How Do I Stop the Abuse?
It happened again. I thought that things had changed. It was so nice to be treated like a person of worth, but it didn't last. I don't know what to do, where to turn, there just seems to be no way out. Please....help me.
According to statistics compiled by the Domestic Violence Resource Center,
- One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
- Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
- Separated and divorced males and females are at a greater risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
- Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
- On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in [the USA] every day.
Can abuse be stopped? Those who have successfully escaped its grasp have several things in common. They
- Know the warning signs
- Develop a backup plan
- Get help before it is too late
Do you know someone personally that is currently being abused?
Warning Sign #1 - Control
Research has shown that control is a high risk factor in the prediction of abusive behavior. Control usually begins with a promise of protection. The illusion of safety leads the victim into an intimate relationship thinking that their needs will be met. They will not have to worry about the things any more. They will be sheltered and provided for.
Unfortunately, protection "from" turns into protection "against." The abuser gradually closes the circle of influence that is around the victim, cutting off relationships with extended family, friends, financial resources, avenues of communication, and expressions of freedom. In the name of protection, the abuser keeps the victim under close surveillance, checking every action, and critiquing every move.
Over time, the victim becomes isolated to the point that there is no chance of the abuse coming to light. The stage is set, and the abuser no longer fears that the victim will leave, therefore, they are free to do whatever they will. The victim has no recourse but to comply, as there is no way out.
Warning Sign #2 - Intimidation
Intimidation is the process of putting others down in order to build one-self up. Abusers have low feelings of self-worth, and in order for them to rise above it, they diminish the worth of others. This is done through a variety of methods:
- Name calling
The abuser skews reality to the point that the victim thinks that it is their own fault that they are being abused. If they were better, prettier, more desirable, or skinnier, the abuse would stop. Victims go to great lengths to please their abusers, hoping that in doing so, they will finally feel the love that they felt when the relationship first began.
There is always a let down. The abuser may temporarily treat the victim better as behavior conforms to their desires, but eventually, the change will not be sufficient, and the abuse resumes. The victim adopts feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness, leading to further intimidation.
Warning Sign #3 - Anger
Anger is the most difficult warning sign to understand. The anger of the abuser may be directed at the victim, at the world in general, or at themselves. The victim may misunderstand, thinking that they are at fault, and that they did something wrong, however, this may not be the case.
Rather, the anger will come at unexpected times for unexpected reasons. It may be predictable, and the victim may think that he or she knows what triggered it, only to find out at another time that something else was the trigger. There may be no rhyme or reason to the anger, in fact the victim may think that in the absence of anger, that the abuser has changed, and that they are actually being accepted and valued.
Each time the anger returns, however, all of the hurt and pain inflicted upon the victim comes back in full force. Repeated frequently enough, the victim is powerless to escape its grasp, and irreparable psychological damage is done. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and phobias develop.
Develop a Backup Plan
A backup plan contains several necessary components:
- Connection with someone in the outside world that is willing to help
- Access to an abuse shelter that provides physical and legal protection
- Financial resources to provide transportation to the shelter
- Professional services to deal with the aftermath of the abuse
It is not enough to just leave the situation. Those who do are highly vulnerable to retaliation by the abuser. Relocation is not sufficient to protect the victim. Even seeking court or law enforcement help is not sufficient to provide protection. Those who have been successful in leaving abuse only do so when they are able to move directly into an abuse shelter that provides both physical protection, and legal recourse against the abuser.
There must be someone outside of the situation that is ready and willing to provide assistance. This connection in and of itself gives the victim hope that there is a way out. This hope allows them to look for loop holes and avenues of escape that enable a plan to be put into place. As financial resources become available, they can be put into the hands on the outside.
Once an abuse shelter has been located and contacted, and a place prepared for the victim and his or her dependents, it is simply a matter of time. Look for an opportunity when the abuser is not present, and the food, clothing, and transportation are readily available. It will be necessary to turn off your heart toward the abuser, and open your heart to the assistance of others.
Get the Help You Need Before it is Too Late
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), there are some specific things that you need to bring with you when you leave:
- Financial Resources- money/cab fare, check book, credit card/ATM card
- Legal Documentation - order of protection, police records, record of violence, lease/rental agreement
- Identification - passport, immigration documents, work permit, public assistance ID, driver's license and registration, Social Security card, your partner's Social Security number, birth certificates, children's school records
- Medical Information- insurance policies, immunization records, medications, glasses
- Family Necessities- baby's diapers/formula, clothing, family pictures, address book, telephone numbers, mobile phone
The NNEDV suggests that you obtain a Post Office Box rather than giving out your address, either past or present, to others for mailing purposes. Talk with utility companies and other business entities about not giving out your private information to your abuser. The following paragraphs are also from the NNEDV.
If it is necessary to meet with the abuser for some reason or another, take someone with you. Meet in a public place, preferably one with a security guard or police officer present. If you are followed on your way home, drive to a hospital, fire station or police station and honk your horn to get someone to come out of the building.
Alert supervisors and co-workers at your place of employment of your situation. Show them a picture of the abuser and the protection order, and ask for their cooperation in keeping you and your family safe. Talk with school officials and let them know who is allowed to pick up your children. Teach children how to contact you should they be taken by the abuser. Keep a journal of all contact with the abuser.
Abuse need not continue. It is possible to escape. The risk is high, and the resources may take to time to gather, however, there are people and places that are ready and willing to help. Don't wait until it is too late!