can not ask for it.

While the Black Dot Campaign presented the idea as a legitimate method of seeking aid, this strategy is not currently recognized by the aforementioned hospitals, community centers, or doctors. This important detail was explained on 14 September 2015 when the Black Dot Campaign posted an “Important Notice” on Facebook:

The original ethos for this campaign was to enable a victim to put a dot on their hand around someone they trusted to enable a conversation to start, so they could open that door and hopefully start a process of seeking professional help.

This is an idea, thinking outside of the box, trying to open up the worlds eyes and ears to what is going on in terms of abuse. The idea came from a former domestic violence victim.

Professional bodies have not been advised or trained in the Black Dot, what it symbolises and what it means

When people contact us we open the gates of communication and put them in touch with people who can really help

Putting such a campaign on Facebook was about raising awareness on a social media platform

This isn’t the solution that will help everyone, if anything it should help people realise what abuse is, how it affects people and how to access help.

and most importantly SAFETY MUST ALWAYS COME FIRST. If you see a black dot or are approached by someone for help, if safe to do so take them to safety and get them in contact with the relevant agency. Intervention and support should only be done by professionals

The above-displayed notice contains two very important details: First, “professional bodies have not been advised or trained in the Black Dot, what it symbolises and what it means.” Second, “this is an idea, thinking outside of the box, trying to open up the worlds eyes and ears to what is going on in terms of abuse.”

The black dot campaign is merely one person’s idea for helping victims of domestic violence; it is not an officially-sanctioned program, and it is not taught to police officers, doctors, counselors, or anyone else who may be able to help someone in an abusive relationship. While victims of domestic violence can certainly draw a black dot on their palms, they should not rely on that symbol’s bringing anyone to their aid. It should also be noted that this “secret way of calling for help” is no longer a secret: any abuser with Internet access may now be aware of the Black Dot Campaign, negating the primary purpose of the black dot method.

Dina Polkinghorne, executive director of the domestic violence and sexual assault prevention group Project Sanctuary, also weighed in on the black dot concept:

“The Black Dot campaign is a very well-meaning idea, but a bad idea nonetheless. I believe that the woman who started the campaign is a survivor herself. The campaign is spurring conversations but there are better ways to go,” she explains. Project Sanctuary explained that victims could be putting themselves at risk by drawing something on themselves that their abuser could see. “Another issue with the campaign is that not everyone you flash the black dot to is connected to social media,” she continues.

“The campaign is getting a lot of attention, so abusers may also be aware of it. They might question why their partner would have the dot on their hand. A well-meaning family member could also see the dot, and inadvertently compound the violence,” she explains.

“The Black Dot was a way to silently tell someone that you are in a domestic violence situation, but when would it be appropriate to use it? At the grocery store? At the doctor’s office? Someone who was being completely controlled would be told by the abuser that they want to be in the exam room, so the victim would not be able to tell their doctor that they were in a domestic violence situation.

“Most medical professionals are highly trained to look for cues that might suggest someone was being abused. They would ask the alleged abuser to leave the room to have a confidential conversation, and the black dot would not be necessary.”

Polkinghorne suggests that there are many ways for concerned friends and family to help a person whom they suspect might be in an abusive relationship.

“If you’re a domestic violence victim and you are alone with a friend, you have an opportunity to say something to them,” Polkinghorne explains. “There are many options available.”

“General warning signs include a person seeming overly afraid or anxious to please their partner, and going along with everything their partner says or does. Do they seem to check in too often with their partner? Do they constantly have to report their whereabouts and what they’re doing?”

Other warning signs include receiving frequent, harassing phone calls from a partner, insufficient excuses for bruises and injuries, or missing school, work or social occasions. “If she’s wearing turtlenecks or other inappropriate clothing in the summer or if she wears sunglasses indoors, she could be covering up bruises or other injuries.”

