If You Or Your Children Are Currently Experiencing Abuse...

If You or Your Children Are Currently Experiencing Abuse

It may seem like you are alone in your pain and that there is nowhere
to turn for help. To combat the abusive situation in your life, you
must learn how to develop an effective plan for escaping abuse and
getting help to put yourself into a better situation.

Many people feel helpless, overwhelmed, and vulnerable when they are in
an abusive situation. You are likely to feel emotionally tied to the
abuser and ambivalence about leaving. While ambivalent feelings are
understandable, you must realize that abuse is not healthy or safe, and
that it will continue indefinitely unless you find the courage to get
out.

The first thing to do is to determine whether your situation is
life threatening or if you have the luxury of time to plan a careful
exit. If your situation is life threatening, just pack a bag and leave immediately. Do whatever you have to do to remove yourself from the situation.

If you have the luxury of time, spend some time developing a careful
and realistic plan that details how you will get away from your abusive
situation and into a better situation. Generating a realistic plan
helps you to have a better chance of actually escaping abuse and
getting to a better place.

  • Learn what abuse is and isn't, and what your legal
    rights are with regard to abuse. Contacting a lawyer is a good idea if
    you can afford that. If you can't afford that, contacting a domestic
    violence shelter worker or social worker familiar with domestic
    violence and abuse is also helpful. These sources may be able to point
    you to a legal advocate who can help to support, defend, and protect
    you, and any children who are involved.

  • Locate and contact domestic violence shelters
    in your area. The people who staff such shelters are familiar with
    helping abuse victims and will be able to advise you how to best go
    about getting to safety. They may also be able to offer temporary
    shelter for you and your children if you need to escape quickly.

  • If children are involved, consider getting
    your state's Child Protective Services involved by making an abuse
    report. A CPS caseworker may be able to get your your children to
    safety. The downside to this approach is that your children may need to
    be removed from your custody in order to get them to safety (if you are
    ambivalent about leaving the abusive situation yourself).

  • Call the police whenever abuse is threatened or seems likely. There are several reasons for doing this:

    • The police can help keep you safe. If they come while abuse is happening they will be able to defuse the situation.
    • The police will document that abuse is happening.
    • The police can help you get a restraining order.
      A restraining order is a legal document that prohibits an abusive
      person from getting near you or your living arrangements. You can also
      ask the local court that handles domestic violence cases for a
      restraining order, but it is easiest to ask for police assistance with
      this process.
  • Get yourself or your children a medical exam
    to document any injuries resulting from abuse and to receive treatment
    for those injuries.

  • Seek out counseling services with a therapist
    who specializes in areas of abuse to help you deal with your conflicted
    feelings about leaving and to help you find community resources and to
    help you generate your plan to leave. Seek out supportive group therapy
    to talk with those who have been in your situation and understand what
    you are feeling. Domestic violence shelters often sponsor support
    groups.

  • Make a step-by-step plan that details how you will care for yourself
    when you leave the abusive situation. A social worker or domestic
    violence shelter staffer may be able to help you problem solve these
    issues. The most important questions to answer are where will you live
    and how will you support yourself?

    • Can someone put you up temporarily? Can you get an apartment on your own?
    • Plan a way to achieve financial independence if
      this is a problem for you, such as finding employment or receiving
      temporary financial aid from others. Financial dependence can seem like
      a huge obstacle to getting away from an abusive situation, but there
      are resources out there to help you. Don’t allow a lack of money to
      stop you from being safe and healthy.
  • When your plan is defined and you've worked
    out the details of how you will manage, put that plan into action.
    Separate yourself from your abusive partner.

For children who are currently being abused, the main goal is to remove
the child from the abuser. The following is a list of possible
solutions:

  • Get the child away from the abuser, even if this
    involves sending the child to live somewhere else (e.g., with other
    family members or friends).

  • Get abuse to stop by making police reports or
    anonymous reports to your state's Child Protective Services department.
    Please know that reports may need to be made repetitively (many times
    in a row) before any action gets taken.

  • Get the child a medical exam to ensure that child is being treated for any physical injuries and so that abuse is documented.

  • Get the child into counseling with a therapist who specializes in working with abused children.