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Season 2

What Abuse Actually Looks Like with Ashley Rumschlag

In this episode of Reckoning, Kathryn Kosmides speaks with Ashley Rumschlag. Ashley Rumschlag is the CEO at, the first and largest free online directory of domestic violence programs and shelters in the U.S. and Canada., which is a service of Theresa’s fund, makes it faster and easier for victims of domestic violence, as well as program and shelter providers, to quickly find services and information best suited to their location, language, and needs.

Since joining in 2017, Ashley has introduced numerous significant website enhancements, created the Facebook group, and helped launch the Purple Ribbons Awards, which is a webinar series for domestic violence professionals.

In this episode Ashley discusses:

  • How was created and how it became a part of Theresa’s fund
  • The ways in which domestic violence victims can use to connect with an advocate who can point them to the right resources
  • How the media sensationalizes and glamorizes domestic violence 
  • The subtleties of abuse and how victims often minimize their own experiences
  • DARVO and the abuser playbook of common tactics used to maintain power and control
  • The Amber Heard vs. Johnny Depp case and what is reflects about society’s views on domestic violence and why survivors are hesitant to report abuse
  • How to best support DV victims with appropriate language and actions
  • Some early warning signs of abuse including isolation from support systems and how offenders speak to victims in a disrespectful manner 

You're listening to Reckoning, the go-to resource for conversations about gender-based safety, survival, and resilience in the digital age. Reckoning is brought to you by Garbo. Garbo is on a mission to help proactively prevent harm in the digital age, through technology, tools, and education. I'm Kathryn Kosmides, the founder and CEO of Garbo and your host for each episode. In the interest of safety, I want to provide a content warning for listeners as we do discuss some hard subjects in each episode. So please use your own discretion when listening, you can learn more about Garbo and our guests by visiting our website at Thank you so much for being here and listening to this episode.

Ashley Rumschlag is the president and executive director of Theresa's Fund, which runs She originally joined the organization in 2017 as vice president of digital services after over a decade in the hospitality industry where she focused on growing membership bases and leveraging technology to improve client experiences. Her work for the organization includes helping launch the Purple Ribbon Awards, creating a webinar series for domestic violence professionals and a Facebook group, and a variety of website enhancements for survivors. She is a trained domestic violence advocate and supports victims and survivors who reach out to For Ashley, the best part of working with this organization is the opportunity to solve problems that otherwise might not be solved for domestic violence survivors.

KATHRYN: Can you tell us more about and how it came to be a part of Theresa's Fund?

ASHLEY: Sure, certainly. So Theresa's Fund is actually celebrating 30 years this year. It was started in 1992 as a family foundation by the McMurray family to really build capacity for domestic violence programs throughout the state of Arizona. They raised millions and millions of dollars, helped build more shelter beds, shelter space, and capacity. They did that work for many, many years. And then in 2014, the organization took a big pivot and decided that there were some other issues out there that weren't being solved and the one that they decided to tackle was this idea that there wasn't one place people could go online and find their domestic violence program. So, they worked initially with NCADV to get things off the ground. And then since we've become our own entity. So in 2014, they took a pivot and launched which was the website that helps people find the resources that they need. And not only a searchable database, because we know that that's a really key part of what people were missing and looking for, because many times they turn to Google as they often do, and they would find the information they actually needed was kind of buried down on the website. So buried down on the search results page. But, from there we knew that we had to do more than just, create the searchable database. We had to create content. And so, that's what Domestic Shelters does. We also provide educational opportunities for domestic violence victims and survivors, as well as domestic violence professionals. We're really focusing on those core groups to make a difference.

KATHRYN: It's so needed. I think what's unique about what you guys have built is it comes from seeing a need, right? Seeing a hole in the space and filling that hole with something super valuable for individuals. Even when I was going through–which I'm still going through–in my own experience, Domestic Shelters was a resource I used. And I often refer people to it because it's so easy and transparent for folks to utilize. So, for anyone who may not know, can you talk a little bit about what a domestic violence shelter is and what they offer for domestic violence victims? And so, why would someone utilize your site and what would they get out of it?

