If you have found this site because you are scared and feel so alone, please remember we are none of us alone. One in every four women will suffer domestic abuse in her lifetime. On this site alone, you will see so many survival stories. You too can survive. Never, ever give up hope. We are here if you need us to listen and support you. We are all survivors of something. You too, will survive.
Call 911 for all emergencies.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE
Elder Abuse (state hotlines vary):
What Is Domestic Violence?
Abuse is defined as any sexual, emotional, physical, economic or psychological actions, or threats of actions that influence another. Abuse also includes behaviors that frighten, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, or injure someone.
Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior in any relationship used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital status. It can happen to couples who are dating, living together, or married. Domestic violence affects all education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds.
There are no "better" or "worse" stories of domestic violence. If it has happened to you, it has happened to you.
It is still abuse if it's only happened once or twice.
It's still abuse if there's not been any physical violence. Emotional and verbal abuse can be very damaging as well.
Despite what many believe, the abuse is not caused by the abuser "losing control" over his emotions. In fact, the abuse is a deliberate choice made by the abuser to control his or her victim.
Am I Being Abused?
Sometimes it's really hard to figure out what's normal in a relationship, especially if it's a relationship you've been in for a long time. Here are some questions to help you decide whether or not your relationship is normal:
Does your partner:
Embarrass you or put you down?
Act in a way that scares you?
Take your money or refuse to give you money when you ask?
Make all of the decisions for you?
Tell you you're a crappy parent and threaten to take away your kids?
Prevent you from going to work or school?
Act like hurting you is no big deal?
Stop you from seeing you friends or family?
Intimidate you with guns or knives?
Shove you, hit you or slap you around?
Threaten to kill you or someone you love?
Use your pets and/or farm animals to control, punish, manipulate or exact revenge on you?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may be in an abusive relationship. For support, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY: 1-800-787-3224.
Recognizing abuse is the first step to getting help.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to physical abuse.
Help For Domestic Abuse Victims:
Prepare for Emergencies:
- Be on the lookout for the red-flags that abuser is getting upset and may be ready to strike out in anger and try to come up with a couple reasons to get out of the house if you feel in imminent danger.
- Establish a code word, phrase or symbol for "call the police." Teach it to everyone you are in contact with.
- Establish the safe areas of the house that you can retreat to if the abuser attacks. Avoid enclosed spaces with no exits. If you can, get to a room with a phone or a window.
Have an Escape Plan:
- Be ready to go at any time. Have the car gassed up, driver's door unlocked, keys handy. Have emergency cash, documents and clothing stashed somewhere safe.
- Practice your escape.
- Memorize a list of emergency contacts including local shelters, police and domestic violence hotline.
- Find domestic violence shelters in your area and see which will accept your family. Here is a state-by-state list of Domestic Violence Shelters.
Protect Your Privacy:
- You are safest on a computer outside your home.
- Be cautious on email and IM if you are seeking help for domestic violence that way. Your abuser may be able to access your account.
- Change usernames and passwords for all accounts. Even if you believe that your abuser doesn't have access to them, there are keylogging programs that can easily determine that information.
- Use corded phones rather than cordless telephones. Corded phones are harder to tap.
- Use a prepaid phone card or call collect so that the charges don't appear on your phone bill.
- Check your cell phone settings as there are many technologies that your abuser can use to listen in on your calls or track your location, even if you do not answer the phone.
- Get your own cell phone that your abuser doesn't know about.
If You Have Pets:
- Have your pets vaccinated & licensed in your own name in order to establish ownership.
- Contact your local humane society, SPCA, animal control agency, boarding facility, or veterinarian to check if they have temporary foster care facilities for pets belonging to battered women.
- Animals are considered property in all 50 states so include them in temporary restraining orders.
- Prepare the pets for a quick departure. Collect vaccination records, pet license, medical records, & other documents.
- Ask for help from animal care & control officers or law enforcement if pets need to be retrieved from the abuser. Never reclaim animals alone.
Safety After You've Left:
- Get an unlisted phone number
- Use a PO Box rather than home address
- Apply for state's address confidentiality program (it will confidentially forward all mail to your home)
- Cancel all old bank accounts and credit cards. When you open new accounts, use a new bank.
- You may want to get a restraining order, BUT DO NOT FEEL FALSELY COMFORTED BY ONE. Not all states enforce restraining orders. Contact your state's Domestic Violence Coalition.
- Change your routine if you're living in the same area.
Types of Domestic Abuse:
Physical Abuse: physical abuse is the use of force in a manner that injures or endangers the victim.
Sexual Abuse is a form of physical abuse in which a victim is forced to participate in unwanted sexual activity. Intimate partners or spouses do not have the right to force you to have non-consensual sex with them just because you are in a relationship or marriage. Sexual abuse is an act of violence and aggression, not an act of love or passion.