Another concern is if the victim seems to be restricted from socializing with family or friends, if the frequency of socialization has changed dramatically or if the victim rarely goes out without their partner. Limited access to money, cars or credit cards can indicate control issues. “More serious signs include the person appearing depressed, anxious or suicidal, or if their self-esteem has plummeted.”

While the Black Dot Campaign may have been started with good intentions, it does not yet offer a safe and reliable way for victims of domestic violence to get help.

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Women’s Aid criticises domestic violence campaign

Women’s Aid has voiced concerns over a Dublin-based modelling agency’s plan to bring the controversial Black Dot campaign to Ireland.

The campaign, which encourages women who are the victims of domestic violence to mark their hands with a black dot, could lead to “very dangerous situations”, Women’s Aid said.

The Black Dot campaign first came to prominence in the UK and the US two years ago. Women suffering domestic abuse were encouraged to paint a black dot on their hands as a sign they were in need of help.

However, the campaign came in for strong criticism, as leading domestic violence charities said they believed it might be dangerous for some women to take part in it.

In 2015, the Black Dot campaign in England had its main social media page closed following claims it could do “more harm than good”.

The Size Gorgeous Management modelling agency plans to launch in Dublin on Sunday a “black-dot awareness campaign” to highlight domestic violence.

Women’s Aid, which provides domestic violence support services across Ireland, say they are “concerned that could put those affected at further risk”.

A spokeswoman told The Irish Times: “Domestic violence is a very serious issue that affects one in five women in Ireland and women’s safety must be to the fore of any public awareness initiative.

“We are surprised that the Black Dot campaign is being taken up here, given the valid criticisms of it when it started in the UK and US in 2015.

“These led to the campaign dissipating very quickly. While we don’t doubt the good intentions behind the idea, Women’s Aid, the leading domestic violence support service in Ireland, is concerned that it could put those affected at further risk.

“Encouraging people experiencing domestic violence to visibly mark themselves in this way could, unwittingly, lead to very dangerous situations. It could signal to the abuser that the person wants to leave and is asking for help.

“Domestic violence is motivated by power and control and if abusers feel that being threatened, they can escalate the abuse.”

Positive response

However, Size Gorgeous Management is hoping for a positive response to its initiative, which will be launched with a photo-shoot on Sunday morning at famous Dublin locations.

“We are the first body in Ireland to launch the #sgmblackdotcampaign here in Ireland. We will launch on the streets of Dublin and in and around popular locations to highlight that the black dot on the palm of a hand is a silent cry for help against domestic violence for both men and women,” organiser Sharon McCarthy told The Irish Times.

“One of the models that we work with has been the victim of domestic violence and we are doing this for her. We all know somebody that has been a victim in the past and domestic abuse is not uncommon in the modelling world.

“Sometimes partners become jealous of the attention that models can get, and this is when the abuse can start. The black dot enables victims who cannot ask for help verbally to reach out to persons who recognise this and hopefully help in some way.

“We believe the black dot idea is a legitimate method of seeking aid and by raising awareness to it will help the most vulnerable victims of domestic violence,” added Ms McCarthy.

Ms McCarthy said that Irish businesswoman Norah Casey’s recent interview on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, in which she shared her story of domestic abuse, also played a role in the agency’s decision to launch this campaign.

“Norah Casey’s interview on The Late Late Show was very powerful and impacted a lot of men and women watching the show at home. We hope our awareness campaign will have the same effect,” said Ms McCarthy.

If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, Women’s Aid can be reached in confidence on 1800-341900.

#KillTheSilence: How the Black Dot Campaign Actually Threatens Abuse Victims

Rachel Otis x Oct 16, 2015

Recently, social media went absolutely abuzz over a deeply personal and well-intentioned campaign, which involves people placing a black dot on the palm of their hand to signify they are currently being abused and cannot speak about it because their abuser is watching closely. Called The Black Dot Campaign, this is meant to prompt anyone who then sees said black dot to either reach out to the abused individual or to seek help for them. Taking a moment to consider all the variables entailed, it’s not hard to see how the last step of this could be somewhat precarious. First, it presupposes that others are even aware that the black dot campaign exists and second it then requires the person who can identify it to take action, while on the flip side it, hasn’t allowed time for any people serving in professional roles with those experiencing abuse to learn about what it means. Most importantly noted, however, is the fact that should one’s abuser learn about what the black dot campaign means, and see it on the hand of the person they are abusing, then it has the potential to cause even greater harm and raise or re-activate the level of violence.

