Abuse Victim Support
& Domestic Violence
Abuse effects us all
We all must be part of the solution
1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence from an intimate partner
An average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States - more than 12 million women and men over the course of a single year.
Everyone knows someone affected - a family member, a neighbor, a coworker, a friend. Abuse affects us all, and we all must be part of the solution.
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Recognizing abuse is the first step
Domestic violence stems from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abusive people believe they have the right to control and restrict their partner's lives, often either because they believe their own feelings and needs should be the priority in the relationship, or because they enjoy exerting the power that such abuse gives them.
Common signs of abusive behavior:
One or two of these behaviors in a relationship can be a red flag that abuse may be present.
Telling you that you never do anything right.
Showing extreme jealousy of your friends or time spent away from them.
Preventing or discouraging you from spending time with friends, family members, or peers.
Insulting, demeaning, or shaming you, especially in front of other people.
Preventing you from making your own decisions, including about working or attending school.
Controlling finances in the household without discussion, including taking your money or refusing to provide money for necessary expenses.
Pressuring you to have sex or perform sexual acts you're not comfortable with.
Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol.
Intimidating you through threatening looks or actions.
Insulting your parents or threatening to harm or take away your children or pets.
Intimidating you with weapons like guns, knives, bats, or mace.
Destroying your belongings or your home.
You deserve a healthy relationship
No one ever deserves to experience abuse
When you're at the start of a new relationship, it's not always easy to tell if the person is an abuser. Many abusive people appear like they are the perfect partner early on and the abusive warning signs don't appear overnight. It can be something that may emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.
This is one of the many factors making the situation complex and challenging. You've built a relationship, invested time, feelings, money... you may turn a blind eye, make excuses, or find some justification. There is no justification for abuse.
Why people stay
It's not as easy as just walking away
Abusive relationships are extremely complex situations and it takes a lot of courage to leave. Leaving is often the most dangerous period of time for a survivor of abuse.
Abuse is about power and control. When a survivor leaves their abusive relationship, the abuser feels that control threatened and may cause retaliation in harmful ways.
Beyond physical risk, there are countless reasons people stay.
No matter the circumstances, survivors deserve to be supported
A person will likely be afraid of the consequences if they decide to leave their relationship. This can be of their partner's actions or concern over their own ability to be independent.
If someone grew up in an environment where abuse was common, they may not know what a healthy relationship looks like. As a result, they may not recognize their partner's behaviors are unhealthy or abusive. To them, it's normal.
Many factors can contribute to someone feeling shameful of their abuse and may be difficult to admit. They may feel they've done something wrong, deserve the abuse, or that it's a sign of weakness.
A survivor may be intimidated into staying in a relationship by verbal and/or physical threats. There can be threats of retaliation such as sharing secrets or confidential details including revenge porn, or outing someone LGBTQ+ who has not yet come out themselves.
Abusive behaviors can take a toll on both physical and mental well-being. After experiencing verbal abuse or blame for physical abuse, it is easy to believe that they're at fault.
Lack of Resources
Survivors may be dependent on their abusive partner. They may lack financial resources, been denied opportunities to work, have a place to sleep, language assistance, or a supportive network to turn to during moments of crisis.
People who are undocumented may fear that reporting abuse will affect their immigration status. If they have limited English proficiency, these concerns can be amplified by a confusing legal system and inability to express their circumstances to others.
Customs, traditions, or beliefs may influence someone's decision to stay in an abusive situation, whether held by the survivor, or by their family and community.
When the person has had children with the abusive partner, they may feel guilty or responsible for disrupting their familial unit. It may also be used by the abuser as a tactic to guilt or manipulate the survivor into staying.
Abuse often forms over a period of time, during which the survivor builds feelings of genuine care for a partner. Even when the partner is causing them harm, the survivor often may still have strong, intimate feelings. They may also maintain hope that their partner will return to being more like they were at the beginning of the relationship.
No matter the reason, leaving any relationship can be difficult.
