Best Domestic Violence Support Groups

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Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence (IPV) is a public health problem that affects millions of people in the US each year. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) indicate that bout one in four women and nearly one in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact. Over 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Survivors can experience mental health problems such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, according to the CDC.

When it comes to healing from domestic violence, it helps to have people you can talk to on a regular basis. This ongoing communication not only helps you make sense of what you're experiencing, but also provides support, validation, and resources from people who have been through the same things you've been through.

To help you determine which online support group is best for you, we reviewed the most well-known options available in the United States. Here is an overview of the best online support groups for domestic violence.

The Best Domestic Violence Support Groups

Best Starting Point : National Domestic Violence Hotline


National Domestic Violence Hotline

 National Domestic Violence Hotline

  • Membership fee: Free
  • Structure: Phone, text, live chat, resources
Why We Chose It

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) provides confidential support and valuable resources for domestic violence survivors 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they are led by highly-trained advocates.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Compassionate, confidential support

  • Services available in Spanish, ASL

  • Support available 24 hours a day

Cons
  • No Zoom or video conferencing option for those who prefer them

Although the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) is not an actual support group with members, this organization provides the best one-on-one support of any organization on the Internet. They are equipped to deal with people currently in crisis and in need of immediate support, as well as those who have left an abusive relationship.

If you're interested in contacting NDVH, you can call them or use the live chat option on their website. What's more, their highly-trained advocates are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a result, they offer free, compassionate, and confidential support to anyone who needs it, any time of day.

So, whether you just need to talk or you're in the middle of a crisis situation, there is always someone there to help you when you need it most. Additionally, their highly trained advocates can offer intervention information, education, and referral services in Spanish and ASL in addition to English. They can help you find a shelter or support group in your area that meets your needs.

You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for the live chat option or call 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Best Online Options : Hope Recovery


Hope Recovery

 Hope Recovery

  • Membership fee: Free
  • Structure: In-person, online (Zoom), classes
Why We Chose It

Hope Recovery, dedicated to providing helping adult survivors of abuse and sexual trauma, offers a variety of support group options.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Groups are limited to 8-10 members

  • Offers men’s survivor support groups

  • PTSD and self-care workshops

Cons
  • Some groups are only available online

Of all the online support groups we researched, Hope Recovery seemed to have the most options for support as well as the best handle on using an online format for supporting survivors of domestic violence. This nonprofit organization is committed to providing support for adult survivors of abuse and sexual trauma.

What's more, they have a wide variety of support group options as well as newsletters, workshops, and other resources. For instance, their application has options for several domestic violence recovery support groups, faith-based support groups, a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) support group, and even a male survivor support group.

They also have a detailed application in order to join one of their private groups. And they offer Facebook groups as well. As for security, they recently upgraded their security practices and require a password for their members to open and read their emails. This practice is especially useful for survivors whose ex-partners stalk them online or engage in digital abuse.

Hope Recovery also provides a free publication, Bridge of Hope, which is their online trauma and dissociation publication. This publication is filled with useful information and can be downloaded directly from their website. They offer a similar publication, Nourishing Hearts, which focuses on healing from trauma and eating disorders.

Overall, Hope Recovery's online support groups are designed to support survivors of abuse and sexual trauma. They provide a variety of online support groups, workshops, newsletters, and publications to help educate and support those who are working toward healing. And because many sexual trauma survivors also deal with PTSD, dissociation, eating disorders, and even addictions, they offer support groups and resources to help people deal with these issues as well.

Best for Ongoing Support : Fort Refuge


Fort Refuge

Fort Refuge

  • Membership fee: Free
  • Structure: Online forums and chatrooms, resources and videos
Why We Chose It

Fort Refuge is an active online community that provides private support groups and forums for survivors of abuse and encourages participants to share and speak freely and honestly.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Private, survivors-only forums and chatrooms

  • Large collection of resources, videos, readings

  • Active community

Cons
  • No one-on-one sessions

Designed for people over the age of 16, Fort Refuge is an online community that provides private forums and private chat rooms for survivors of abuse. What's more, they are open to anyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and mental health history.

