24 Hour Helpline: 440-357-1018 / Business Line: 440-357-7321

What is Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence?

Forbes House Helpline is available 24/7/365

What is Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that is a pervasive life-threatening crime affecting people in all our communities regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, social standing and immigration status.

Abuse is not love. It is one person in a relationship having power and control over the other person.

Domestic violence takes many forms: physical; emotional; economic; stalking and harassment; and sexual.

Characteristics of Domestic Abuse

Physical abuse does not always leave marks or cause permanent damage:

  • Scratching, biting, grabbing or spitting.
  • Shoving and pushing.
  • Slapping and punching.
  • Throwing objects to hurt or intimidate you.
  • Destroying possessions or treasured objects.
  • Hurting or threatening to hurt your children and/or pets.
  • Disrupting your sleeping patterns to make you feel exhausted.
  • Burning.
  • Strangling.
  • Attacking or threatening to attack with a weapon.
  • Any threats or actual attempts to kill you.

Emotional/psychological abuse is a behavior your partner uses to control you or damage your emotional well-being. It can be verbal or non-verbal:

  • Name-calling, mocking, intimidation and making humiliating remarks or gestures.
  • Yelling in your face or standing is a menacing way.
  • Manipulating your children.
  • Telling you what to do or where you can and cannot go.
  • Placing little value on what you say.
  • Interrupting, changing topics, not listening or responding, and twisting your words.
  • Putting you down in front of other people.
  • Saying negative things about your friends and family.
  • Preventing or making it difficult for you to see friends or relatives.
  • Cheating or being overly jealous.
  • Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior by blaming others or saying you caused it.
  • Monitoring your phone calls, texts, car and computer use.

Economic/financial abuse happens when the abuser makes a victim entirely financially dependent on the abuser, with no power or say in the relationship:

  • Forbidding the victim to work or attend school.
  • Sabotaging employment opportunities by giving the victim a black eye or other visible injury prior to an important meeting.
  • Jeopardizing employment by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace.
  • Denying access to a vehicle or damaging the vehicle so that the victim cannot get to work.
  • Sabotaging educational opportunities by destroying class assignments.
  • Withholding money or giving an allowance.
  • Denying access to bank accounts.
  • Hiding family assets.
  • Running up debt in the victim’s name.

Stalking and harassment can happen between strangers or in relationships, where the abusive partner or ex demands your time even after you make it clear you do not want contact:

  • Making unwanted visits or sending you unwanted messages (voicemails, text messages, emails, etc.).
  • Following you, including installing GPS tracking software on your car or cell phone without your knowledge or consent.
  • Checking up on you constantly.
  • Embarrassing you in public.
  • Refusing to leave when asked.
Sexual abuse does occur in committed relationships and marriages.

Understanding the Cycle of Domestic Abuse

The cycle of abuse describes the pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship. Though the pattern may be slightly different for each couple, the cycle of domestic abuse remains roughly the same whether the abuser is a significant other, parent, family member or friend.

This cycle can play out over and over in an abusive relationship. Sometimes you may move through the entire cycle in as little as a few hours or as many as a few months. However, without help from outside resources, this cycle will continue to repeat as long as you remain in the relationship.

Honeymoon Period

The honeymoon period occurs right after an instance of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. During this time, an abuser will apologize for their behavior while showing sorrow and promising that the abuse will never happen again. They may also place blame on the victim for the episode of abuse or act like the abuse never happened.

An abuser may express love through gifts and statements during the honeymoon period. Both the abuser and the victim may believe that their relationship is now stable and safe, that all abuse is over and will never happen again. This part of the cycle of abuse can make it more difficult for a victim to leave the relationship.

When the honeymoon period ends, tension will start to build in the relationship. An abuser may start getting angry again and making difficult demands. They may start breaking promises they made in the honeymoon phase and stop expressing love or affection.

The victim may start to fear for his or her safety and give in to the abuser’s requests. The victim may be extremely careful about what they say or do as tension is building.