Emotional Abuse: emotional abuse is used to undermine self-image and independence. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse, isolation, controlling behavior, shaming, blaming, and name-calling. The long-term effects of emotional abuse can last for years.
Economic Abuse: using money and finances is a means to control their victim through withholding money, setting an allowance, preventing the victim from working or sabotaging a job, stealing the victim's money, or withholding basic necessities.
Cycle of Violence in Domestic Abuse:
Abuse: The abuser lashes out in a power play designed to show the victim who the boss is.
Guilt: The abuser feels guilt, not for what he's done, but over being caught for his abusive behavior.
Excuses: The abuser rationalizes what he or she has done. The abuser may rationalize what he/she has done by making up excuses or blaming the victim. They will say anything to avoid taking responsibility for his/her actions.
"Normal" Behavior: Abuser tries to regain control of victim to keep victim in relationship. The abuser may act like nothing has happened or turn on the charm. This may make the victim think that the abuser has really changed.
Fantasy/Planning: Abuser fantasizes about next abuse, spending much time deciding what to punish victim for and how he'll/she'll make victim pay. Then he/she makes a plan to turn the abuse into a reality.
Set-up: Abuser sets victim up, puts plan into motion to create a situation to justify abuse.
Potential Warning Signs of Domestic Violence:
It's certainly hard to tell what may be warning signs of domestic violence and what is not, but there are some signs to look for.
The victim may:
- Talk about their partner's temper or possessiveness
- Check-in frequently with their partner to tell them what they are doing and where they are
- Seem preoccupied with pleasing their partner
- Do everything their partner says to do
- Receive frequent harassing phone calls from partner
If You Suspect Someone Is Being Abused:
If you suspect someone is being abused and you're hesitating, please, open your mouth and ask. The victim may not want to talk about it and may tell you that you're wrong, and maybe you are wrong, but sometimes, expressing concern may save a life. How do you talk to someone you suspect is being abused? Simple:
"I've noticed, this, this, and this (your reasons for suspecting domestic violence) and I'm concerned about you. Can I help?"
Maybe they won't want to talk to you then, but knowing someone cares about them, sometimes that's a port in a storm.
If you ask, be ready to support the person in a positive way.
- Talk to this person in private.
- Let go of all your preconceived notions of domestic violence and people who are abused.
- Remember, as frustrating as it is, there is no quick fix solution to domestic abuse.
- To empower this person, learn a little about domestic violence. Find out the services in your area that may be available.
When you are listening, remember:
- Support and respect this person and the decisions he or she makes. Even if you do not agree with them.
- Believe this person and tell them so.
- Validate his or her feelings. "Your feelings are very normal."
- Do not judge this person when responding to what he or she says.
- Offer specific forms of help. "I can help you find a counselor" versus, "Let me know what you need."
- Point out ways that he or she has been strong and courageous.
- Tell the victim that the abuse is not her fault and avoid bashing the abuser.
Additional Domestic Abuse Resources:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233): provides crisis intervention, information and referral to victims of domestic violence, perpetrators, friends and families. It operates 24 hours a day, and has access to more than 4,000 shelters and domestic violence programs across the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Domestic Violence Coalition: State by State directory of the Domestic Violence Coalitions and Resources for Battered Women
Women's Shelters: Nationwide Directory of Women's Shelters.
RAINN: nation's largest anti-sexual assault network.
Joyful Heart Foundation: Created by Law and Order’s Mariska Hargitay for survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. Their mission is to educate, empower and shed light into these terrible crimes and help the survivors heal.
WEAVE, Inc. provides crisis intervention services to women, men and children in Sacramento County (Northern California) who have experienced domestic violence or have been sexually assaulted. Although services are intended for those living in the area, the information on the website is a valuable resource.
Additional Domestic Abuse Resources for Pet Owners
As of 2012 there are 22 states with laws that include provisions for pets in domestic violence protection orders. They are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. For more specific information on the individual laws of each state, visit the Animal Legal and Historical Center's page on Domestic Violence and Pets.
In addition, Florida, Indiana, & Pennsylvania have passed laws that acknowledge animal abuse in domestic violence situations.
Pet-Friendly Shelters & Off-Site Pet Housing
The majority of domestic violence shelters do not allow pets. There are, however, Safe Havens for Animals™ programs, which provide emergency care for pets while their owners stay at domestic violence shelters or other temporary residences that do not allow pets. The Humane Society of the United States maintains a directory of the Safe Havens for Animals™ programs.
Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T) ™ maintains a directory of shelters equipped to accept families of domestic violence along with their pets.
Ahimsa House maintains a directory of off-site housing options for pets.
Red Rover offers financial assistance for victims of domestic violence and their pets through its Red Rover Relief program. Grants of up to $500 can be provided for temporary boarding and veterinary care. Applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and are awarded based upon urgency, financial need, and available funding. Please note, for safety reasons a caseworker or domestic violence shelter representative must submit applications.