ASHLEY: Yeah, absolutely. So as I kind of mentioned, we are an online resource. We don't provide any direct services. We really try to focus on that sector of education and helping people to find out what domestic violence is and that there is help out there. So in that vein, over and over again on the site, you'll see us recommending people to reach out to their local domestic violence program or shelter. What happens when someone, recognizes that they're being abused and decides that it's time to make a change, or just they want to reach out to someone and start to involve someone else in that process and open up about what's happening to them, they're gonna find an advocate. So, a domestic violence advocate is someone that can help them to really understand what they're going through. They're someone that they can talk to, be open about experiences, but then they're also going to be a great person to connect them with resources in their community. So it's going to be legal assistance. It's going to be–if they're experiencing financial hardship–what food banks are in the area, what housing assistance programs. So if they decide to go to an actual shelter and utilize the space, to live in for a short period of time. It's not just that though, if people are just looking for support services, they can reach out to domestic violence programs and they are really connected in the community and can make sure that a person has the help that they need to take the next step that they choose to take.

KATHRYN: I think that is empowering that person with information and choices. I think that's a big thing about domestic violence is every situation is so different, so unique, and we can't blanket resources available to survivors. So giving them all of this information, this education, and those local resources, I think is so critical.

ASHLEY: You said it so well with the word “empowering’ because that's really what they do because you take someone that's completely stripped of all of the decision making in their life–someone else is controlling every aspect of their life–and to give them back just a little bit of their control over their own lives. And so, that's really what a domestic violence program is there to do, just to be that support system.

KATHRYN: That's great. And, what brought you into this line of work? It's very challenging. And so, what keeps you in it? What makes it rewarding? What keeps you going, as well?

ASHLEY: Yeah, it's definitely not something that I set out to do. As you kind of shared in my bio, I have a background in hospitality. And I was really looking for a space where I could help people. And the more I started to unravel and unpack this issue of domestic violence there are so many causes out there that you can support and that you can work to help other people. But this was so unique And so misunderstood. And it's so complicated in the way that it manifests itself in society, that I knew that it was a really big challenge. And anyone that's experienced domestic violence like yourself knows that there's the big challenge of being believed in and believing it yourself. There's so many obstacles. And so, I saw it as a really big challenge to enter this space and work for an organization that was solving issues that no one else had the resources to tackle yet. So there are a lot of other organizations out there too that do this work, but I really like the way that leverages technology and things of that nature to really solve issues that people need solved because it's a matter of life and death for so many people. So just the importance of the issue, the challenge of the complexities of it, those are things that kind of draw me in and keep it really challenging. And then of course, when you get those emails and those calls and have those conversations like we had, several weeks ago when I hear the way that people use the resource, it's obviously so rewarding because people don't wake up knowing all about domestic violence. Most people don't know anything about it until it's happening to them or years after it happened to them. So, to be able to provide that resource is really rewarding.

KATHRYN: That's amazing. And, one thing that you said there is it's so misunderstood and a lot of people tend to simplify it, right? The idea is often portrayed in the media of physical violence only and it's often a man hitting a woman partner. So, to start off this conversation, to level set things, can you give us a brief definition or explanation of what is domestic violence at its core?

ASHLEY: By the book definition–I'll do my best to recite it–it's a pattern of power and control. A pattern of someone exerting power and control over another person. It's as simple as that. So, like you said, it's typically portrayed as physical violence. And even the term domestic violence is very misleading–I prefer domestic abuse–because it's more telling of abusive behaviors, which people can start to draw that line between the belittling, and the gaslighting, and the verbal abuse, all those other types of abuse that are so pervasive And so, effective, unfortunately, in keeping the power and control dynamic in the abuser's favor.

KATHRYN: I think that the most important definition of domestic violence. It is that power and control definition, right? We'll often hear different versions of what is domestic violence or domestic abuse, as you said, but it is about this pattern of power and control over another person. I don't know if you watch “Euphoria” or these other shows that often start to glamorize domestic violence or you hear a lot of people throwing around, “Oh, he's a narcissist.” or “It's love bombing or gaslighting.”, these terms that are very heavy to survivors who have really experienced these things, but they're kind of just being thrown around very loosely now. So what is domestic violence not, on the flip side? Or how is it being sensationalized even by the media?

