Domestic Violence

As many as four million women in this country suffer some kind of violence at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends each year.

Very few will tell anyone - a friend, a relative, a neighbor, or the police. Victims of domestic violence come from all walks of life, all cultures, all income groups, all ages, and all religions. They share feelings of helplessness, isolation, guilt, fear, and shame.

Identifying Abuse

The person you love:

  • Keeps track of all of your time
  • Constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Discourages your relationships with family and friends
  • Prevents you from working or attending school
  • Criticizes you for little things
  • Gets angry easily when drinking or using other drugs
  • Controls all finances and forces you to account in detail for what you spend
  • Humiliates you in front of others
  • Destroys personal property or sentimental items
  • Hits, punches, slaps, kicks, or bites you or the children
  • Uses or threatens to use a weapon against you
  • Threatens to hurt you or the children
  • Forces you to have sex against your will

If you find yourself saying yes to any of these, it's time to get help.

Don't Ignore the Problem

Talk to someone. Part of the abuser's power comes from secrecy. Victims are often ashamed to let anyone know about intimate family problems. Go to a friend or neighbor, or call a domestic violence hotline to talk to a counselor.

Plan ahead and know what you will do if you're attacked again. If you decide to leave, choose a place to go; set aside some money. Put important papers - marriage licenses, birth certificates, checkbooks - in a place where you can get them quickly.

Learn to think independently. Try to plan for the future and set goals for yourself.

What Can You Do

There are no easy answers, but there are things you can do to protect yourself. Call the police. Assault, even by family members, is a crime. The police have information about shelters and other agencies that help victims of domestic violence.

Leave, or have someone come and stay with you. Go to a battered women's shelter - call a crisis hotline in your community or a health center to locate a shelter. If you believe that you, and your children, are in danger - leave immediately.

Get medical attention from your doctor or a hospital emergency room. Ask the staff to photograph your injuries and keep detailed records in case you decide to take legal action.

Contact your family court for information about a civil protection order that does not involve criminal charges or penalties.

If You Have Hurt Someone in Your Family

  • Accept the fact that your violent behavior will destroy your family. Be aware that you break the law when you physically hurt someone.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and get help.
  • When you feel tension building, get away.
  • Work off the angry energy through a walk, a project, or a sport.
  • Call a domestic violence hotline or health center and ask about counseling and support groups for people who batter.

High Costs of Domestic Violence

Men and women who follow their parents' example and use violence to solve conflicts are teaching the same destructive behavior to their children. Jobs can be lost or careers stalled because of injuries, arrests, or harassment. Violence may even result in death.