What To Do If You’re Experiencing Domestic Abuse

Content Warning: The following article discusses domestic violence in several contexts, including descriptions of violence toward women and children. If you have experienced or witnessed domestic violence and need help, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) is available 24 hours a day.

This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of actions employed by one spouse in an intimate relationship to maintain power and control over another partner.

Domestic violence makes no distinctions. Domestic abuse can affect people of any race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, educational level, or socioeconomic class. This includes actions that physically injure, intimidate, manipulate, or control a partner, or otherwise force them to perform in ways they do not want to, such as physical assault, threats, emotional abuse, or financial control.

Multiple forms of abuse are generally present at the same time in abusive settings, and understanding how these behaviors interact can help you know what to watch for. When we understand what a relationship is and what it entails, we can take actions to receive assistance for ourselves as well as better support others who are experiencing abuse.

Recognize The Signs Of Abuse

Below are some telltale signs that your partner is exhibiting abusive behavior and you should seek help as soon as you’re able to:

  • Insinuating that you never do anything correctly.
  • Excessive jealousy of your friendships or time spent apart from them.
  • Interfering with or discouraging you from spending time with friends, family members, or colleagues.
  • Insulting, degrading, or embarrassing you, especially in public.
  • Preventing you from making your own decisions, such as whether or not to work or attend school.
  • Stealing control of household finances without debate, including taking your money or refusing to supply funds for critical expenses.
  • Pressuring you to have sex or practice sexual behaviors with which you are uncomfortable.
  • Puts you under duress to utilize drugs or alcohol.
  • Frightening you with threatening looks or gestures.
  • Insulting your parenting skills or threatening to hurt or remove your children or pets.
  • Threatening you with weapons such as guns, knives, bats, or mace.
  • Destroying your possessions or your home.

Make A Safety Plan

  • Make a plan to escape out of the house as fast as possible if your partner turns violent. Position yourself near a door from which you can swiftly escape.
  • Make a suitcase and stash it somewhere safe, accessible, and out of sight of your spouse. Clothing for you and your children, medication refills and information, vital paperwork, car keys, photographs, money, and emergency phone numbers should all be kept in it. If you have to leave suddenly, add anything else you might need.
  • Keep the phone numbers for local shelters and resources in a safe place so you can call them quickly if you need them.

Gather Important Documents

According to the National Network To End Domestic Violence, here’s a comprehensive list of all of the important documents you’ll need to collect:

  • Money/cab fare
    • Check book
    • Credit card/ATM card
    • Order of Protection
    • Passport
    • Immigration documents
    • Work permit
    • Public Assistance ID
    • Driver’s license and registration
    • Social Security card
    • Your partner’s Social Security number
    • Medical records
    • Insurance policies
    • Police records
    • Record of violence
    • Children’s school and immunization records
    • Lease
    • Birth certificates
    • Baby’s things (e.g., diapers, formula, medication)
    • Medications
    • Clothing
    • Eyeglasses
    • Family pictures
    • Address book
    • Important telephone numbers
    • Mobile phone and charger

Inform People You Trust About Your Plan

  • If you must speak with the abuser, figure out the safest manner to do so. If you agree to meet, do it in a public place (such as a location with a security guard or police officer), and bring someone with you. Make certain you’re not being followed home. If your partner follows you in the car, drive to a hospital or a fire station and honk your horn continuously.
  • Make a strategy for leaving work safely. Speak with your boss and building security at work, and if feasible, provide a photo of the offender. Give a copy of your Order of Protection to the security guard or receptionist.
  • Teach your children a safety plan, which includes how to contact family, friends, or neighbors if they are abducted and where to go in an emergency. Teach your children to contact 911 if it is safe to do so. Otherwise, save the phone numbers of trusted people in a safe place or on a cell phone, and educate your children on how to call them.
  • Discuss who has the authorization to pick up your children with their schools and childcare providers, as well as other special procedures to protect the children.
  • Inform your neighbors about the abuse and encourage them to contact you if they hear noises coming from your home, such as calling your house, stopping by, or contacting a trustworthy third party, such as a friend, family member, or the police, if it is safe to do so.
  • Discuss with your children how they can keep themselves safe. Learn more about the psychological effects of abuse on children here.

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