Domestic and sexual violence can happen to anyone, with lasting impacts on families and communities. YWCA Missoula’s Pathways Program is here to help. We offer survivors of all genders the safety and support to recover from trauma, while empowering them to advance their life goals and achieve lasting independence.
To find out more about your options, to ask general questions about domestic / sexual violence, or to get help with a specific situation, call the 24-hour crisis line: (406) 542-1944 or (800) 483-7858.
Domestic Violence Shelter
Safe and secure shelter at The Meadowlark is available for adults and their children in need of immediate protection from their abusers. Survivors stay in private sleeping rooms and have access to communal living, dining, kitchen and outdoor areas. While residing at the shelter, survivors work with YWCA advocates to plan for their safety, access needed resources, find stable housing and heal from trauma. On-site legal and health care clinics, children’s programs and therapeutic services are available to shelter residents. The Domestic Violence Shelter is the third wing of The Meadowlark.
To access the shelter, please call the YWCA crisis line at (406) 542-1944.
Each Tuesday evening at 5:30 p.m., YWCA Missoula offers weekly open support groups for female survivors of domestic violence. Age-appropriate groups for children are also offered at the same time. Support groups work to provide survivors with a safe environment to share strengths and struggles, and to work toward healing and growth.
Frequently asked questions about domestic and sexual violence
What is domestic violence?
Abuse is never okay, and it’s never the victim’s fault. Everyone deserves relationships that are respectful, safe and healthy. Find more information about domestic violence on this fact sheet from the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is sexual contact or behavior that is forced upon a person against their will, without explicit consent. Sometimes people are not able to consent because of age, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Sexual assault can include rape and attempted rape, as well as any unwanted touching. Perpetrators may use physical pressure to force nonconsensual sex, but they may also use emotional coercion, manipulation or other types of threats. Most of the time the perpetrator of the assault is someone the victim knows. It could be a spouse, intimate partner, friend, family member, date, or any other number of different roles or acquaintances. No matter what form of sexual violence occurs or who the perpetrator is, it is never the victim’s fault.
Is my relationship abusive?
Abuse does not always look the same, and sometimes it can be difficult to identify, especially when its forms are subtle. However, there are several warning signs of abusive behavior and common characteristics of abusers:
- Do they exhibit extreme jealousy of your friends, family, past partners or others in your life?
- Do they prevent you from getting or keeping a job, having access to money, or participating in making financial decisions?
- Do they ridicule, embarrass or humiliate you with bad names, put-downs or belittling comments?
- Do they pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to?
- Do they throw or break things or destroy your property when angry?
- Do they intimidate or threaten you with weapons?
- Do they use looks, actions or gestures that make you scared?
- Do they threaten to harm your children, pets or themselves?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions and want help determining whether your relationship is abusive and/or how you can plan for safety, call our crisis line at (406) 542-1944. The Power and Control Wheel can also help you understand some of the tactics that abusive partners use.
Are men victims of domestic or sexual violence?
Yes, men can be victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Research indicates that about 1 in 10 men experience sexual assault as adults and about 1 in 5 victims of domestic violence are men.
Male survivors are less likely to report their abuse or seek help. A common misconception is that domestic violence programs do not serve men. YWCA Missoula provides domestic and sexual violence services to survivors of all genders. More information and resources for male survivors of sexual abuse or assault, experienced at any age, can be found here.
Why do victims stay with their abusers?
Although this is a common question, victims are never responsible for the abuse they endure and they should not be blamed for staying with an abusive partner. There are many challenges that prevent domestic violence victims from leaving relationships.
The most dangerous time for victims is when they are in the process of leaving or have just left an abusive relationship. In fact, the risk of being killed increases during this time period. Many victims remain with their perpetrator for fear of how they might respond or retaliate. Perpetrators of abuse often isolate their victims from friends, family and other support systems to keep them trapped in the relationship. Other tactics may include blame-shifting, intimidation, or using children (and the threat of disrupting the family unit) to guilt victims into staying.
Survivors may not have the resources to leave. Of domestic violence victims 98% experience financial abuse, which may include not having access to a job, being financially dependent on their abuser, or having to give their perpetrator their paycheck at the end of the week. Other factors, like not having access to safe housing or social support, can create nearly insurmountable barriers to leaving.
On top of all this, it’s important to recognize that survivors may still experience care and love for their abusive partners, and that can make it difficult to leave the relationship. Perpetrators are often very convincing when they apologize for their behavior and promise that it will never happen again, and it can be easier for victims to believe them when they really want it to be true.
How can I help my friend or loved one in an abusive relationship?
It can be difficult and scary to see someone you care about experience domestic or sexual violence. Here are some ways that you can support the survivors in your life:
- Believe them. Listen without passing judgment and acknowledge their situation.
- Don’t investigate. It is not your job to connect the dots of their story. Often survivors of trauma forget or misplace details. Asking clarifying questions can come off as skepticism even if there are good intentions behind them.
- Think of safety. Abusers can be violent and unpredictable. Meet with your friend in safe, neutral locations. When violence occurs in your presence, call 911 immediately. Urge your friend or family member to consider the safety of themselves and their family and help them develop a safety plan.
- Encourage them to do activities outside of the relationship and to stay connected with friends and family members.
- Understand how power and control operate in abusive relationships and support your friend in reclaiming power in their life.
- Explore and support your friend’s choices. Do not attempt to “come to the rescue” by solving your friend’s problems for them.
- Call the YWCA crisis line for information, support, or to talk with someone about how to best help your friend in a specific situation: (406) 542-1944. You can also let your friend know that help is available to them through the crisis line, and encourage them to reach out.