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Help Is Here
Do you realize you are not responsible for the violence?
Violence is a choice. The person using violence is the person who chose it. That person is responsible for the choice. You do not deserve to be abused. You do not deserve to be hurt even if you argue, complain, or refuse to do something your partner wants you to do. It is not your fault even if you were drinking, using drugs or even if you made a big mistake.
There is nothing you can do that would justify abuse.
You did not ask to be abused when you chose your partner.
You have a right to be safe.
Below are some questions that may help you begin thinking about your relationship:
• What do I gain by staying in a violent home?
• What do my children gain by growing up in a violent home?
• What do I have to lose by leaving? What do the children have to lose by leaving?
• What price am I paying for "peace"? How long have I been paying it?
• Are my children paying the price? How will it affect them five years from now?
• Is the price too high?
• Without change, what will I be like five years from now?
• What will I look like five years from now?
• Who can I talk to about my problems?
• What do I want?
• What am I willing to do to get it?
All abuse is humiliating and degrading. It makes us feel as though we are somehow bad or inferior. We hide these feelings, even from ourselves, because they are so painful. Many people have remained alone and isolated in shame, believing there was something wrong with them. But by sharing loving support, we begin to name our abuse. If you do this, you will discover that you are not alone, you are not a bad person. You can begin to recognize what you have endured and know that you have survived. You are strong, you are of worth, and you can stand tall with your head held high.
Red Flags of An Abusive Relationship
If you are uncertain whether your partner is abusive or if you want to be able to tell at the beginning of the relationship if the other person has the potential to become abusive, there are behaviors you can look for, including the following:
JEALOUSY: An abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love; it's a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust. In a healthy relationship, the partners trust each other unless one of them has legitimately done something to break that trust.
CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR: At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because they are concerned for your safety, a need for you to use time well or to make good decisions. Abusers will be angry if you are “late” coming back from the store or an appointment; you will be questioned closely about where you went, who you talked to. At this behavior gets worse, the abuser may not let you make personal decisions about the house, your clothing, or going to church. They may keep all the money; or may make you ask permission to leave the house or room.
QUICK INVOLVEMENT: Many domestic violence victims only knew their abuser for a few months before they were living together. The abuser may come on like a whirlwind, claiming “you're the only person I could ever talk to” and “I've never felt loved like this by anyone.” Abusers are generally very charming at the beginning of the relationship. You will be pressured to commit in such a way that later you may feel very guilty if you want to slow down involvement or break up.
UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Abusive people will expect their partner to meet all their needs: the perfect partner, lover, and friend. They say things like “if you love me, I'm all you need and you're all I need.” You are supposed to take care of everything for them; emotionally, physically, and sometimes economically.
ISOLATION: The abusive person tries to cut the partner off from all resources. If you are close to family, you're “tied to the apron strings” or you are accused of “cheating” if you are out with friends. The abuser will accuse people who are supportive of causing trouble, and may restrict use of the phone. They will gradually isolate you from all of your friends. They may not let you use a car (or have one that is reliable), and may try to keep you from working or going to school. Some abusers will try to get you into legal trouble so that you are afraid to drive or go out.
BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS: If your partner is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing them wrong or is out to get them. They may make mistakes and then blame you for upsetting them so that they can't concentrate on their work. They will tell you that you are at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.
BLAMES OTHERS FOR FEELINGS: Abusive people will tell you, “you made me mad” and “I can't help being angry.” Although they actually makes the decision about how they think or feel, they will use feelings to manipulate you. Abusers see themselves as the “victim” in the relationship, and do not take responsibility for their own feelings or behaviors.
HYPERSENSITIVITY: Abusers are easily insulted, and may take the slightest setback as a personal attack. They will rant and rave about the injustice of things that are really just a part of living, such as having to get up for work, getting a traffic ticket, or being asked to help with chores.
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN: This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain. They may expect children to be capable of things beyond their ability. They may tease children and younger brothers and sisters until they cry. They may be very critical of other people's children or any children you bring into the relationship. Your partner may threaten to prevent you from seeing children you have no biological rights to, or punish children to get even with you. About 60% of people who beat their partner also beat their children.
“PLAYFUL” USE OF FORCE IN SEX: This kind of person may like to act out fantasies where the partner is helpless. They let you know that the idea of rape is exciting. They may show little concern about whether you wants to have sex, and use sulking or anger to manipulate you. They may start having sex with you while you are sleeping, or demand sex when you are ill or tired. They may want to “make up” by having sex after they have just been physically or verbally abusive to you.
