Protecting Yourself Against Domestic Violence

Protecting Yourself Against Domestic Violence

 

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is physical, sexual or emotional assault performed by one person in a relationship against the other partner. Typically the partners live together, which makes the situation more difficult to escape from. Domestic violence occurs all over the world and can affect people of any age, race, gender or sexual orientation.

The range and forms of domestic abuse vary. Some relationships involve only verbal and emotional abuse, while others involve extreme physical or sexual assault. Any form of abuse or violence, including verbal, is traumatic and can impact the victim’s life negatively.

 

Recognizing the signs of violence:

It’s not always obvious that a partner will become violent or abusive. At first, the abusive partner might seem calm, charming and loving. But then “red flags” will begin to appear as the abusive partner becomes obsessed with controlling their partner and holding power over them.

Early signs that someone may become domestically violent include:

  • Jealousy of other relationships (e.g., friends, family, coworkers);
  • Attempts to control (e.g., wanting to control their partner’s finances or physical appearance, insisting that they be able to read their partner’s private text messages or emails);
  • Use of demeaning language or trying to embarrass their partner in private or in front of others;
  • Behaves charming and polite in public, but becomes aggressive and angry in private
  • Abusive to animals

After a violent episode, the abuser may apologize profusely and claim that love is the driving force of their actions. Abusers often psychologically manipulate their partners into being too afraid to leave, into having low self-esteem and thinking no one else will want them, or into blaming themselves for the violence.

This abusive behavior will only increase as time goes on. In some cases, physical assault escalates so much that the result is serious injury or death.

 

Why do people stay in domestically violent relationships?

Some people will stay in relationships that involve domestic violence despite the physical and emotional trauma. Reasons include, but are not limited to:

  • Reluctance to split up their family
  • Inability to support themselves or their children financially without the partner
  • Afraid that the violence will increase if they try to leave
  • Fearful that the partner will retaliate against their children or other family members
  • Lack of support or assistance outside the relationship
  • Genuine love and care for the partner
  • Hope that the situation is temporary and that it will get better with time

 

What to do if you’re a victim of domestic violence:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends coming up with a Safety Plan for yourself and any children involved, if you are currently in an abusive relationship or living with a violent partner. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 to receive confidential help creating a unique safety plan for your situation.

Call: 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). The National Domestic Violence Hotline website also provides live chat services from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. central time.

 

Here are some things they suggest for a Safety Plan:

  • Make sure you (and any children), know where all the phones in the house are, and know emergency numbers to call. This includes: neighbours, family, friends, medical assistance and the police. Write the numbers down on cards for yourself and your children, or keep them somewhere easy to access.
  • Plan escape routes from the house and take note of the rooms that would keep you trapped. In times of violence try to stay in rooms with escape routes.
  • Pay attention to your partner’s triggers. Do they get violent when they are stressed, drinking or using drugs? Plan accordingly for yourself or your children. Have your children stay with friends if you know your partner is stressed or in a mood to abuse substances.
  • It may be extremely difficult, but tell your family and friends about the situation you are in. It is important to have support from people close to you, especially in emergencies.
  • Have a plan for where you could go if you had to leave. Consider: friends, family, neighbours, co-workers, hostels, crisis centers or women’s shelters.
  • Keep weapons as inaccessible as possible.
  • Keep a “go” bag with essential items: passports, birth certificates, money, spare clothing etc.
  • Document and photograph evidence of your abuse. You may need to show this to police or in court one day.

 

Escaping domestic violence:

Removing yourself and any children from domestic violence will ensure a safer, healthier and happier future. But getting out of a domestically violent situation can be difficult and dangerous. It’s likely that the abusive partner will want to re-establish control when they realize their partner has left. Careful planning is required to keep everyone as safe as possible.

When it comes to domestic violence, the more people who know your situation, the better. These people can watch out for you and provide shelter for you.

Make sure you have a safe place to stay. Once you’re moved in, keep the doors locked and don’t leave a spare key outside. If the building has security, alert them to the situation.

Involve the authorities if you are afraid for yourself and your children’s safety. Read the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s article on Reporting to the Police: Options & Tips for Being Prepared.

Consider filing for a restraining order and suing for custody of your children. Visit WomensLaw.org to learn more about your state’s child custody laws. Contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline for advice, they may be able to help you find legal help in your area. Also read Building Your Case: How to Document Abuse on their website.

 

Online Resources:

If you have been the victim of domestic violence, it is important to know that you are not alone and you have a vast online community of resources and support.

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
800-537-2238 | www.nrcdv.org and www.vawnet.org

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
855-NIWRC-99/406-477-3896 | www.niwrc.org

Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody
800-52PEACE (527-3423) | www.ncjfcj.org

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
312-726-7020 x2011 | www.nationalcenterdvtraumamh.org



 

Local Resources:

In our area, there are two shelters that are available to serve and provide support for victims of violence or sexual assault.

Shelter House is a non-profit center serving domestic and sexual violence victims and survivors in Okaloosa and Walton counties

www.shelterhousenwfl.org

850-863-4777

850-226-2027

Favor House of Northwest Florida

www.favorhouse.org

850-434-1177

 

If you have been involved in domestic violence or know someone who has, and would like to speak to a therapist, contact us at Family & Child Development – we are here to help you.