ASHLEY: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think to me obviously the fact that people know those words and hopefully dig deeper to understand the actual definitions of gaslighting, and love bombing, and things like that are really important. But, I think that the real question is more so, like you said, what is domestic violence not? Really what we wanna make sure of is that people recognize the subtleties of abuse, because what happens is people discount it as abuse or survivors and victims discount it, their families and friends discount it. And that's one of those things I'd rather people think that they're being abused and realize that they're not, because they're at least being aware and being awake to what's happening to them versus feeling as though it doesn't apply to them because that's so often the kind of feedback you get from someone who's experiencing signs of abuse is that, “Well, it's so much worse than what I I say domestic violence is.” So, for example, someone that goes home and they just are uncomfortable with their partner or they just fear their partner. They feel like they're walking on eggshells, but he doesn't hit her or him? So it's one of those things that people kind of start to discount in their minds. And they decide that, “Well, it's not as bad as the person that I saw on TV that was bloody to foam.”

KATHRYN: They minimize it.

ASHLEY: Yeah, Absolutely. It's always not as bad as that other person.

KATHRYN: And I think that's where we're seeing a lot of online abuse in these other forms–emotional abuse–come into play. Which are domestic abuse, domestic violence. But I think we've been taught to say, “Oh, that's not domestic abuse”, right? Especially when you look at older generations and you're talking to them and they'll say, “Oh, that's just life or how you have to deal with it.” And it's like, “No, this is domestic abuse. This is not good.”

ASHLEY: I think what that stems from is this idea that for so many decades—and I think we're still recovering from this— is that domestic violence was considered to be a family issue. It was something that was to be dealt with behind closed doors, and it was not the responsibility of the community to step in, protect the person who was being abused. And so, that I think really plays into the societal reaction of domestic abuse and what domestic abuse and domestic violence are, are these years, decades, hundreds and centuries of people saying that, “Well if a husband hits a wife” or “A husband controls every aspect of a wife's life, that's just a family issue, that's just the way that their relationship is. And that's none of my business.” which could not be further from the truth because as studies have shown, domestic violence costs—I dunno this set offhand, so I don't wanna get too far off but,— it's in the billions of dollars every year of costs and medical bills and loss productivity. So there is a monetary cost to domestic violence that is experienced throughout the US regardless of if someone's experiencing it themselves or if it's someone that they know. So it's very pervasive.

KATHRYN: Hugely pervasive. And I was actually just chatting with someone yesterday. We were talking about how workplaces had the same opinion that domestic violence is a family issue. And if someone you background check before pre-employment and they have a domestic violence charge on their record, oftentimes companies will just disregard that completely and say, “That's a family issue, that's not ours to deal with.” And we've seen this pattern that we know that people don't just commit bad acts, right? It's about power and control. And so, how can these abusers assert power and control in other ways in the workplace, right? So you see sexual harassment happening, you see all of these other things like fraud happening by people who have to obtain this power and control over another person, over another company, etc. And so, this idea that domestic violence is just a family issue and we should not think about it in the context of society is crazy, but the ways in which society have framed domestic violence, especially in the media, right now is insane. So I'm sure that you've seen the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial, or at least the clips on social media, which are just insane to me, and the ticks being created and all of these things around this defamation case, which I feel like has so many survivors quaking in their boots, so scared to go forward because of what has happened and how media continues to portray survivors. Like how do you think that this is? The media attention, like you mentioned, at least people know what love bombing and gaslighting is, and they're finding these terms, but on the flip side, what is the bad side of the media and portraying domestic violence simultaneously?