VERBAL ABUSE: In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel, this can be seen when the abuser degrades or curses you, belittling any of your accomplishments. The abuser may tell you that you are stupid and unable to function without them. They may wake you up to verbally abuse you, or not let you go to sleep.
RIGID SEX ROLES: Abusers typically expect the partner to play the “feminine” role; to serve them and insist that you obey them in all things. The abuser sees you as unintelligent, inferior, responsible for menial tasks, and less than whole without the relationship. They will often tell you that no one else would want you or that you are nothing without them. They will remind you of everything they have done for you.
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE: Many victims are confused by their abuser's sudden changes in mood, and may think it indicates a special mental problem. Abusers may be nice one minute, and explode the next. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who beat their partners. Many victims feel if their partner would just quit drinking or using drugs, the violence would stop. This is usually not the case. Abusive people continue the abuse, even after they stop using alcohol or drugs, unless they also seek help for their abusive behavior.
PAST BATTERING: These people say they have hit a partner in the past, but the previous partner made them do it. You may hear from relatives or ex partners that the person has been abusive. A batterer will beat any person they are with if they are with that person long enough for violence to begin; situational circumstances do not make a person an abusive personality.
THREATS OF VIOLENCE: This could include any threat of physical force meant to control you: “I'll slap your mouth off,” “I'll kill you,” “I'll break your neck.” Most people do not threaten their mates, but a batterer will say “everyone talks like that,” or “it didn't mean anything” (or “it’s just a joke”).
BREAKING OR STRIKING OBJECTS: This behavior is used as a punishment (breaking loved possessions), but is used mostly to terrorize you into submission. The abuser may beat on the table with their fist or throw objects around. This is not only a sign of extreme emotional immaturity, but indicates great danger when someone thinks they have the “right” to punish or frighten their partner.
ANY FORCE DURING AN ARGUMENT: A batterer may hold you down, restrain you from leaving the room, push you, or shove you. They may pin you to the wall, saying, “You're going to listen to me!”
There are many, many reasons why it is difficult for a victim to leave:
- Studies show that the battered person is a greatest risk when she/he attempts to leave.
- The partner may have used violence when the victim tried to leave in the past.
- The victim may not know about available resources to assist her/him in leaving.
- If the victim is financially dependent upon the abuser and leaves with their children she/he will likely face severe hardships.
- Social and justice systems may have been unresponsive, insensitive or ineffective in the past.
- Religious, cultural, or familial pressures may make the victim believe that it is her/his duty to keep the marriage/relationship together at all costs.
- The victim's emotional ties to the abuser may still be strong, supporting the hope that the violence will end.
- For most of us, the decision to end a relationship is not an easy one.
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Are you in a safe place?
If you have been a victim of violence the first thing you need to consider is your own safety. Even if the abuser is in police custody, he or she may be released soon. You may want to stay with your friends or family. If that's not possible, or if it puts your loved ones in danger, contact HOPE at 1-888-345-3990. We know options for safe housing, community resources, counseling, legal advocates, and support. If you do not live in East Central Illinois, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for services in your area at 1-800-799-7233.
Here are some things to think about and arrange when creating a safety plan for yourself:
• Take steps to increase your financial self-reliance. Establish your own checking account, one separate from that of your partner. Establish credit in your own name, if you can do so safely. Try to establish an emergency fund and add to it whenever possible.
• Maintain close contact with family, friends, and neighbors. Establish a code in case an emergency arises (i.e. If you call and use an agreed upon word that signals you are in danger).
• Keep copies of all-important records with a friend or family member. Birth certificates, social security cards, immunization records, insurance policies, car titles, bank account records, blank checks, mortgage information, health insurance cards, etc.
• Keep a suitcase packed. You can leave it with someone so that your partner won't find it.
• Keep a set of car keys hidden, preferably outside somewhere, or in a magnetic case on the car. If you leave by car, lock the car doors as soon as you get in.
• Plan what to do before a violent incident occurs. Leave the room or the home if your partner becomes violent. Have an escape route planned to get out of the house.
• Know where a safe place is and arrange with a trusted person for transportation to get you there. Call the police if necessary to help you with the children and know other emergency numbers to call. If you have injuries, go directly to the hospital.
• If you work outside he home, give your employer basic information and instructions not to tell your partner of your plans and to call the police if he comes to your workplace. Leave instructions with your children's school, day care, or baby-sitter that you are the only person who will pick the children up. Make it clear that the children are never to leave with anyone but you.
If you consider leaving your abuser, think about...
1. Four places you could go if you leave your home.
2. People who might help you if you left. Think about people who will keep a bag for you. Think about people who might lend you money. Make plans for your pets.
