What to Do If You’re a Victim of Abuse

In this photo taken Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010, a victim of domestic violence, who calls herself, "Sierra" is seen at a safe house in Nevada County, Calif. The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition has been forced to rely on the generosity of area residents to provide shelter for those escaping abuse after it had to close the shelter it operated in response to California's budget crisis. The shelter, which provided beds for 12, at a cost of $60,000 a year, was closed June 30, when it lost state funding due to the failure of the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lawmakers to reach a budget.

A victim of domestic violence at a safe house in Nevada County, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

November 23, 2013
The National Network to End Domestic Violence offers some internet and computer safety tips here. You can also click here to leave this site quickly.

Here’s what the experts recommend if you’re a victim of domestic violence, or know someone who might be:

1. Know the signs

Often, abuse starts with name-calling or insults and controlling behavior, and it can build to slapping, punching and other violence. But abuse is not only physical violence, it can involve sexual, emotional and financial components, too. Here is a list of red flags and potential signs of abuse. Experts say there are a lot of common signs — ask yourself whether your partner does any of the following:

  • Call you insulting or embarrassing names?
  • Discourage you from seeing friends or family?
  • Prevent you from working or going to school?
  • Take your paycheck, refuse to let you work, or restrict your access to money?
  • Act extremely jealous and frequently accuse you of cheating?
  • Blame the failure of all previous relationships on their exes?
  • Insist on knowing where you are all the time?
  • Act like it’s no big deal when they hurt you, or say they were just joking around?
  • Force you to engage in sexual activity that makes you uncomfortable?
  • Says the abuse is your fault, or denies doing it?
  • Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?

2. Remember that this isn’t your fault

You don’t deserve to be treated this way. If you decide to seek help, you won’t be alone.

3. Seek help

In an emergency, call 911. You can also call the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and TTY 1-800-787-3224. Advocates are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, in English and Spanish, and through interpreters in more than 170 languages. They can provide confidential support, help with safety planning and refer you to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

4. Consider making a safety plan

Often, the most dangerous time for victims is when they try to leave their abuser. If you are ready to leave, come up with a plan for how and when to do it, where you might go, and what to take with you. Here are some tips on how to leave, what to consider if you have children, and a checklist for what to do before and after you leave to stay safe. If you’re in a rural area or small town, you can find resources specific to your needs here.

5. Stay safe online

The National Network to End Domestic Violence offers tipsheets in several languages on how to protect your personal information and keep your actions from being tracked online.

6. Get more information

Sarah Childress

Sarah Childress, Senior Editor & Director of Local Projects, FRONTLINE



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