Intimate partner violence, also known as dating violence and domestic violence, is unfortunately prevalent across the United States. However, many people involved in abusive relationships have trouble coming forward, seeking help, or leaving their perpetrators due to fear and unfamiliarity with the resources available to them. If you or someone you know is a victim of dating violence, these tips can help you seek support and find safety.
Step #1: Understand What Dating Violence Looks Like
Dating violence can come in many different forms, and for some survivors, it can be difficult to identify if you are experiencing abuse at the hands of your partner. To seek help with dating violence, you first need to understand what it looks like. If you experience any of the following forms of abuse, you may be in an abusive relationship.
- Physical abuse is the most recognized form of domestic violence. It can involve any physical harm, such as hitting, burning, the damage of personal property, or the refusal of medical care.
- Emotional abuse involves a partner attempting to control another by making the victim feel isolated, intimidated, afraid, or depressed. It can involve name-calling, extreme jealously, humiliation, stalking, and controlling the activities of the victim.
- Sexual abuse occurs when the abuser performs sexual acts without the consent of the victim. Consent must be free and informed when it comes to sexual activity. The abuser cannot coerce, force, threaten or take advantage of the victim to obtain consent.
- Technological abuse occurs when the abuser tries to control the electronic activities of the victim as an isolation tactic. For example, the abuser might hack into the accounts of the victim, monitor his or her online activity, and monitor his or her location via a tracking device.
- Financial abuse occurs when the abuser maintains control over the household’s finances to control the victim’s activities. This can include preventing the victim from holding a job, controlling financial assets, or damaging the victim’s credit score.
Step #2: Create a Safety Plan
When it comes to domestic violence, it is important to create a safety plan in the event that a situation becomes violent or life-threatening. This is especially important if you have children. Create a safety plan to help you exit the home safely and as quickly as possible.
- Create code words with your children and trusted friends or family members to alert them to a dangerous situation. If you are in a dangerous situation, you can text, call, or say the word aloud to alert them.
- Create a safety bag and leave it in a secure location, such as a friend’s house or an area of the house where the abuser won’t look. Keep a set of keys, money, important documents, and an extra set of clothes in this bag for a quick escape.
- Teach your children how to call 911 and alert dispatchers to your location. Have your children memorize your address and use your code word to alert them to call the police when needed.
- Look for local domestic violence resources in your area and ask if they have any safety resources for you. Some shelters offer safe transportation in these situations, as well as legal and financial support.
Step #3: Seek Immediate Help
If you do not have the resources or community support to seek help for an abusive relationship, do not be afraid to seek help from law enforcement. An abusive relationship is not a loving one – and if you are in this situation, you need to seek help immediately before a dangerous situation occurs. You can call 911 or visit a police station to file a restraining order, ask for resources or medical attention, and remove yourself from the violent situation.
If you are suffering from dating violence, you are not alone and what is happening to you is not your fault. You can follow these steps to recognize the signs, find a safe place to stay and make an escape plan if you live with the perpetrator. Once you reach a safe place, contact a sexual violence attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. You may be able to pursue civil and criminal charges against the perpetrator.