ASHLEY: It's a really, really tough subject to talk about because we don't have all the facts. A ruling hasn't been given by the judge. I think opening remarks are coming up soon, or closing remarks, but what it does is just like you said, it does two things. One of them could be considered positive and one of them is very negative. The positive thing is because Johnny Depp is being seen as being abused to some. It is emboldening male survivors who would otherwise not feel comfortable coming forward. So, whether or not the truth of the facts and what truly happens in that situation, that could potentially be a positive. I have a hard time really saying that with a lot of confidence because the majority of people abused typically are women. And there is a little concern on how that will be used by men, who could potentially be the abuser. But, on the really obviously negative side of it, it's just this idea, the way that she is being dragged through the mud and being called “crazy” and being just torn apart. We've seen many, many survivors commenting. We operate a Facebook group, for survivors. And that's really been one of the biggest kinds of feedback. According to that–one it's very triggering to watch those clips. But also that I don't wanna come forward because I do not wanna end up like that. I don't want my reputation and my name being drugged through the mud, and I don't want to go through the trauma that she's going through of having to relive all the horrific details of what she experienced, only to be told that it didn't really happen. And she's lying. So it's really tough. So there's a lot of different ways to look at it. We actually just commented on an article on the idea of mutual abuse, because that's another term that's being thrown out there a lot. And really it's hard to say it really exists because the whole idea that domestic abuse is all about power and control over one individual. So it's really hard to kind of fathom this idea that both people would be holding power and control over each other because logically that just isn't possible. So that's another term that is being thrown around and we really hope people will research them and look into them to understand what they really are and not just make their own assumptions.

KATHRYN: You said so many great things there, and I think the one of it is of survivors being so scared to come forward, right? I have my own civil suit case and I have been doing a lot of reflecting based on what I've seen here, and it's like, “Oh shit. This is not gonna be fun.” I have a very challenging road ahead of me, not because of the case itself and the facts of the case, it's this portrayal by the media and outside observers and the fact that I think a lot of DARVO is being used here. And I think that's a term that a lot of people are not super familiar with. And so, can you talk a little bit about what DARVO is and how it's used by abusers?

ASHLEY: To be honest, I don't know that that's something I'm super familiar with. Perhaps you can fill me in a little bit more.

KATHRYN: Yeah. So this is a really interesting strategy. It's DARVO and it stands for “deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender”. So you're gonna deny the fact that it ever happens straight out. Trump uses this tactic, right? A bunch of offenders use this tactic, and then you're going to attack them. Attack their character, attack their stories, their truthfulness–anything, which if successful, it reverses the victim and offender. Now they're the bad person. And I think this is where you start to get that mutual abuse coming in is like, “No, she triggered him” or “She did it too” and they're reversing the order of it and it's this tactic that's used by abusers. I swear they all have the same playbook. What I say is like, “They stumble across this playbook.” And I'll be like, “I know it's gonna happen next”, and it's gonna be DARVOing someone. And I just see it so much in the horse and pony show of the trial, right? You see the clips of the laughing, the snickering remarks, and the winking, and weren't there like alpacas out front or what? I don't know. I can't keep up with all of this facade, this this DARVOing methodology at its extremes. I've never seen it done to this length and it's crazy to me that people are—again, we don't know the facts, all of the facts, we don't have a ruling on the case, etc.—but the fact that it's being manipulated on social media so much and these clips, etc. It's just crazy to me. It's just crazy.

ASHLEY: And to your point about, the abuser playbook, that's one of the things that is really important to talk about is that these tactics they seem to all find out about it, but those that didn't are now like, “Oh, this is a really good idea.” And they're taking this idea of what Johnny Depp is doing or allegedly doing, because obviously we don't know all the facts, and what the actual realities of what happened are. But that's really big. And there's so many issues with the court system and domestic violence, not to veer off in a different direction, but there's this idea, in the child custody courts, so not just in just the civil courts, but also in the family courts where abusers will claim this thing called parental alienation that has been debunked by all the experts. That's not an actual diagnosis. And the second that a woman accuses the father of being an abuser, their lawyer lawyer will sometimes use parental alienation theory to discredit her and to basically end up, even though there's evidence of abuse, he will walk away with the children because she is alienating them from their father. She is manipulating the children. It's just not true, but it works. And so, people use it over and over again. So there are a lot of these little workaround strategies that people are well aware of, especially the attorneys that represent abusers. And it's really disheartening because in the end, no one wins because the abuser is gonna just keep abusing. They're never gonna be happy with what they're after. There's no end game for them. And, the survivor, they lose their children, or in this case, if there's no children, they kind of lose their reputation. So it's really, really disheartening to watch.