Finally, the tension is too much, and the abuser commits an act of abuse. Abuse make range from physical abuse like hitting to emotional abuse such as name-calling and humiliation. The goal of abuse is always to gain power and control over the victim using any means necessary.

It’s important to remember that physical harm is not the only type of abuse. The abuse can take a variety of forms, including, but not limited to:

  • Name-calling
  • Public or private humiliation
  • Controlling the victim’s actions
  • Threatening to leave, commit suicide or other negative actions
  • Destroying property or hurting pets
  • Treating the victim like a servant

Once the abuser feels more in control, the relationship may enter the honeymoon period again. Over time, abuse can become more and more intense and skip the honeymoon period altogether.

Understanding the cycle of abuse can help you break the cycle. You can begin to recognize the pattern of abuse in your relationship and take steps to leave the relationship while staying safe.

Healthy, Unhealthy and Abusive Relationships

What is the difference between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships?
Healthy is...
  • Talking about feelings, speaking to personal experiences and empathizing with a partner’s experience.
  • When people in a relationship are respected and listened to, despite any differences.
  • When people talk respectfully to each other when there are disagreements.
  • When people are purposeful about intimacy and communicate honestly and openly about physical affection and sex.
  • When partners trust and support each other to spend time with others they care about.
  • When a person’s feelings or needs are ignored and disrespected.
  • When disagreements often turn into fights.
  • Not having the opportunity or comfort to explore or communicate feelings within the relationship.
  • When people feel embarrassed or unwilling to express how they feel because their partner may not listen or care.
  • When there is a lot of jealousy in the relationship when one partner talks to or spends time with other people they care about.
  • The need to control others’ thoughts and feelings.
  • When a partner is actively disrespected, ignored, demeaned and their ideas and feelings are treated with contempt.
  • When someone is afraid to disagree because they don’t want to run the risk of their partner’s anger, abuse and/or violence. If there is disagreement, the typical response is belittling and/or abusive.
  • When someone’s wants and needs are ignored and they are pushed into situations that frighten and/or degrade them.
  • When one partner is constantly accused of flirting when they interact with other people or ordered not to see or talk to other people they care about.

How to Recognize Help is Needed and Take Steps

What is the difference between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships?

Some warning signs of abuse in the home or in a relationship include:

  • Pushing for quick involvement: Comes on strong, claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.”
  • Jealousy: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because “you might meet someone.”
  • Controlling Behavior: Interrogates you intensely (especially if you’re late) about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to do anything.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.
  • Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses people who support you of “causing trouble.”
  • Blaming others for problems or mistakes: It’s always someone else’s fault when anything goes wrong.
  • Making others responsible for his or her feelings: The abuser says, “You make me angry,” instead of “I am angry,” or says, “You’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you.”
  • Hypersensitivity: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad.
  • Cruelty to animals or children: Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also, may expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry.
  • Use of force during sex: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex.
  • Verbal abuse: Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel, hurtful things, degrades, curses, calls you ugly names.
  • Rigid roles: Expects you to serve, obey and remain at home.
  • Sudden mood swings: Switches from sweet to violent in minutes.
  • Past battering: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person “made” him (or her) do it.
  • Threats of violence: Says things like, “I’ll break your neck,” or “I’ll kill you,” and then dismisses them with, “I didn’t really mean it.”

Why doesn’t she just leave? It’s the question many people ask when they learn that a woman is suffering battery and abuse. But if you are in an abusive relationship, you know that it’s not that simple. Ending a significant relationship is never easy. It’s even harder when you’ve been isolated from your family and friends, psychologically beaten down, financially controlled, and physically threatened.

If you’re trying to decide whether to stay or leave, you may be feeling confused, uncertain, frightened, and torn. Maybe you’re still hoping that your situation will change or you’re afraid of how your partner will react if he discovers that you’re trying to leave. One moment, you may desperately want to get away, and the next, you may want to hang on to the relationship. Maybe you even blame yourself for the abuse or feel weak and embarrassed because you’ve stuck around in spite of it. Don’t be trapped by confusion, guilt, or self-blame. The only thing that matters is your safety.

