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What should I do if I experience domestic violence?

Victims of domestic violence often feel they have nowhere to turn. It can be confusing to break free from a partner even when being abused, especially when you’re unsure whether what you’re experiencing is actually abusive behavior. The American Psychological Association offers the following information to ensure people get the help they need when subject to an abusive relationship.

How to recognize signs of abuse

Domestic violence can take on many different forms. For some people, it entails physical abuse, which is characterized by hitting, kicking, slapping, choking, and other mechanisms of causing harm. Even when an injury is minimal, your partner should never lay hands on you out of anger or frustration. Domestic violence can also involve threats, insulting language, or forcing a person to participate in sexual acts against his or her will. A single act of abuse is cause for alarm, and it’s likely that these acts will become more frequent as time progresses.

Getting out of a relationship can be difficult

While it may seem obvious that the victim of violence should end the relationship, it’s not always easy to do so. Shame can play a major role in staying, especially when the person has concealed the abuse. There could also be worries about financial issues, especially when kids are involved. In some cases, the victim may actually fear for his or her life, or the lives of family members. These feelings greatly complicate matters and often prevent the person from leaving.

What you can do

Regardless of these fears, victims of violence should try to develop a plan for leaving. Contact friends or family for help. If you lack a social support system, contact a domestic violence hotline or shelter in your area for assistance. They can help you access the resources you need to make a safe plan of escape. If you must flee immediately, get to a safe location and contact the police. They can help you extricate yourself from the situation in the short-term, while also filing a police report. This is crucial when seeking a protective order, which stipulates that the abuser must stay a certain distance away from you at all times. 

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