3. Keeping change for phone calls or getting a cell phone.
4. Opening a bank account or getting a credit card in your name.
5. How you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house - taking out the trash, walking the family pet, or going to the store. Practice how you would leave.
6. How you could take your children with you safely. There are times when taking your children with you may put all of your lives in danger. You need to protect yourself to be able to protect your children.
7. Putting together a bag of things you use everyday. Hide it where it is easy for you to get.
8. Think about reviewing your safety plan often.
ITEMS TO TAKE, IF POSSIBLE
- Children (if it is safe)
- Keys to car, house, work
- Extra clothes
- Important papers for you and your children
- Birth certificates
- Social security cards
- School and medical records
- Bankbooks, credit cards
- Driver's license
- Car registration
- Welfare identification
- Passports, green cards, work permits
- Lease/rental agreement
- Mortgage payment book, unpaid bills
- Insurance papers
- PPO, divorce papers, custody orders
- Address book
- Pictures, jewelry, things that mean a lot to you
- Items for your children (toys, blankets, etc.)
If you have left your abuser, think about...
1. Your safety - you still need to.
2. Getting a cell phone. HOPE may be able to provide you with a cell phone that is programmed to only call 911. These phones are for when you need to call the police and cannot get to any other phone.
3. Getting a PPO from the court. Keep a copy with you all the time. Give a copy to the police, people who take care of your children, their schools and your boss.
4. Changing the locks. Consider putting in stronger doors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a security system and outside lights.
5. Telling friends and neighbors that your abuser no longer lives with you. Ask them to call the police if they see your abuser near your home or children.
6. Telling people who take care of your children the names of people who are allowed to pick them up. If you have a PPO protecting your children, give their teachers and babysitters a copy of it.
7. Telling someone at work about what has happened. Ask that person to screen your calls. If you have a PPO that includes where you work, consider giving your boss a copy of it and a picture of the abuser. Think about and practice a safety plan for your workplace. This should include going to and from work.
8. Not using the same stores or businesses that you did when you were with your abuser.
9. Someone that you can call if you feel down. Call that person if you are thinking about going to a support group or workshop.
10. Safe way to speak with your abuser if you must.
11. Going over your safety plan often.
WARNING: Abusers try to control their victim's lives. When abusers feel a loss of control - like when victims try to leave them - the abuse often gets worse. Take special care when you leave. Keep being careful even after you have left.
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Helping A Friend
How Can I Help a Friend/Family Member in Danger?
If you know someone who is being abused, you can help her by showing you care. Let her speak confidentially about her situation and without judgment. You may be the only person with whom she feels comfortable. Show you care in these ways:
How do I know if my friend is being abused?
• Have you seen evidence of injuries?
• Have you accepted her explanations for her black eyes, bruises or broken bones?
• Does she miss work frequently?
• Does her partner show an unusual amount of control over her life?
• Have you noticed changes in her or her children's behavior?
• Does her partner embarrass or ridicule her in public?
• Does her partner blame her for the way he acts or the things he says?
Start with Knowledge – Learn About Domestic Violence
Before you ever talk with her, make sure you know enough about the dynamics of domestic violence and the resources available to her so that you won't endanger her further. In the absence of meaningful intervention, abuse in a relationship only gets worse. The beatings will grow more frequent and they will inflict great harm. Although any excuse will do, there is no good reason to beat an intimate partner. The victim of such violence is never to blame. AND, nothing she can do, apart from leaving him, will stop the beatings. Leaving doesn't necessarily end the violence, however. The two years following a woman's decision to leave her abusive partner are the most dangerous for her and her children. The majority of reports of domestic violence are made by women who have left their abusers. The majority of women who die in the context of domestic violence die leaving, not staying.
Acknowledge Her Situation
• Do this very gently. If she is unwilling to acknowledge the abuse, don't press the issue.
• Do it very carefully. Not only is she afraid, but in danger too. If her abuser finds out she spoke with you, he will take it out on her.
• No matter how she responds to your overture, assure her that your interest is in her safety and welfare and that anything she tells you will be held in confidence.
• Let her know that whenever she wants it, she can look at material you keep in the house about abusive relationships.
• When she runs herself down, point out her strengths.
• If she needs to talk without coming to resolution, let her.
• When she's ready to make a move, help her determine what she will need, offer to keep a suitcase, money, and important papers, be a point of contact for her if she is in hiding.
• Watch the children when she has important appointments or just to give her a break.
• Believe in her. Expect that there will be setbacks and changes of heart. Let her know that leaving is a process and that you know she can and will make necessary changes in her life.
• Acknowledge the reality of the losses that she faces.
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