Congratulations! You’ve read important information on Domestic Violence.
Throughout the blog, we have learned what domestic violence is, who is affected, its prevalence and impact, and why people batter – in addition to invaluable tips on anger management and other ways to improve ourselves. In this, the last lesson of this blog, we will close by learning how to take action against domestic violence. If you are in an abusive relationship, there are steps you can take to get help. If you are abusing your partner in any way, there are things you can do right now, today, to get help and stop the cycle of abuse. We’ll also discuss things you can do either if you suspect someone close to you is being abused, or if you know someone who is an abuser. The guidelines we’ll outline in this lesson can help you help yourself, and/or others in need.
How To Find Help If You Are Being Abused
As we’ve discussed throughout this course, when you’re being abused either in a relationship, whether or not by an intimate partner, it can be very hard to admit, either to yourself or others that you are being abused, let alone know what to do to get help. Perhaps you’re afraid of what might happen if you leave your partner, or maybe you hope that he or she will change. Whatever your circumstances, remember this: no one deserves to be abused. You deserve to be treated with respect, and to live without fear. Leaving an abusive relationship may be one of the most difficult things you ever do, but you are not alone, and there is help. The following are steps that you can choose to take if you are being abused:
Social Support: Many times, when you are being abused, your partner has isolated you from your family and friends. As a result, you may no longer feel like you have them to rely upon, which can make it even more difficult for you to not only deal with the abuse, but also to make the decision to leave the relationship. You may begin to find support by reaching out to them, regardless of how long it’s been since you last spoke, and you may very well find that they love you and want to help you. If you feel like you have absolutely no one to turn to, for whatever reason, you might consider reaching out to domestic violence hotlines and other services. Hotline operators and service providers are specially trained to offer support and resources, or to simply listen if you need someone to talk to. There are many hotlines, both locally and nationally, that you can call. One that you can call anytime, anywhere in the United States is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
External Support and Services: There are many resources and services available for victims of domestic abuse and their children. One of the first steps you may want to take, to get immediately away from the violence, is to find a shelter near you. One way to do so is by visiting Womenslaw.org for a state-by-state directory of domestic violence shelters, crisis centers, and programs. For a short period of time, domestic violence shelters will provide you with a temporary place to live, as well as your basic necessities and food. Beyond meeting your most basic needs, shelters may also provide assistance through counseling, peer support groups, legal help, health services, and employment programs.
Making a Plan: If you decide to leave the relationship, start by making a plan. Your plan may include deciding exactly how you’re going to leave, and do so quickly, and where you’re going to go when you leave. You may decide to go to a friend or relative’s house, or to a domestic violence shelter. Wherever you go, it’s a good idea to have an “emergency bag” packed and ready. Fill this bag with the essential items you will need, such as birth certificate, social security card, money, your checkbook, driver’s license, medications, clothing, passport, and medical records. Keep this bag in a safe and accessible place. You may hide it in your home, in your car, or keep it at a friend’s house. You will probably need to rehearse your plan, and become very familiar with it.
What to Do After You Leave: In order to maintain your safety, it may be best to take precautionary measures. If your partner has a key or other access, consider changing the locks on your doors and windows. If you absolutely must remain in contact with your abuser, determine the safest way to do so. Only agree to meet in well-lit, public places, and bring someone with you if at all possible. If your abuser attempts to follow you home, do not go home; instead, drive to the nearest hospital, fire station, or police station, and make your presence known. Another precaution would be to create a plan for leaving work or school, which may involve speaking with your supervisor or a trusted professor, and the on-campus security. If you have children, you might want to consider discussing your circumstances with their teachers and their on-campus security. Make it very clear who has permission to pick up your children from school, and who does not.
Taking Legal Action: Remember that you can always call the police after an incident of domestic violence. After doing so, you may take further legal action by obtaining a temporary no-contact order, which will make it illegal for your abuser to contact you in any way, shape, or form, for a period of time. The next step would be to pursue a more permanent restraining order, which will make it illegal for your abuser to contact or come within a certain perimeter of your person, home, or workplace.
Taking the Necessary Steps to Heal: As we’ve discussed in previous lessons in this course, after you leave an abusive relationship, it can take a long time to heal from the trauma you’ve endured. It may be difficult to sort through your emotions and feelings. You may experience increased anxiety and/or stress. You may find it especially difficult to trust others, or start new relationships. There are many options, including individual therapy and domestic violence victim support groups, that can help you begin to recover, and learn how to avoid abusive partners in the future. Open Path’s therapists offer beneficial services, at steeply reduced rates, that encourage insight, self-reflection, and healthy coping mechanisms. Our therapists furnish a supportive environment, fostering support and understanding. If you are interested in seeing one of our therapists for an affordable rate, you can start your search here.
