What to do if you are a victim of domestic violence
Understanding Domestic Violence: There Is Help, There is Hope
Domestic violence affects approximately 12 million individuals annually across the United States, irrespective of age, economic status, race, religion, education, gender, sexual orientation or any other sort of identity. While some may think of domestic violence as only physical abuse, it is actually a much broader topic. Domestic violence is the exploitation of power by one, typically an adult, member of an intimate relationship over the other. This type of control creates fear through violence and other forms of abuse. Such forms may include physical, psychological, financial, sexual, verbal and spiritual violence.
Abusive partners make it very difficult for the affected to leave the relationship. Many of those affected love their partner and, for this reason, believe them when they promise to change. Other obstacles may include a fear of injury or death to oneself (or loved ones), or isolation from family, friends and other resources. Those affected may also struggle with low self-esteem, self-blame, or strong religious and cultural values that make one feel that separation is not an option. These obstacles explain why, on average, it takes a survivor six to eight attempts to leave a relationship before they are successful.
For those in this situation, there are several ways to protect yourself. First: recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship. Verbal criticism, harassment, being isolated from family and friends and denial of wrongdoing after abuse should all be considered red flags. It is important to be alert for signs that your partner may be enraged or violent. When you sense the tension building, figure out believable excuses to leave. If you are unable to do so, ensure you are primed for a safe escape if necessary. If at any point you feel you are in an emergency, call 911.
Domestic violence is the exploitation of power by one, typically an adult, member of an intimate relationship over the other.
Other safety precautions include evading small, enclosed spaces like closets or restrooms that do not have exits. Refrain from going to the kitchen, which can place you at risk of being victimized with a weapon (in this case, sharp kitchen utensils). If the partner has moved out, change the locks on your doors and get them for your windows. Plan an escape route and teach it to your children. Think about to whom or where you would go to if leaving becomes necessary. Identify three people or places you can trust in the event you must escape. Pack a bag with important items you would need, put it in a safe place or give it to a trusted friend or relative. Include cash, car keys, court documents, social security card, birth certificate, medical records and medicines). Establish a code word with your children, family and friends to let them know when you are not safe and they should call the police. If the partner contacts you, save their voicemails and emails. Change the passwords on your accounts frequently, and do not use the obvious i.e. (birthdates or favorite numbers) for them. Change your phone number; do not utilize social media. Turn off the locator on your mobile devices.
It is important for survivors to know that the abuse they suffer is not, by any means, their fault. They are not alone. There are local and national agencies that can provide resources to domestic violence survivors. For 40 years, the Marjaree Mason Center has supported and empowered adults and their children affected by domestic violence in Fresno County, through safe housing, legal assistance, counseling and education.
There is a 24/7 crisis hotline available through dialing (559) 233-4357 (HELP). For those outside Fresno County, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide you with resource
assistance through the number 1-800 799-7233.
Rouby Mardirossian-Mavyan is a staff member for the Marjaree Mason Center and adjunct professor of social work at FPU