Domestic abuse is one of the most serious epidemics modern society faces today. With 1/3 of all women reporting incidences of violence in the home and/or in intimate relationships (this does not reflect the numbers that go unreported nor those of men being abused), no socio-economic group, nationality, gender or age is exempt from experiencing some form of cruelty in their relationships. Every day, in the US alone, three women (and one man) are murdered by their abusive partners.
Domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence either. It can be verbal, psychological, sexual, emotional, financial, or destructive (damaging personal property as a form of manipulation). Nor is it exclusive to husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend partnerships. It can appear between elderly parent/adult child, sibling upon sibling, roommates or any other individuals who cohabitate. The immediate and long-term effects can be devastating on a physical, emotional, familial, and economic level. Children, the most innocent of those involved, can suffer emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and developmental impairments that last well into adulthood. Young boys exposed to domestic abuse are two times more likely to become abusers later on in life. The cycle must be broken.
While there are legitimate fears that prevent women from leaving their abusers (fear for her own safety or the safety of the children, lack of financial resources, no place to go, lack of familial support, etc.) it is possible to do so with the help of trained professionals. In my 15 years as a trainer at a battered women’s shelter, I witnessed the courage of thousands of women who fled their horrendous living conditions and rebuilt productive lives for themselves and their children.
Here are some tips for those ready to leave:
1. Contact your local police department, social service agency, and/or domestic violence shelter to create an escape plan.
2. Gather all important documents such as birth certificates, bank accounts, credit cards, marriage certificate, etc.
3. Begin stashing money for your escape.
4. Keep a bag packed and hidden.
5. Make an extra set of house and car keys.
6. Keep documented records and photos of all incidences of abuse.
7. Make certain to have your cell phone, charger, and all important phone numbers with you .
When the time comes for you to make a speedy exit, you will be well prepared.
As a friend or support system, there is much you can do to enable your loved one’s safely and success:
1. Encourage her to seek professional help for her relationship if she wants to preserve it and there is no eminent danger to her or her children. If there is, encourage her to seek safe shelter elsewhere.
2. Stay connected to her. Those being abused are often isolated from family and friends. She/he needs all the support they can get.
3. Be understanding but firm. Don’t allow her to simply complain about her current circumstances. Expect her to take affirmative action.
4. Offer not only support, encouragement, and suggestions but resources. Do some research. Find places, organizations, and people who can help her. Provide those names and number to her.
Anyone can move on from domestic violence. They can rebuild their lives, heal their emotional wounds, and be stronger as a result. I did. So have millions of others. Don’t be a statistic. Take a stand. Face your fears. Let go and move on. You deserve an amazing life but only you can create it.
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