National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TDD)
Domestic violence is when one person in a relationship purposely hurts another person physically or emotionally. Domestic violence is also called intimate partner violence. People of all races, education levels, and ages experience domestic abuse. In the United States, more than 5 million women are abused by an intimate partner each year. Women also can be abusers, and of course, intimate partner violence also occurs within same-sex couples.
Domestic violence includes:
- Physical abuse like hitting, shoving, kicking, biting, or throwing things
- Emotional Abuse like yelling, controlling what you do, or threatening to cause serious problems for you
- Sexual abuse like forcing you to do something sexual you don't want to do
Here are some key points about domestic and intimate partner violence:
- If you are in immediate danger, you can call 911. It is possible for the police to arrest an abuser and to escort you and your children to a safe place.
- Often, abuse starts as emotional abuse and then becomes physical later. It's important to get help early.
- Your partner may try to make you feel like the abuse is your fault. Remember that you cannot make someone mistreat you. The abuser is responsible for his or her behavior. Abuse can be a way for your partner to try to have control over you.
- Violence can cause serious physical and emotional problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It's important to try to take care of your health. And if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope with abuse, get help.
- There probably will be times when your partner is very kind. Unfortunately, abusers often begin the mistreatment again after these periods of calm. In fact, over time, abuse often gets worse, not better. Even if your partner promises to stop the abuse, make sure to learn about hotlines and other ways to get help for abuse.
- An abusive partner needs to get help from a mental health professional. But even if he or she gets help, the abuse may not stop. Being hurt by someone close to you is awful. Reach out for support from family, friends, and community organizations.
Getting Help for Domestic Abuse
If you are being abused, get help. The longer the abuse goes on, the more damage it can cause. You are not alone. There are people who will believe you and who want to help.
Consider these steps if you are in an abusive situation:
If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or leave.
If you are hurt, go to a local hospital emergency room.
- Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TDD).
The hotline offers help in many languages 24 hours a day, every day. Hotline staff can give you the phone numbers of local shelters and other resources.
- Plan ahead. Violence sometimes gets worse right after leaving, so think about a safe place to go. You can get advice from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
- Review a full checklist of items to take if you leave, such as your marriage license, any children's birth certificates, and money. Put these things somewhere you can get them quickly. Of course, if you are in immediate danger, leave without them.
- Have a cellphone handy. Try not to call for help from your home phone or a shared cellphone since an abuser may be able to trace the numbers. If possible, get a prepaid cellphone or your own cellphone. Some domestic violence shelters offer free cellphones.
- Contact your family court (or domestic violence court, if offered by your state) for information about getting a court order of protection. If you need legal help but don't have much money, your local domestic violence agency may be able to help you find a lawyer who will work for free.
- Create a code word to use with friends and family to let them know you are in danger. If possible, agree on a secret location where they can pick you up.
- If you can, hide an extra set of car keys so you can leave if your partner takes away your keys. When you leave, try to bring any evidence of abuse, like threatening notes from your partner or copies of police reports.
- Reach out to someone you trust â€” a family member, friend, co-worker, or spiritual leader. Look into ways to get emotional help, like a support group or mental health professional.
Domestic violence shelters
Domestic violence shelters can give you and your children temporary housing, food and other basic items, and help finding other assistance. Usually you can stay at a shelter for free. Services may include:
- Individual counseling
- Family counseling
- Support groups
- Job training and help finding work
- Legal help
- Help finding permanent housing
- Childcare and other services for your children
- Help getting financial aid
Transitional housing focuses on giving families a safe space and time to recover from domestic violence. Families live independently, in separate apartments, while they also receive needed services. Services can include:
- Individual counseling
- Family counseling
- Support groups
- Job training
- Help finding affordable, permanent housing
- Legal help
- Childcare and others services for your children
Domestic abuse and children
Children living in a home where there is abuse may overhear adults fighting, see bruises after the abuse is over, or witness the actual abuse. These experience can have serious effects, including:
- Behavior problems and other problems at school
- Feelings of guilt for not being able to stop the abuse
- Depression, anxiety, substance use, and other mental health problems
- Health problems even many years later
In addition, children who see abuse at home are likely to think that abuse is a normal part of relationships. They are more likely than other children to abuse someone or be abused when they grow up. If you are being abused and have children, you can take steps to help them:
- Get help for your children by getting help for yourself. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for information about leaving an abusive situation or taking care of yourself and your children if you are not ready to leave.
- Talk to a health professional, like a pediatrician or a counselor.
- Be supportive and available to listen to your children.
- Make sure children know that the abuse is not their fault.
- Tell children to stay away if you are being hit.
- See if you can find ways to reduce your stress, like getting emotional support from a friend.
Why some women don't leave
People who have never been in an abusive relationship may wonder, "Why doesn't she just leave?" There are many reasons why a woman may stay in an abusive relationship. She may have little or no money and worry about supporting herself and her children. It may be hard for her to contact friends and family who could help her. Or she may feel too frightened, confused, or embarrassed to leave.
If you are in an abusive relationship and are not sure if you are ready to leave, keep in mind that:
- Abuse often gets worse. It may be possible for a partner to change, but it takes work and time. If your partner is blaming you or other factors for his or her behavior, your partner probably is not ready to change.
- You deserve to be safe and happy.
- Even if you are not ready to leave, you can still contact a domestic violence hotline or a local shelter for support, safety planning, and services.
- People want to help. Many services are available at no cost, including childcare, temporary housing, job training, and legal aid.
- You need support. Reach out to people you trust. If a friend or loved one is not leaving an abusive relationship, you may feel frustrated at times. Remember that your friend needs your support.
Domestic Violence Resources
- The Hotline: Information on domestic/dating violence and a 24-hour national hotline: (800) 799-7233
- Safe Horizons: Non-profit organization offers information, resources, and referrals for dating violence, homelessness, sexual abuse, and other issues affecting youth. 24-hour hotline for dating/domestic violence: (800) 621-4673
- Womenshealth.gov: Website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is a robust source of information and resources on domestic and intimate partner violence.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV): Information, support, and advocacy on domestic violence.
- Domestic Violence Safety Plan: Safety Tips for You and Your Family: Brochure from the American Bar Association (PDF).
- See also Dating Violence Tab