In an abusive situation it can feel impossible without the right access to support.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, our REACH Center can help provide support and work with other agencies to help.
Plan for Safety
You are not alone
You are never to blame for the abusive actions of others. Planning for safety, whether it be an exit strategy or building a supportive system to be safe, is a great first step.
You always have options. Our REACH Center is available 24/7 to help in a crisis or to help discuss your situation.
Have a plan to stay safe.
Violence can escalate when someone tries to leave an abusive relationship. Here are some important things to plan for and keep in mind before, during, and after making this important decision.
Preparing to Leave
If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Keep a document of your visit, and all evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures of injuries.
Keep a record of all violent incidences, with dates, events, and threats made, if possible.
Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them, such as a room with a lock or a friend's house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
Try to set money aside or ask friends and/or family members to hold or lend you money.
Contact your local shelter and/or victim advocacy center for assistance.
When You Leave
Important things to bring with you when you are leaving:
Your own and children's birth certificates
Social security cards
Financial information, Checking/savings account, Credit cards
Order of protection
Copies of lease, or the deed to your home
Car registration and insurance papers
Health and life insurance papers
Medical records for you and your children
Work permits/green card/visa/passport
Local police and/or sheriff's dept.
Local domestic violence program/shelter
Friends, relatives and family members
Local doctor's office and hospital
County and/or District Attorney's office
Extra set of house and car keys
Pay-as-you-go cell phone/new phone
Any evidence you have been collecting to show the abuse
Few things you want to keep like photographs, jewelry or other personal items
After You Leave
Your safety plan should include ways to ensure your continued safety after leaving an abusive relationship.
Here are some safety precautions to consider:
Change your locks and phone number
Change the route taken to transport children to school
If you have a restraining order:
Keep a certified copy of it with you at all times and inform friends, neighbors, school authorities, and employers that you have a restraining order in effect
Consider renting a post office box
Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports and be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number
Reschedule all appointments for yourself and/or your children that the offender is aware of
Inform people who take care of your children or drive them/pick them up from school and other activities
Create your own safety plan
An interactive guide
The National Domestic Violence Hotline has an online interactive tool for creating your own safety plan.
The interactive guide requires you to enter information into the form. Before you begin be sure the computer you are using is in a safe location and not being monitored by your partner.
Supporting Friends & Family
A little help can go a long way
Watching someone endure an abusive situation can be difficult and it's not always clear how best to respond when you see warning signs of abuse.
When it's someone you care about, you may want to "save them" and it may be hard to understand why they stay. There are many emotional and material ways you can support someone.
Relationship abuse is traumatic. People in any stage of an abusive relationship may need support to navigate the complex emotions and next steps.
Acknowledge that their situation is difficult, scary, and brave of them to regain control.
Not judging their decisions and refusing to criticize them or guilt them over a choice they make.
Remembering that you can not "save them", it is up to you to support them. Decisions about their lives are up to them to make.
While challenging, not speaking poorly of the abusive partner. Remember, they may blame themselves or still have feelings of love for that person. They may be defensive and/or start making excuses for their partner.
Help them create a safety plan. They may not know where to begin or how to process their thoughts or feelings.
Continuing to be supportive of them if they do end the relationship and are understandably lonely, upset, or return to their abusive partner.
Offering to go with them to any service provider or legal setting for moral support.
In addition to mental and physical tolls an abusive relationship has, the survivor may also be financially dependent or otherwise lack access to material resources.
Help them identify a support network to assist with physical needs like housing, food, healthcare, and mobility.
Help them store important documents or a "to-go bag" in case of an emergency situation.
Encourage them to participate in activities outside of their relationship with friends and family and be there to support them.
Encourage them to talk to people who can provide further help and guidance, such as our REACH Center.
Don't post information about them on social media that could be used to identify them or where they spend time.
If they give you permission, help document instances of domestic violence in their life, including pictures of injuries, exact transcripts of interactions, and notes on a calendar of dates that instances occur.