Escaping from domestic violence

Everyone deserves to feel safe at home. But when you're living with an abusive partner, it's impossible to know when the next outburst will come.

Though men or women can be abused by their partners, domestic violence affects more women than men. Nearly 1 in 4 women has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Defining abuse

Abuse can come in three forms:

  • Battering and physical abuse: includes throwing objects, pushing, hitting, slapping, kicking or attacking with a weapon.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Psychological abuse: includes controlling behavior, forcing someone to perform a degrading act, threatening physical harm, or attacking or destroying valued possessions.

In most violent relationships, physical and psychological abuse occur together.

The abuse often begins as the abuser threatens his partner or pushes or shoves her. Then the abuse progresses, as the abuser begins to hit, slap, kick or otherwise become violent. In the final phase, the abuser apologizes and expresses guilt. Unless something happens to break this cycle, the incidents usually become more frequent and intense with time and the abuser apologizes less often.

Danger to children

Children who grow up around domestic violence often get hurt too—whether by accident or on purpose, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

A partner may punch, hit or kick a female partner while she is pregnant, putting the baby at risk for direct injury or low birth weight.

Children living in violent homes often are afraid or angry, but they may have trouble expressing these emotions. These children may think violence is the way to deal with problems, and they may enter abusive relationships themselves when they grow older.

Getting help

If you're in a violent relationship, tell someone about it and make sure you can contact the person in case you need to leave a dangerous situation. A nurse, doctor, social worker, close friend, family member or clergy member may be a good choice. Although it may be hard to talk about the abuse, it's important to make sure you have somewhere safe to go.

An exit plan can help you and your children escape from a violent situation quickly. Pack a suitcase for you and your children that includes a change of clothing, toiletries and needed prescription medications. You should also pack an extra key to your car and house.

In addition, put together a packet of important documents, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, and mortgage papers or rent receipts. You should also bring along extra cash and your checkbook, credit cards and medical records. Keep this packet in your suitcase.

Keep this suitcase somewhere safe, so you can grab it when you need to.

Once you're away from the situation, you'll have some difficult decisions to make. You may opt for a legal separation or divorce, or you may decide to seek counseling with your partner. Whatever you decide, remember that no one deserves to be abused. You should do what you can to keep yourself and your children safe.

reviewed 3/29/2019

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This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.