What to do if you are in an abusive relationship
If you are experiencing any of the warning signs of domestic violence, you may want to seek help.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. While physical injury is the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also dangerous and can be severe.
But remember, the abuse is not your fault and there is help available.
Help Is There For You
There are many different types of groups that want to help and you don’t need to leave your home or your abuser to get help from them. Pick the one(s) that feel right to you.
Listed below are some of the services that domestic violence programs/shelters may offer:
- Support Groups/Individual Counseling
- Restraining Order Information
- Legal Advocacy
- Financial Assistance
- Welfare Advocacy
- Housing Advocacy
- Child Care Assistance
- Job Training
- Child Advocacy
- Leadership Training
- A Safe Place to Stay
Planning For Safety
Without help, domestic violence often continues to get more severe over time. It can sometimes become deadly. To increase your safety:
- Tell others you trust such as friends, family, neighbors and co-workers, what is happening and talk about ways they might be able to help. Establish a code with friends and family so they know when you are in danger. Ask neighbors to call police if signs of violence occur.
- Remove weapons from your household.
- Memorize emergency numbers for the local police (such as 911), support persons and crisis hotlines.
- Identify safe places in your house where you can go: rooms without knives/weapons, rooms with two exits and rooms with phones.
- Identify escape routes and places to go if you need to flee from an unsafe situation quickly.
- Talk with your children about what they should do if a violent incident occurs or if they are afraid.
- Put together an emergency bag with money/ checkbooks, extra car keys, medicine, and important papers such as birth certificates, social security cards, immigration documents, and medical cards. Keep it somewhere safe and accessible, such as with a trusted friend.
- Consider if a protective order is appropriate for you.
- Trust your instincts. If you think you are in immediate danger, you probably are. Get to a safe place as soon as you can.
Safety Planning with Children
Children often witness or hear domestic violence. Remember that it is the abuser’s choice to expose their children to violence. The person being abused is not to be blamed for the violence that is being perpetrated against them. Hold the perpetrator responsible for their actions.
Children need clear guidelines to follow for their protection when faced with a threatening situation. The SAFE checklist below can be an easy reminder for a young child of what to do when a situation is occurring.
Stay out of the fight.
Avoid getting trapped.
Find a phone.
Everyone knows it’s not your fault.
Messages for Children
- You don’t need to keep secrets when you feel scared or sad.
- You are not to blame for the violence in your home.
- Don’t get in the middle of a fight.
- Identify escape routes from the house and where to meet outside.
- Identify an adult you trust and tell when something is happening in your house.
- Violence is not okay.
- It is okay to feel upset with mom and/or dad. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them.
- There are safe places for the person being abused to take you.
- It’s okay to feel mixed up about things.
- It is okay to like your parent and at the same time not like them when they are violent and hurting family members.
- You need to keep yourself safe when one of your parents hurts the other one.
- There are ways to call for help:
- Call the police (911).
- Go to your safe place you have planned about before.
- Go to a neighbor’s home.
- Keep your younger brothers and sisters in a safe place.
Adapted from: Ganley, A., Schuster, S. Domestic Violence: A National Curriculum for protective services. Family violence prevention fund, 1996