What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence takes many forms, and can happen once in a while or all the time. Every situation is different, but generally it is described as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner.
Types of Domestic Violence
- Physical abuse: hitting, slapping, punching, biting, grabbing, strangling. Can also include denial of medical care or forcing the use of drugs/alcohol on the partner.
- Sexual abuse: coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating someone in a sexually demanding way.
- Emotional/Psychological abuse: undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth or self-esteem (constant criticism, name-calling, damaging one’s relationships with their children, etc.), intimidation, threats, destruction of property, or forced isolation.
- Economic abuse: making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining control over financial resources, withholding money, or forbidding one’s attendance at school or employment.
If you think you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, there are multiple assessment tools you can use to assess the level of risk you or someone else is in.
I think I’m experiencing abuse. What should I do?
There is no correct way to respond to abuse, and it’s important to remember that you are never to blame for the abusive actions of others. The person abusing you is solely responsible for their behavior, and there are several steps you can take to protect yourself both in the short-term and long-term.
Safety Planning while Living with your Abuser
If you decide that leaving is not the right decision for you right now, there are still ways to safety plan:
- Document the abuse as it occurs (writing down details, taking photos of physical injuries, etc.) where your abuser will not be able to see it.
- Avoid areas without exits or where dangerous objects are stored (such as the kitchen) if you feel abuse is about to occur.
- Tell someone you trust about your situation, and establish a code of some sort to indicate when you need their support. This may look like texting your sister “I need lemons from the store” when you are afraid your partner is going to be physically violent so she can come pick you up.
- Try to save up some extra money that your abuser does not know about and keep it nearby at all times, especially if you are experiencing financial abuse.
- Call your local domestic violence crisis line if you need someone to talk to about your situation (Alamance County: Family Abuse Services, 336-226-5985).
- Create a safety plan (see below) in case you do decide you’re able to leave.
Safety Planning while Leaving
Although you do not have control over your partner’s violence, you do have a choice about how to respond to him/her and how to best get yourself and your children to safety. For more detailed & personalized safety planning, please contact your local domestic violence agency (Alamance County: Family Abuse Services, 336-226-5985).
- Consider who you will call if you decide to leave, as well as where you will go.
- Practice how you would leave, including how you would keep your children safe during the process.
- Keep a list of important phone numbers, such as the crisis line for your local domestic violence agency.
- Put together a bag of items you use every day and keep it hidden or at someone else’s residence.
- When you are ready to leave, make sure you have a bag of the following items:
- Social Security cards
- Insurance papers
- Children’s records
- School records
- Address book
- Extra clothng
- Birth certificates
- Medical records
- Important personal items & items of special value (i.e. jewelry)