Founded in 2008, Fort Refuge continues to grow and evolve. What's more, their online community is anonymous, doesn't solicit or accept payments, donations, or grants, and has no political or religious affiliation. Their only requirement is that all members agree to and abide by their extensive list of membership guidelines.

You also will find a number of useful resources on their site. These include online articles, documentaries, bookstores, recommendations, and poetry by survivors. While not as large as some of the other online support groups, Fort Refuge is a grassroots site that is run by survivors and for survivors.

Overall, they come together to discuss both their struggles and their victories. And even though they do not have the largest membership numbers, they are one of the most active support groups online.

Best Social Media Group : DomesticShelters.org Victims and Survivors Community


DomesticShelters.org

 DomesticShelters.org

  • Membership fee: Free
  • Structure: Social media platform
Why We Chose It

Designed to be a safe space for domestic abuse victims, survivors, and advocates, the DomesticShelters.org Victims and Survivors Community offers support through inclusive dialogue and participation.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Private group

  • Active online community

  • Offers a number of resources and articles

Cons
  • Facebook account required

This private Facebook group is one of the most active places online for domestic violence victims and survivors. In fact, the members of this private group communicate with one another daily by sharing their thoughts, past experiences, and unedited stories about their experiences. What's more, occasionally a professional will comment on a post to offer direction or general advice.

DomesticShelters.org, which runs the Facebook group, is the first and the largest online searchable database of domestic violence programs and shelters in the United States. They also offer a number of resources and articles that are useful for survivors looking to better understand abuse, safety planning, healing, and more.

In fact, their editorial advisory board is comprised of authors, researchers, and program operators. So, the information they provide is up-to-date and based on the most recent research in the area of domestic violence.

Best for Teens : Love Is Respect


Love Is Respect

 Love Is Respect

  • Membership fee: Free
  • Structure: Phone, text, live chat, resources
Why We Chose It

Specifically designed for young people ages 13 to 26, the Love Is Respect program provides 24/7 supports and guidance, plus an easy-to-use website that offers several resources and helpful insight.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Confidential support available 24/7

  • Advocates are trained on issues related to dating abuse and healthy relationships, and crisis intervention

  • Several resources available

Cons
  • No option for Zoom or video chat

Offering 24/7 access to trained advocates, teens can text, call, or chat live with someone who can offer them support and guidance. And although the teens using this service are not in organized groups where they can talk to other teens about what they're experiencing, they can get input and direction anytime they feel they need it simply by using their smartphone.

This type of format seems to be really helpful for today's teenagers, who have limited time and unpredictable schedules, making it difficult for them to attend a group at a set time each week.

Overall, Love Is Respect is an extension of NDVH and is designed for young people ages 13 to 26. They provide information, support, and advocacy to teens and young adults who have questions or concerns about their romantic relationships.

Love Is Respect also makes its services available for concerned parents, teachers, and counselors who want input on how best to support a teen in an abusive dating relationship. In addition to their online support, they also offer comprehensive educational materials, quizzes, testimonials, and interactive pages to help educate teens and prevent future relationship abuse.

Final Verdict

Whether you’re healing from domestic violence or looking for a path to safety and out of an abusive relationship, support groups can help you move forward in your quest to heal from the abuse. Support groups provide a safe, confidential environment for sharing experiences and feelings, learning coping techniques, and other skills to practice self-care. Support groups also allow you to connect with others in a similar situation, which can help with the feelings of loneliness and isolation. These programs are free of charge and many hotlines are available for support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Compare The Best Domestic Violence Support Groups

Company Membership fee Structure
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Best Starting Point
Free Phone, text, live chat, resources
Hope Recovery
Best Online Options
Free In-person, online (Zoom), classes
Fort Refuge
Best for Ongoing Support
Free Online forums and chatrooms, resources and videos
DomesticShelters.org Victims and Survivors Community
Best Social Media Group
Free Social media platform
Love Is Respectsis intervention
Best for Teens
Free Phone, text, live chat, resources

FAQs

Who Should Attend a Support Group?

