Each day, there are people of all ages, races and income levels who are harmed by those close to them. If you're being abused, now is the time to plan and prepare for a new life. With information and support, you can begin the journey.
How domestic abuse happens
- Bodily harm may be done to you. It can range from pushing or slapping to broken bones or forced sex.
- Emotional control may isolate you from others. You may be threatened with bodily harm or the loss of your children.
- Verbal insults can damage your belief in yourself. You may be called names, put down, harassed or blamed without cause.
The pattern of abuse
If you're the target of abuse, days or weeks may pass between attacks. But you may recognize a dangerous pattern that repeats:
- The abuser attacks with words or actions.
- The abuser begs forgiveness and may promise to change.
- The abuser starts acting tense, angry or depressed. These are signs that abuse will start again.
Plan for your safety now
You don't deserve to be abused. Prepare now to protect your health and safety:
- Know how to get out of your home in a hurry. Find a back door or window that can provide an exit if needed.
- Decide where to go in an emergency. Learn how to get there without a car. If you have children, make sure they know how to get there if you can't be with them.
- If you trust a neighbor, set up an emergency signal, such as a crooked window blind. Ask the neighbor to call the police if they see this sign.
- Pack an emergency "care package." Include clothing, cash, a set of car keys, any daily medications and important papers (such as birth certificates). Have a trusted friend keep these items for you.
- Locate a safe place to live. A friend's house or a women's shelter may offer refuge until you find a more permanent place.
Seek legal protection
Domestic abuse is against the law, and you have a right to take legal action. Women's shelters or hotlines can help you get started. Here are some options:
- Go on record. File a criminal complaint. Arresting the abuser is often the best way to stop abuse in the future. Or file a voluntary statement, which gives you the option of dropping charges later.
- Get a restraining order. This makes it illegal for your abuser to have contact with you for a certain length of time.
- Consider a no-fault divorce. It allows you to divorce (sometimes without the help of an attorney). Or try a legal separation.
You're not alone
Remember that you are not alone. Look to friends, family, clergy or a therapist for support. Women's shelters and social services can also help. Go online for listings, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.