Domestic Violence 101
D'An, Just a short note to let you know how much I appreciate all the good work you do. It's so nice to know you're out there for these folks in need!
How do I recognize an abusive relationship?
The ability to recognize the signs of an abusive partner can potentially be life saving. Getting out of an abusive relationship early, before the abuse has escalated, is key. Please familiarize yourself with the signs of emotional and verbal abuse listed below, which can serve as an indicator you're dealing with someone capable of physical abuse.
In abusive relationships where physical and/or sexual assault has already occurred, the following emotional and verbal forms of abuse are still utilized by the abuser (between physical attacks) in order to keep the victim "under control" frightened and intimidated into doing whatever the abuser demands.
An abusive partner is someone who:
Shows extreme possessiveness - always wants to know where you are going and who you are with;
Discourages you from spending time with others (friends/family/co-workers) and gets angry when you do so;
Likes to humiliate you - insults you or tries to embarrass you in front of other people;
Blames you for his or her problems, or tells you that it's your fault that he or she hurt you - tries to make you feel guilty;
Denies acts of abuse; tries to make you feel crazy for making accusations; plays mind games;
Bosses you around - yelling, threatening, and name calling;
Often gets in fights with other people or loses his or her temper; destroys property; abuses pets;
Uses angry looks and gestures to intimidate you and threaten you; makes you feel frightened of their reaction to things;
If children are involved, tries to say you are a bad parent; threatens you will lose the children if you leave;
Threatens to commit suicide if you leave.
What can a victim of abuse do to stay safe?
Identify local agencies and services that can help you (resources listed below); find out about legal options to enhance your safety and independence: protective orders, divorce, custody arrangements, child support, etc.
Keep important phone numbers (such as your shelter contact, attorney, police, etc.) with you at all times; consider using a public phone and public computer (such as at your local library) to call and research organizations in your area who can help you. Abusers often monitor cell phone records and install spy ware on personal computer equipment in a further attempt to control all aspects of a victim's personal life.
Give some money, an extra set of keys, copies of your important documents, a bag of clothes and essentials (including medicines) to someone you trust for safekeeping for when you're ready to leave; determine who would let you stay with them if necessary.
Identify a neighbor you can tell about the violence and ask him/her to call for help if he/she hears a disturbance coming from your home.
Take steps to increase or establish your independence. For example, open a savings account in your own name, or find out about job opportunities and transportation options.
Practice getting out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, elevator or stairs would work best.
Review your safety plan with a domestic violence advocate in your area.
Safety During an Explosive Incident:
If an argument begins, move to a room that has access to an exit. Avoid the kitchen, bathroom and anywhere weapons are kept.
Agree on a code word to let your children, family or neighbors know that you need help.
Use your planned escape routes to leave and get help. Get to a phone and call 911 if you're in a life threatening situation.
Trust your instincts and judgment to keep yourself safe in a dangerous situation.
Safety After Separating From The Batterer:
Change or add locks to your doors and windows. Add a peephole and increase outdoor lighting.
Get an unlisted telephone number and Caller ID to screen calls. Buy or borrow a cellular phone - keep it charged and with you at all times. Call 911 if you are in danger.
Identify methods for keeping your location confidential. Consider getting a P.O. Box and use it as your mailing address (instead of your physical address) whenever possible; businesses that say they need a physical location may be willing to make an exception if you explain you're in a domestic violence situation. You can also look into The Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) in Texas by visiting http://www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/acp.shtml.
Use caution when entering personal information online. You can find more information on safety and technology by visiting www.ncvc.org/src/main.aspx?dbID
Safety With a Protective Order:
Keep your protective order with you at all times. Leave copies in your purse, at work, with a friend, in your vehicle, etc.
Tell family, friends and neighbors that you have a protective order in effect. Ask them to call the police if they see the batterer near you or your home.
Call the police immediately if your batterer violates the protective order. If possible, have a phone with you at all times for this purpose.
Safety When You Share Children with the Batterer:
Investigate legal options to enhance safety in custody and visitation arrangements, including safe exchanges and supervised or restricted visitation.
Explore options for communicating safely with the batterer concerning your children.
Notify your children's school(s) and/or daycare about custody arrangements. Provide them with a copy of your protective order and custody order.
Find out about counseling for your children.
Ask a counselor, attorney or other domestic violence professional about how to talk to your children about safety concerns.
Contact the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program with the State Department at (888)407-4747 and request to be notified if a passport application is being processed for your child.
Safety On the Job & In Public:
Decide who you will inform at work about your situation. This may include your office building's security officers. Provide a picture of the batterer if possible.
Arrange to have someone screen your phone calls if possible.
Devise a plan for leaving work safely. Consider having someone escort you to your vehicle, bus or train. If possible, use a variety of routes to go home.
Consider what action you will take if something happens to you while you are traveling or out in public.
Keep your home address and phone number confidential. Discuss this with your domestic violence advocate. (More information on this can be found under "Safety After Separating from the Batterer".)
YOUR SAFETY AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH:
Decide who you can safely talk to for the support you need - discuss your options with someone you trust. Consider attending a support group to learn more about yourself, your particular situation and your choices.
Where can a victim of abuse go to get help?
PLACES TO CALL FOR HELP
Texas Advocacy Project
800.374.HOPE (Family Violence Legal Line)
888.296.SAFE (Sexual Assault Legal Hotline)
800.777.FAIR (Family Law Hotline)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Child and Adult Abuse Hotline
National Center for Victims of Crime
WHAT TO TAKE WHEN YOU LEAVE:
The following are things you will need when you leave the batterer. However, nothing is worth risking your or your children's safety. If you must, leave without gathering these items; most things are replaceable.
Driver's license, car registration and title, children's birth certificates, your birth and marriage certificates, social security card, welfare identification, tribal registration card.
Money, bank books, checkbook, ATM/debit cards, income tax records.
Your protective order, lease/rental agreement, house deed, car registration and insurance papers, custody papers, divorce papers, health and life insurance papers, work permits, green card and immigration papers, passport.
House and car keys, family medical records (including children's shot records), medications, school records, address book, photos of you, children, and your batterer, children's toys, telephone calling card, jewelry, change of clothes for you and children.
For those interested in learning more about the dynamics of domestic abuse, Toby Myers, of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, with help from Nancy Flanakin, has compiled the following recommended reading list.