Online support groups are not meant to replace counseling or therapy. In fact, while most mental health professionals would advise that attending support group can be a beneficial part of your healing and have positive effects on interpersonal well-being, it's important to remember that the groups are not designed to address mental health issues. They are, however, a great place to share what you're learning or experiencing with people who have gone through the same things you have gone through.

Your family members and loved ones may also benefit from support groups. The United States Department of Justice stated that domestic violence has a significant impact not only on those abused, but also on family members, friends, and on the people within the social networks of both the abuser and the victim.

What Are the Benefits of a Support Group?

If you are a survivor of domestic violence, it helps to have someone to talk to—especially if you don't have friends and family members you can turn to. Identifying with others in a similar situation can help reduce the adverse effects of stigma. Research has also shown that support groups can help improve symptoms of depression as they can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and enhance your coping skills.

Plus, what's nice about online support groups is that some of them offer 24-hour chat options. So, on those nights when you can't sleep or you seem to be ruminating about what happened in your life, it's nice to have a safe place to sort out your feelings with others who have been through the same thing.

Another added benefit of online support groups is that they offer you a completely anonymous option to be transparent about your struggles. And yet, even though you may not be sharing your real name, it's possible to bond with and develop friendships with the other people in your group.

Likewise, being active in a support group is often a complementary component to your overall healing plan. Plus, online support groups can provide you with access to additional resources and information.

How Do I Stay Safe in an Online Support Group?

When selecting an online support group for domestic violence, it's important to consider your safety. Even if you are no longer with the person who abused you, there is a chance that they could still be monitoring or stalking you in some way.

For this reason, you want to select an online support group that is secure and private. It's best to avoid public forums and social media groups where anyone can see what is being posted. Likewise, you should not use your real name or a nickname that could allow people to identify who you are.

Another way to stay safe is to make sure that you are using a secure computer, clearing your history after you visit an online support group, and not giving out personal information like your address, telephone number, or email address. And, if you're using a social media support group, you need to refrain from sending people in the group private messages or allowing them to message you. Many times, these messages will pop up on a phone, tablet, or computer as a notification and could put you or someone else at risk.

How We Chose the Domestic Violence Support Groups

When reviewing online support groups, chat rooms, and forums, we reviewed the largest and most well-known online support groups in the United States. We looked at the services they provide as well the resources available to their participants.

Additionally, we reviewed their policies, guidelines, and security features looking for groups that were inclusive, safe, helpful, and respectful. During our review, we were unable to join and participate in the groups due to privacy concerns for current support group members. So, we relied on information from advocates who work regularly with survivors of domestic violence.

As you consider this list, please keep in mind that there are many local online support groups for domestic violence which we did not review. So, if you don't find a group in this list that meets your needs, be sure to ask your local shelter or local domestic violence group for suggestions.

A Word From Verywell

If you're considering joining an online support group for domestic violence, be sure that you read through their guidelines and policies. You also want to be sure you are joining a group that feels secure both electronically and personally. If the group is public or doesn't commit to keeping your information private, it may not be the best group for you.

While online support groups help people process all types of abuse, including everything from emotional abuse and physical abuse to verbal abuse and financial abuse, these groups are not meant to replace the need for therapy or counseling from a qualified mental health professional.

Additionally, you may have to try a couple of online support groups before you find one that is right for you. As a result, even though we make recommendations for support groups, only you can decide which one is right for you. If you're having trouble finding a group that feels like a good fit, talk to your counselor or call your local shelter for suggestions.

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  1. RAINN. Effects of sexual violence.