Many people believe that intimate partner violence (also called domestic violence) is a concern. But they still don't understand the full scope of the problem.
The CDC defines intimate partner violence as real or threatened physical or sexual violence, or psychological and emotional abuse, directed at a current or former spouse, current or former boyfriend or girlfriend, or dating partner. Intimate partner violence can happen among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.
An abusive relationship often develops slowly. It may not be easy to identify abuse. It may not be obvious. Early signs may include:
A history of violent reaction or abuse
Verbal or emotional abuse.
Other signs of an abusive relationship include:
Having to ask your partner for permission to make decisions
Being denied access to economic support such as cash or credit cards
Having to limit time with your family or friends because your partner demands it
Giving in to sex against your will
If you are a victim of domestic violence, or know someone who is, these suggestions may help.
Anyone in an abusive situation knows that trying to get out of the situation can be hard and even dangerous. This doesn't mean that you don't have choices. First, contact your local domestic violence organization or the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It provides crisis intervention, information, and referrals to local organizations.
A safety plan is a list of things you can do to help increase safety for you and your children. For example, identify areas in the house that are safe. These are areas where there are no weapons and where you can go during an argument. Always keep your cell phone nearby, so that you can call for help. Have important numbers on speed dial. Or memorize them. Let neighbors or friends you trust know about the situation. And come up with visual or verbal signals you can use with them. Use these signals to tell them that abuse is happening and you need them to call the police.
Changing or leaving an abusive situation needs careful planning. If you've decided to leave, here are some ways you can get ready:
Tell someone about the abuse. Know where you can get help and who can help you.
Find out about your rights. Learn about state laws that protect women. Also find local resources such as battered women's shelters. Ask for help in getting ready to leave.
Keep important documents together in a safe place in your home or in the home of someone you can trust. These documents include extra checks, credit cards, address book, identification cards, birth certificates, and documents of abuse. If you have children, include copies of their important documents as well.
Put aside money if you can. Also hide an extra set of car keys.
Plan for a quick escape and know where and how you will escape.
You can get a protective order from a court to keep the abusive partner away from your home and work. Ask about victim's advocate support services when you seek the protective order.
Get job skills as you can. This can help you become financially independent.
While there is danger in leaving, it's also dangerous to stay with an abuser. The violence often becomes more frequent and severe over time. You can't stop an abuser's actions. But you can take steps to get out of the abusive situation and start to put your life back on track.
If you need help, call 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233) to speak to a representative from the National Domestic Violence hotline. Help is available 24/7. It's anonymous and confidential.