KATHRYN: It is. But how do we flip it, right? How do we use our voices as people who know domestic violence deeply to shift this narrative in public perception? Is it conversations like this? Is it publishing all of the content that you guys published to try and bring transparency to it? How do we use this moment to change the conversation?

ASHLEY: Yeah, I think what it really comes down to and it seems so simple, but it's the education piece. I say that because that's really where we try to focus because when people really understand the true definition of love bombing, mutual abuse, gaslighting, all these different terms, and they really start to unpack what is domestic violence and why didn't she just leave though, those kinds of questions that are on people's minds instead of making an assumption and using the age old thing of, “Well, if it were me I would've done X, Y, and Z.” Well, it wasn't you and you never know what you're going to do in a specific situation. So, the more people can just talk about it and be open to that maybe their perceptions and their assumptions are not correct. I think it's really important. I don't think it's necessary for all the onus to go on survivors to carry that torch because they're already carrying so much trauma. But, of course it helps, when people can have those people in their life that have experienced domestic violence and survived break down those stigmas of saying, “Oh, I would've never thought this would've happened to you. You're so tough, you're so strong, how could you have let this happen to you?” And reframe that conversation of “I'm so sorry this happened to you, and that must have been really tough”, so knowing how to have those conversations with people who've experienced abuse, but that interaction and that realization is really powerful when you have someone that you would've never expected come forward. So yeah, we talk about having conversations, things like that. It's kind of a little bit overused in terms of how we solve an issue, but really when you start to break down the misconceptions and understandings, for me working in this field, it's really easy for me to catch those things, but it's just a matter of time for everyone else to bring themselves up to speed.

KATHRYN: So, let's dive into some of those misconceptions about domestic violence. And you said the dreaded question that every survivor gets asked many times I think is, “Why didn't you just leave if it was so bad?” or “You could have just left at any point” and stuff. So what's wrong with this question? And why can't survivors just leave, or break up, or run away from their experiences?

ASHLEY: Yeah. We have an article on our website that's just “50 barriers”, and I know there are so many more. So, I'll just speak to some of the more common ones, which are—I would say the number one—99% of people who've experienced domestic violence experienced financial abuse. So what that may look like many different things that's not just stealing money or things like that. It's also taking out credit cards in people's names, sabotaging them from getting an education so they can get a job, and sabotaging them from having a job. So all these different aspects of financial abuse, but when it comes down to it, the victim does not have any money. Where are they going to go? Some can go to a domestic violence program, but where can they go from there? So there's this aspect of if she does not have any money, she's completely powerless and that's why it's such an effective tactic. So definitely the lack of financial resources is a big one. Another is if there are children involved, where are my children going to go? When they're in a school here, I'm not gonna uproot them from their school and their friends and cause them more trauma to go live in our car for a month until we figure stuff out. So it's the children involved as well. And it's also she loves him, or he loves her, or he loves him. It also comes down to this idea that it's really tough to walk away from someone that you're convinced loves you, even though maybe they don't show it. So, it's really hard to process that, to accept the fact that the person that you've dedicated so much of your emotional effort towards is actually abusing you. It's really hard to accept. So those are just three that popped up and maybe there's more that we can unpack as well, but it's just there are so many different obstacles that come forward.

KATHRYN: I love that you have the 50 plus barriers, because I think that it's never ending, right? It's never ending, the reasons why someone can't leave. And we know that it takes, I think the statistic is seven attempts to leave, right? So it's not like they sit around and like, “Oh, one day I'm gonna make the leap.” No, even in my own situation, I tried to leave many, many times before I was able to finally escape the situation. And so, it's not easy, right? Domestic violence is, like you said, it's complicated, it's nuanced, etc. And so, when you think about the things in which we tell survivors, or just victims, even if they're still experiencing domestic violence, what are some questions or things you should do if someone in your life is experiencing domestic violence and you want to help them, what are some things that you should do and say, and what are some things that you should not do or say?