If you are being abused, remember:

  • You are not to blame for being battered or mistreated.
  • You are not the cause of your partner’s abusive behavior.
  • You deserve to be treated with respect.
  • You deserve a safe and happy life.
  • Your children deserve a safe and happy life.
  • You are not alone. There are people waiting to help.

As you face the decision to either end the abusive relationship or try to save it, keep the following things in mind:

If you’re hoping your abusive partner will change… The abuse will probably keep happening. Abusers have deep emotional and psychological problems. While change is not impossible, it isn’t quick or easy. And change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for his behavior, seeks professional treatment, and stops blaming you, his unhappy childhood, stress, work, his drinking, or his temper.

If you believe you can help your abuser… It’s only natural that you want to help your partner. You may think you’re the only one who understands him or that it’s your responsibility to fix his problems. But the truth is that by staying and accepting repeated abuse, you’re reinforcing and enabling the behavior. Instead of helping your abuser, you’re perpetuating the problem.

If your partner has promised to stop the abuse… When facing consequences, abusers often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to their abusive behavior once you’ve forgiven them and they’re no longer worried that you’ll leave.

If your partner is in counseling or a program for batterers… Even if your partner is in counseling, there is no guarantee that he’ll change. Many abusers who go through counseling continue to be violent, abusive, and controlling. If your partner has stopped minimizing the problem or making excuses, that’s a good sign. But you still need to make your decision based on who he is now, not the man you hope he will become.

If you’re worried about what will happen if you leave… You may be afraid of what your abusive partner will do, where you’ll go, or how you’ll support yourself or your children. But don’t let fear of the unknown keep you in a dangerous, unhealthy situation.

Your first line of defense is to always demand that the abusive and violent behavior stop. This may sound obvious but many victims believe that they don’t deserve to be treated with respect and therefore don’t demand it. The next step may be to get a restraining order or protective order against your abusive partner. However, remember that the police can enforce a restraining order only if someone violates it, and then only if someone reports the violation. This means that you must be endangered in some way for the police to step in.

If and when you are ready to stop the violence, here are some additional suggestions:

  • Locate the number to your local battered women’s shelter. Contact them to find out how you would use their services, if necessary.
  • Tell a trusted family member, friend, coworker or neighbors about your situation and develop a plan of escape.
  • Keep a record of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made.
  • Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.
  • Hide an extra set of car keys.
  • Set money aside. Ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
  • Pack a bag and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Include anything that is important to you, such as identification, car title, birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards, clothes for yourself and your children, shoes, medications, banking information, money, important phone numbers. etc.

Each person’s experience in an abusive relationship is different, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a relationship that is challenging or unhealthy, and a relationship where one person is abusing another. Often, domestic violence is not easy to spot even if you know the person well. Abuse that doesn’t leave physical marks or injuries can be especially difficult to recognize. Even if the person is being physically hurt, these injuries are not always evident if they are covered by clothing or make-up. It is not uncommon for an abuser to behave very differently in other relationships and settings, and also many survivors acknowledge that they did not think of their experiences as abuse.

If they have recognized that they are experiencing domestic violence, they may not tell anyone for a variety of reasons: the abuser may have threatened to harm the person, or others, if they tell anyone; they may worry about getting other people involved; or they may feel ashamed that they have experienced domestic violence. Sometimes, friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues feel that something is wrong but are not sure what the problem is.

