If You or Your Children Are Currently Experiencing Abuse
It may seem like you are alone in your pain and that there is nowhere to turn for help. To combat the abusive situation in your life, you must learn how to develop an effective plan for escaping abuse and getting help to put yourself into a better situation.
Many people feel helpless, overwhelmed, and vulnerable when they are in an abusive situation. You are likely to feel emotionally tied to the abuser and ambivalence about leaving. While ambivalent feelings are understandable, you must realize that abuse is not healthy or safe, and that it will continue indefinitely unless you find the courage to get out.
The first thing to do is to determine whether your situation is life threatening or if you have the luxury of time to plan a careful exit. If your situation is life threatening, just pack a bag and leave immediately. Do whatever you have to do to remove yourself from the situation.
If you have the luxury of time, spend some time developing a careful and realistic plan that details how you will get away from your abusive situation and into a better situation. Generating a realistic plan helps you to have a better chance of actually escaping abuse and getting to a better place.
- Learn what abuse is and isn't, and what your legal rights are with regard to abuse. Contacting a lawyer is a good idea if you can afford that. If you can't afford that, contacting a domestic violence shelter worker or social worker familiar with domestic violence and abuse is also helpful. These sources may be able to point you to a legal advocate who can help to support, defend, and protect you, and any children who are involved.
- Locate and contact domestic violence shelters in your area. The people who staff such shelters are familiar with helping abuse victims and will be able to advise you how to best go about getting to safety. They may also be able to offer temporary shelter for you and your children if you need to escape quickly.
- If children are involved, consider getting your state's Child Protective Services involved by making an abuse report. A CPS caseworker may be able to get your your children to safety. The downside to this approach is that your children may need to be removed from your custody in order to get them to safety (if you are ambivalent about leaving the abusive situation yourself).
- Call the police whenever abuse is threatened or seems likely. There are several reasons for doing this:
- The police can help keep you safe. If they come while abuse is happening they will be able to defuse the situation.
- The police will document that abuse is happening.
- The police can help you get a restraining order. A restraining order is a legal document that prohibits an abusive person from getting near you or your living arrangements. You can also ask the local court that handles domestic violence cases for a restraining order, but it is easiest to ask for police assistance with this process.
- Get yourself or your children a medical exam to document any injuries resulting from abuse and to receive treatment for those injuries.
- Seek out counseling services with a therapist who specializes in areas of abuse to help you deal with your conflicted feelings about leaving and to help you find community resources and to help you generate your plan to leave. Seek out supportive group therapy to talk with those who have been in your situation and understand what you are feeling. Domestic violence shelters often sponsor support groups.
- Make a step-by-step plan that details how you will care for yourself when you leave the abusive situation. A social worker or domestic violence shelter staffer may be able to help you problem solve these issues. The most important questions to answer are where will you live and how will you support yourself?
- Can someone put you up temporarily? Can you get an apartment on your own?
- Plan a way to achieve financial independence if this is a problem for you, such as finding employment or receiving temporary financial aid from others. Financial dependence can seem like a huge obstacle to getting away from an abusive situation, but there are resources out there to help you. Don’t allow a lack of money to stop you from being safe and healthy.
- When your plan is defined and you've worked out the details of how you will manage, put that plan into action. Separate yourself from your abusive partner.
For children who are currently being abused, the main goal is to remove the child from the abuser. The following is a list of possible solutions:
- Get the child away from the abuser, even if this involves sending the child to live somewhere else (e.g., with other family members or friends).
- Get abuse to stop by making police reports or anonymous reports to your state's Child Protective Services department. Please know that reports may need to be made repetitively (many times in a row) before any action gets taken.
- Get the child a medical exam to ensure that child is being treated for any physical injuries and so that abuse is documented.
- Get the child into counseling with a therapist who specializes in working with abused children.