Domestic violence occurs when your dominating spouse, through emotional or physical abuse, creates an environment of fear that prevents you from freely choosing how to live your life.
Here are questions to ask yourself to determine if you are being abused.
- Does your spouse scare you and make you feel fearful?
- Has your spouse threatened to kill you?
- Do you think you can never do anything right or please your spouse?
- Have you ever been hit, pushed, choked, had your hair pulled, or been slapped by your spouse?
- Does your spouse yell at you or tell you that you are worthless or no good?
- Do you believe you have to tip-toe around your spouse to prevent an outburst of anger? Many people describe this as "walking on eggshells."
- Does your spouse try to limit the amount of time you spend with friends and family in person, on the phone or internet?
- Does your spouse make you do things you don't want to do?
Do you feel like a "prisoner" in your relationship or own home?
Have family or friends expressed their concern about your relationship?
- Are your children also afraid of your spouse?
- Do you believe you deserve the abusive treatment you receive?
- Do you realize you are abused but don't know where to get help?
- If you answered yes to several of these questions, please contact your local domestic abuse shelter. Do this through an internet search of the term "domestic abuse" or "domestic violence" and then your city name. Use someone else's computer or the library so that your spouse does not find out. They can help you determine your options and will assist you in finding a safe place to stay while you sort things out.
- If you can't locate a local resource, contact Another source of help is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY). Help is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Make an emergency kit that you can easily grab. It should have money, checkbook, credit cards, health records, school information, birth and marriage certificates, driver's license, social security numbers, house and car keys.
- Do not tolerate abusive behavior from your spouse. It won't go away by denying it. The situation will only grow worse. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
- Seek out a mental health professional or social worker that works with abuse victims. You can find this through your health insurance or a community agency which often offers free or low-cost assistance.
Don't ask your partner for couples' counseling. If you are afraid of him or her, you are not yet ready for this process. You should go on your own for counseling.
You will need an honest self-appraisal, courage to seek help and belief in your own self-worth. It is critical that you come to understand why you may stay (or wish to return to ) and abusive relationship. You might still think you love this abusive partner, but know that love never involves hurt or fear. Getting out of this situation is the best thing you can do for yourself, your children and your family.
*Article updated by Marni Feuerman