The Best Domestic Violence Support Groups

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 it also provides support, validation, and resources from people who have been through the same things you've been through.

And 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.

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

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. Plus, their advocates speak multiple languages.

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 anytime 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 more than 200 different languages including 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

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 non-profit 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 even 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, newsletter, and publications to help educate and support those who are working toward healing. And because many 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

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, bookstore, 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

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 or 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

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 conducive to 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 their 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.

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.

Who Should Attend a Support Group?

Most of the support groups we reviewed are designed for people who are recovering from abuse and not currently in an abusive situation, with the exception of the NDVH and Love Is Respect. These two organizations not only offer support services but also offer hotlines for people in crisis situations.

Consequently, most online support groups are for people who are no longer actively involved in an abusive relationship, but are working on healing and recovery. Likewise, online support groups are not meant to replace counseling or therapy.

In fact, while most mental health professionals would advise that attending an online support group can be a beneficial part of your healing, 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.

Additionally, if you're looking to talk about the abuse you experienced, this is best done with a mental health professional who can help you process what you're thinking and feeling. Many online support groups prefer that you not share your past experiences in great detail not only because they can be triggering for others, but also because they are not equipped to help you deal with them in a healthy and productive way.

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. 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.

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.

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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