The original post (pictured below), which cited the use of #blackdotcampaign, also links to the campaign’s Facebook page which has since been taken down. According to Jezebel, as of yesterday morning, that post had been shared over 83,600 times, and the campaign had been featured positively in national press.

According to Snopes, The Black Dot Campaign placed the following statement on their Facebook page in September:

The Black Dot Campaign is to enable victims who can not ask for help verbally to ask for help with a simple black dot and people recognise this and help. This is a campaign to help the most vulnerable victims of Domestic Violence. They simply draw a black dot on their hands and agencies, family, friends, community centres, doctors, hospitals can recognise this person needs help but cannot ask for it.

Notably, about a week later, the Facebook page, which has since been taken down, then stated:

The original ethos for this campaign was to enable a victim to put a dot on their hand around someone they trusted to enable a conversation to start, so they could open that door and hopefully start a process of seeking professional help.This is an idea, thinking outside of the box, trying to open up the worlds eyes and ears to what is going on in terms of abuse. The idea came from a former domestic violence victim. Professional bodies have not been advised or trained in the Black Dot, what it symbolises and what it means.

When people contact us we open the gates of communication and put them in touch with people who can really help. Putting such a campaign on Facebook was about raising awareness on a social media platform This isn’t the solution that will help everyone, if anything it should help people realise what abuse is, how it affects people and how to access help. And most importantly SAFETY MUST ALWAYS COME FIRST. If you see a black dot or are approached by someone for help, if safe to do so take them to safety and get them in contact with the relevant agency. Intervention and support should only be done by professionals.

Still not convinced about the potential harms of the campaign? Check out what the following professional who works directly in the field of domestic violence awareness, prevention, and treatment had to say:

“The Black Dot Campaign is a very well-meaning idea, but a bad idea nonetheless. The campaign is getting a lot of attention, so abusers may also be aware of it. They might question why their partner would have the dot on their hand. A well-meaning family member could also see the dot, and inadvertently compound the violence. When would it be appropriate to use it? At the grocery store? At the doctor’s office? Someone who was being completely controlled would be told by the abuser that they want to be in the exam room, so the victim would not be able to tell their doctor that they were in a domestic violence situation.” – Dina Polkinghorne, executive director of domestic violence prevention organization Project Sanctuary.

Despite what the Black Dot Campaign has spiraled into, Wear Your Voice feels it is important to honor the original intention of the creator and founder, who is a British domestic abuse survivor who wishes to remain anonymous. She did tell the BBC that she never meant for the campaign to go viral, or for women to post selfies with black dots on their hands:

“When things go viral and worldwide, you kind of lose control. A lot of survivors are putting their dots on their hand, but that’s not what the original idea was,” she said. “I imagined it as a tool to start face-to-face conversations between friends or with professionals. I was basing it on my experiences and I was thinking, how could I prompt people to talk about domestic violence?”

She also noted that if it felt unsafe, she fully trusted domestic violence victims not to draw the dot: “Just because you’re a victim doesn’t mean you’re stupid — you know yourself what is safe and what is not safe.”

At the end of the day, the message has been put forth and picked up by thousands of individuals who felt resonance with it – just as hard as it can be to get the ball rolling on a social media project is how hard it could be to end one. The Black Dot is now literally and figuratively in the hands of the domestic abuse survivors themselves, and only time will tell if the momentum continues on its own, morphs into another project, or comes to an end altogether. In the meantime, we encourage all survivors to check out our current campaign #KillTheSilence, which serves to provide a cathartic outlet for survivors as well.

What do you think about this campaign? Comment below.

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