ASHLEY: The advice that I give to anyone that knows someone's experience and the vice that I follow is very simple. It's to listen without judgment and the reason that is so important is because they are constantly being told they are not good enough. They are constantly told that they always mess up, that they are worthless, and no one will ever love them. Being torn down, over and over again. And one of the most effective tactics of abusers is isolation. That's key in abusers. And so, if you can just listen without judgment and don't give up on them, it's so hard and it's so frustrating. And they will make you wanna pull your hair up because you're like, “Why does she keep doing that?” It's just the nature of it. And if you can be that one person that can be strong enough and to not walk away, even if they disconnect from you because of the isolation, continuing to reach out any way that you can just to say, “Hey, I'm here for you. I hope you're okay.” Tell them how wonderful they are, how much you love them, and that really will make a difference. So that's the biggest advice I can give. And kind of on the contrary to that is to get frustrated with them, and get mad at them, and yell at them, and try to give them tough love. That's another thing I hear people say is like, “I cut them off, I can't handle them doing this anymore.” The abuser is winning in that moment when you decide that you can no longer do it anymore. And it's okay to take breaks and to give yourself space from it for a little bit, but always come back and we've written many articles on this topic about how do you best support someone who's experiencing abuse because it's so important that you do. It's so important that you don't give up and you don't blame them. You don't shame them. You don't make them feel as though they're doing anything wrong or that it's in any way their fault, because that's another thing they're beating themselves up thinking, “This is a hundred percent my fault. I attract this person, I'm the one that's still here.” And to have someone else tell them that that's not true is a game changer in many cases.

KATHRYN: Having someone believe you, even though the situation often seems unbelievable, right? You can't believe this is happening to you or to someone else. And then when you finally tell someone, that person, just like you said, just listening and believing. I think the biggest thing that I've learned in working with victims and survivors—and it came from Eva Galperin in our conversation on season one of the podcast which is titled “What does justice really look like?” And she said, “Just ask the survivor what justice looks like.” What do they want? Don't say, “Oh, you should call a hotline.” “You should go to the shelter.” “Hey, let's midnight move you.” Just stop and ask them what do you need? What do you want to happen? I think it is a huge step.

ASHLEY: Oh, absolutely. I'm so glad that you reiterated that because, like I said, we really encourage people to reach out to their domestic violence program. And even if they don't go to the shelter, that's still a step, something that's available to them. But, we realize that so many people never call those hotlines, never reach out. We try to create that space where those people who will never take those steps can get the information they need without having to talk to someone. And so, that's really one of the key things that we try to accomplish is we encourage people to reach out to people because we know that having that support is helpful, but we also do not discount this person that's not going to do that. There's a different journey for every single person and they need to be able to be supported regardless of their capabilities, their comfort with talking to people because in the end it's all about helping people find safety, rebuild their lives, and be happy. So, that's really what we're all about.

KATHRYN: That's amazing. And, again, that's why I love the resource that you have, is because calling a hotline is very intimidating. Admitting or even telling your friend is very scary of what's actually happening to you. Being able to just have something where you can read in your own time, in your own space, without having to talk to someone and get that information versus those barriers, right? There used to be so many barriers to domestic violence resources and education. By dropping those, we're saying, “Hey, we should all be learning about what domestic violence is, what the early warning signs are, what a healthy relationship and (what) a not healthy relationship is.” And so, as someone from the outside who might think that their friend or family member is experiencing domestic violence or even someone who is in those early stages—I say domestic violence never starts with someone just punching you in the face, right? That just doesn't happen. That's not reality. It starts with small little patterns, like you said, of power, control, pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing boundaries. And so, what are some of those early warning signs of domestic violence or early forms of domestic abuse that folks can keep an eye out for?