If You Choose to Stay: If you choose to remain in an abusive relationship, there are still things that you can do to improve your situation and feel safer. Reach out to a domestic violence agency in your area. They can provide emotional support, counseling, emergency housing, peer support groups, and other services while you are in the relationship and afterward, should you choose to leave. You can also begin to get involved with new activities and people. This will allow you to build a support system and create a life for yourself outside of the relationship.
How to Find Help If You Are an Abuser
Changing behaviors and thought patterns of any kind can be an extremely challenging. Learning how to to break the cycle of abusive behaviors can be even more difficult, and very hard to do on your own. However, with the appropriate assistance, you can learn how to do just that: change abusive behaviors and thought patterns, and break the cycle of violence. Learn how to have only healthy relationships with others. If you recognize that you have engaged in abuse toward another person, either once or several times, and wish to change, try following these guidelines:
Accept Responsibility: One of the first and most important steps in changing is to accept that you, and only you, are responsible for your actions. You must stop making excuses for your behavior. Stop blaming others. You must recognize that abusing is a choice. Once you have done so, you can begin to identify exactly what triggers your attitudes and behaviors, and start to make real, positive changes.
Take Recovery-Focused Action: Many domestic violence hotlines provide support for both victims and those who abuse them. Anger management courses and drug and alcohol courses are ways to help tackle other issues that may be compounding your abusive behavior. Independently, these courses may not be enough to change your underlying beliefs and attitudes that have influenced abusive behavior. We suggest individual therapy in order to dig deeper, and find the root source of your actions. Within the safety of individual therapy, you can find out where the abuse began, and how to stop its cycle. Peer support groups may be another good source of help through this process.
Open Path’s therapists offer beneficial services, at steeply reduced rates, that encourage insight, self-reflection, and healthy coping mechanisms. Our therapists furnish a supportive environment, fostering support and understanding. If you are interested in seeing one of our therapists for an affordable rate, you can start your search here.
Helping Family and Friends Who Are in an Abusive Relationship
If you know or suspect that a family member or friend is involved in an abusive relationship, as either victim or abuser, there are ways that you can help. First and foremost, if you witness an act of domestic violence, call the police. Under no circumstances should you attempt to directly intervene, as it can be very dangerous both for yourself, and those involved. Police are trained to help diffuse the situation, and take legal action, if necessary. Or, perhaps you may not have witnessed an act directly, but still know or suspect that abuse has occurred. The following are some guidelines that you may choose to follow, including how to approach someone you care about who you suspect is involved in an abusive relationship.
Helping Someone You Suspect is Being Abused
Although our natural instinct is to help others, especially those closest to us, it can be difficult to know exactly how to go about doing so. Intervening can be challenging, and in some situations, put you in danger. Therefore, it’s important to take action, but do so cautiously and carefully. The following are some guidelines of how to help a someone who you know or suspect is being abused:
Find Time to Talk to Him or Her: Arrange a time to talk with this person, and do so privately. Encourage your friend, for example, to open up and help him or her to feel comfortable doing so. Make it clear that you’re concerned for this person’s safety and well-being, and that you are and will be there for support. Initially, your friend may be defensive. It might take several attempts for him or her to accept your willingness to help. Often, an abused person’s first reaction is to defend his or her abuser because of shame, or being afraid to discuss the abuse. It’s also possible, as we’ve discussed throughout this course, that your friend may be in denial about the abuse, or not yet ready to admit it. In this case, you must remember that you cannot force your friend to do anything. You should not say, for example, “well, you’re wrong. That’s abuse and you’re allowing it to continue by staying with him.” This will further isolate your friend. Instead, try to be patient, and willing to help whenever you are called upon.
Do Not Lay Blame, Place Judgment, or Guilt: Furthermore, let your friend know that he or she is not to blame for the abuse that’s been experienced. Assure your friend that you are only there for support, and will not judge him or her for what has happened, or what they’ve chosen to do in response. Respect his or her decisions, and remember that, if he or she chooses to remain in an abusive relationship, that choice is theirs to make and theirs alone. Remind yourself that you are here for support, not to blame, judge, or increase any potential guilt.
