Dr. Lewis provides three tips for women who are in domestic violence situations, specifically those with HIV/AIDS.
If you are a woman with HIV and you are experiencing domestic violence or you think you may be experiencing domestic violence there are three tips that you can follow to help yourself. The first one is make sure you are safe. Make safety your top priority for you and your children.
The next one is to develop a plan. Make sure that you know where you are going to go and that you have everything that you need already in place that you will be taking with you. That should include your HIV medications. Assume that anything less left behind will end up in a dumpster. So anything that you will need, make sure that you have it either on you or place it where you are going before you even go; that will include money, that will include access to money, clothing, any personal items and most importantly, your HIV medication.
The third one is tell somebody. Document the abuse. Don’t go it alone. Make sure people known about it. Take pictures, have proof that it is occurring as much as you can so that the individuals will be able to see it with their own eyes. That will validate that the abuse is occurring and will enable you to get further help.
These three tips remind me of women who come to the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS every day. One woman came in a week ago bruised and bloodied from an incident that had happened two days prior. She explained that this was not something that had really happened before and she was shocked and devastated that she had been abused in this way.
As we began talking she realized that there were abusive dynamics in place for years. There had been shoving. There had been verbal abuse. There had been control issues where she didn’t feel like she was an equal that were insidious in the relationship, and so she learned that the actual physical assault was reflective of a larger problem.
We helped her to identify resources. We called the national hotline, helped her to identify safe homes and legal assistance where she could begin to move forward. Most importantly, she got support from a group of women that were going to help her every step of the way. No matter where you are, you are not alone and you can get help. Call the National Domestic Violence hotline.
About Dr. Jennifer Lewis, Ph.D.:
Jennifer Lewis the Director of Prevention and Wellness at the Southwest Center for HIV/ AIDS. She oversees HIV prevention for women, men and youth, and wellness which includes medical nutrition, behavioral health and complementary and alternative medicine. She is also the owner of Mosaic Psychotherapy, LLC, a psychotherapy practice that provides consulting and counseling services to individuals and families.