ASHLEY: Yes, that's really important because the longer you stay in the relationship, the harder it is to leave. Not just because of your own will, but because of the way that you've been manipulated and your lack of agency over your own life. But, like you said, it's going to start off with a wonderful relationship. They're going to be Prince Charming, they're gonna love all the same things that you love, and they're going to take you out for these wonderful dinners and they're going to just be Prince Charming. But then what happens is—I talked about isolation and I think that's a really big thing to bring up is that they start to say, “You know what, you talk to your mom too much on the phone”, or “Does your sister really need to stop over here? You should tell her not to stop over.” So those little things start to separate you from the people in your life that are your support system, but also just listen to the way that they talk to you. Do they support what you're doing? Are they constantly tearing you down and not really telling you that you're good enough, regardless if you already have some self-esteem issues? But that is a really big indicator. But one thing I always say, and so many people say after the fact, is that I should have trusted my gut. I knew something was wrong and I didn't act on it. You can look at all the individual red flags and break them down. And obviously we have lists of those, but it's really just, do you get to something does not feel right and are you afraid of this person? Do you feel like you're walking on eggshells? Do you feel like you have to constantly change who you are to please this person? So really just maybe less about what they're doing externally, but how you feel internally when you're around this person, to really help you determine if something's not right. And then from there, if any of those spy senses are tingling on that, go to the internet, obviously has a lot of articles about helping you recognize what you're experiencing, but just start to unpack it a little bit more. Talk to someone, keep a journal—that's another really big thing. Write down the things that peak your interest because over time they'll become fuzzy and you'll start to make excuses for that. You’ll start to say, “Well, it was this, this, and this”, but if you keep a running list of all the things that they do that you're not okay with or that raise some red flags, you see them all at once and it's a lot easier to say, “Okay, I need to make a change and this is not healthy.”

KATHRYN: I often say you can't see red flags when you're wearing rose colored glasses, right? When you're in the midst of it. And I think it's so powerful what you said, which is it's less about what they're doing and more about how you are feeling. That's very powerful, right? That reversal of like, “Hey, they could be doing things that society has normalized, for example, but you don't feel okay with that”, you should act on that gut feeling, right? And I often say, “Just because it's not an abusive relationship doesn't mean it's a healthy relationship.” It's a spectrum. And so, it can be a toxic relationship where it's just not healthy, it's not productive, it's starting to veer off on a potentially bad path. And so, we have quizzes on our site as well about early warning signs and early red flags of a relationship and things like that. So, like you said, the longer you're in it, the harder it is to get out of it. As we kind of wrap up this conversation today, that's what I want to end on is: what's next after you experience domestic violence, when you utilize the resource and go to the shelter? What inspiring message can we leave to victims and survivors who are facing domestic violence?

ASHLEY: Yeah, absolutely. Start with this idea that you are not alone, by any means. I mean one in three,—one in four, depending on what stats you kind of look at—people are, women are experiencing domestic abuse and one in four, one in seven men—depending on where you look. So it is very, very common. It is happening a lot. So if you've gone through this experiencing abuse and you are on the other side, you are in a space where you feel safe, again know that there are others out there. And I really think it's important to talk about and make sure people recognize that they've experienced trauma. Even if you didn't go to the hospital with a broken nose, broken bone there was no physical altercation that things that people would say were traumatic. Just living with someone who is exerting power and control over you for months, years, decades, that is trauma and that is deeply ingrained in your body. The best way to heal is to acknowledge that trauma and to seek out different ways to address that. So people obviously think of talk therapy. There's so many different ways that people can address the trauma that they've experienced, but it's really important that people acknowledge it, so that they can start to move forward. Because if you do not acknowledge it and do not address it and do not do anything about it, the abuser will continue to win because they will, without you maybe even knowing, will be still controlling you through the trauma that they gave you.

KATHRYN: It just gave me chills. So powerful, so necessary. Such an inspiring message, I think to those who have experienced domestic violence or to those who know someone who has, and allowing that survivor to have space, take up space, process, not shove it down and forget about it. “Move on.” “You're beyond that.” “Oh, you escaped.” It's like, “No, listen and heal and begin again.”

ASHLEY: Yeah, absolutely. There is definitely a lot of work to be done and it's not something that happens overnight, so give it time too. And don't compare your journey to anyone else's. If you maybe read a survivor's story and it took them three years to go back and be able to heal what they were experiencing, it may take you ten. So don't compare your experience to other people’s because everyone's so different. So it's really important that you give it the time that you need.

We hope you enjoyed this conversation. If you're interested in learning more about the topics discussed in this episode or about our guests, visit our website at Now available: Garbo's new kind of online background check makes it easy to see if someone in your life has a history of causing harm while balancing privacy and protection in the digital age. This episode was produced by Imani Nichols, with whisper and mutter. I'm Kathryn Kosmides and I look forward to having you join us for the next episode of Reckoning.

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