Help Him or Her Develop a Plan: As we’ve discussed already in this lesson, leaving an abusive relationship can be both difficult and dangerous. Be willing to help your friend create a plan that is both feasible and safe. Don’t say, for example, “you HAVE to do this. If you don’t do this, it won’t work.” Encourage your friend to think about what would be best, given his or her relationship and current partner. Offer suggestions, not ultimatums. Plan accordingly. Help determine a safe place for your friend to go once he or she leaves, whether that’s your house, or the home of a relative, or a domestic violence shelter. Help your friend pack an emergency bag, and assist in hiding it in a safe and accessible location. If appropriate, or if you are involved in any way, you may need to help your friend rehearse the plan, and become familiar with it, yourself.
Encourage Seeking External Support and/or Services: Be willing to help your friend find out if your community has its own domestic violence agency, shelter, and/or hotline. As we’ve discussed, these options can provide indispensable advice, support, and services. Should your friend choose to pursue legal action, be willing to assist in their approach. In times of crisis, your moral support may prove invaluable to your friend.
Continue to be Supportive: As we’ve discussed already in this lesson, when a person leaves an abusive relationship, the pain does not often immediately cease. Your friend may feel extreme sadness and/or loneliness, in addition to a host of other difficult feelings and emotions. Your friend may need help while learning how to get back on his or her feet. During this time, your continued support is extremely important. If your friend has chosen to remain in his or her abusive relationship, still try to remain supportive, despite how difficult that may be. There may come a time when he or she does choose to leave, and having you there may help him or to feel like there is support in doing so. Remember, these choices are theirs to make and theirs alone.
Remember – You Cannot Rescue Him or Her: Following the aforementioned guidelines is a great way to offer your assistance and support to a family member or friend, but, as with anything, a person will only accept help if he or she wants it. Although it’s undoubtedly difficult to watch someone close to you suffer, you must try to respect the decisions he or she makes.
Helping Someone You Suspect is an Abuser
If you know or suspect that a family member or friend is abusing his or her partner, or someone else, there are ways that you can help stop the violence. In this case, it may be quite difficult to take action as opposed to staying out of it, or taking the side of your friend. It is incredibly difficult to accept that someone you care about or love is doing something that is undeniably wrong, in every aspect, and that is hurting someone else. You may feel like you shouldn’t get involved at all, but as we’ve discussed, domestic violence is a serious and ever-growing problem. As you now know, it can have grave, sometimes life-long consequences for those involved. Keeping that in mind, just as you would approach someone who is being abused, always keep your own safety in mind when approaching someone who you know or suspect is an abuser. The following are some guidelines to help you navigate assisting a family member or friend who you know or suspect is an abuser:
Tread Lightly – Approach Him or Her with Gentleness: While it may feel instinctive to approach this person with aggression, in an effort to make him or her realize the seriousness of the situation, doing so will likely escalate the situation, and cause this person to become defensive, or even violent. Instead, try to gently let your friend know that you would like to talk to him or her about attitudes or behaviors you’ve witnessed, or that you suspect. As with a victim, do so privately. Let your friend know that you’re doing so out of genuine concern, and that you are there only to help – not to judge.
Accountability/Responsibility: As we’ve discussed at length, many who abuse are unwilling to admit that they’ve done wrong. It may be hard for you to accept, but it’s possible that your friend, like many abusers, may make excuses for his or her behavior, or blame someone or something else. Your friend may even downplay the abuse, or deny it altogether. Initially, this may hurt you, or make you feel angry or distrusting of your friend. Try, though, to remain objective, and avoid condemning your friend. Remember that there may be more to the story than what you’re hearing. Be clear, though, that your friend is alone responsible for his or her actions – not anyone, or anything else.
Encourage Seeking External Support and/or Services: If you feel that it is safe to do so, you might try suggesting external help for your friend’s abusive behavior. As for victims, there are services available for those who are willing, and want, to change their ways. You might help him or her find individual therapy or anger management classes, and remain supportive in his or her efforts.
Remember – Change is His or Her Choice, Not Yours: The most important thing for you to remember is that, although you might offer to help your friend, he or she may choose not to accept it. You cannot make decisions for your friend, however difficult it may be to watch or know that he or she is abusing another person. Abusers will only change their ways if they have the desire and willingness to do so.
Information@nycdv.org Office: 347-246-7133 FAX: 347-246-7133