Below are things you may notice that could indicate that the person you know is experiencing domestic violence:

  • They seem afraid of their partner or are always very anxious to please them.
  • They have stopped seeing their friends or family, or cut phone conversations short when their partner is in the room.
  • Their partner often criticizes or humiliates them in front of other people.
  • They state that their partner pressures or forces them to engage in sexual activity.
  • Their partner often orders them around or makes all the decisions.
  • They mention or talk about their partner’s jealousy, bad temper, or possessiveness.
  • They have become anxious or depressed, have lost their confidence, or are unusually quiet and withdrawn.
  • They have physical injuries (bruises, broken bones, sprains, cuts, etc.) and may give unlikely explanations for their injuries.
  • Their children seem afraid of their partner, have behavior problems, sleep disruption, or are withdrawn or anxious.
  • They are reluctant to leave their children with their partner.
  • They receive excessive texts or calls from their partner asking them what they are doing, where they are, who they are with, and when they will be home.
  • Their partner is making rules that the person has to follow, which can include: who they can see, what they can wear, what they can spend money on, and how their home needs to be kept.
  • The person asks you to keep things secret from their partner, for example who they have seen, plans they have made, or things they have bought, because they are scared about what will happen if their partner finds out.
  • After they have left the relationship, their partner is constantly calling them, harassing them, following them, coming to their house or waiting outside.
  • Even if the person you know has ended the relationship with their partner, it is possible that abuse may continue especially if the partner still has the person’s contact details or has access to the person, for example, if they have children together.

Approach your friend or relative in a sensitive way, letting them know your concerns. Don’t be surprised if they seem defensive, dismissive, or reject your support. They might be worried about burdening you with their situation if they tell you about the abuse. They may not be ready to admit to being abused, or may feel ashamed and afraid of talking about it. They might have difficulty trusting anyone after being abused. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about the abuse. And they may feel like if they love their partner enough, they can save their relationship.

Don’t push the person into talking if they are uncomfortable, but let them know that you’re there if they need to talk. Be patient and keep an ear out for anything that indicates they are ready to talk about their experiences. If the person starts to talk about the abuse, listen with an open mind, compassion, and a supportive attitude, even if you don’t agree with what the person is saying. It can be difficult not to offer opinions about the relationship or their partner, to criticise or to blame. However, this response may decrease their openness and the likelihood that they will be open to your support.

Below are three strategies that will show your willingness to show up and support someone. You don’t need to be an expert or have all the answers. Survivors tell us that having support where someone can just be there and be available is most helpful.

Tip #1: Ask a Question

Asking “How’s it going?” and really caring about the answer is powerful.

Some other possible questions to ask:

  • What is your biggest concern?
  • What are you most worried about?
  • What do you need or want?
  • What do you need from your community?
  • How can I help?
  • What is life like with [partner’s name]?
  • How are the kids doing?
  • Is this relationship energizing or draining?
  • Do you get to do the things you like to do?
  • What happens if you disagree?
  • What does arguing look like in your relationship?

Tip #2: Listen Up

Really listen. Listen without having your own agenda. Being heard helps others feel seen and understood. Acknowledgment of their experience as real and valid makes all the difference.

Things you can say to people who have experienced harm:

  • I believe you.
  • I am so sorry this is happening to you.
  • Thank you for sharing this.
  • I don’t even know what to say right now but I am so glad you told me.
  • You don’t deserve this.
  • Thank you for telling me.
  • It’s not your fault.
  • You are not alone.
  • You get to choose what you do next.

When you’re listening deeply to someone, you are not trying to assert your opinion, you are trying to hear and understand their perspective.

You’re also listening for what the person thinks about risks, priorities, and concerns. Bottom line: you are listening to hear what the person is experiencing, what they want, and how you can help.

Starting to feel worried? If you’re hearing something (they’re isolated, being monitored or stalked, the person has a weapon) that makes you concerned they are in danger, you (or both of you together) can call the UDVC Linkline OR National Domestic Violence Hotline to come up with a plan to stay as safe as possible. If there are concerns about immediate danger and they are unable to flee, call 911.

Red flags that indicate a potential for greater risk:

  • Access to firearms
  • Suicide threats
  • Prior strangulation
  • Threats to kill

Tip #3: Stay Connected

It can take a long time for things to get better, and it can be difficult to hang in there through this journey. But staying connected is one of the most helpful things you can do. When someone is isolated, the abuser has far more power and control over their lives. You do not need to know all the answers or agree with every decision to be helpful. Instead, consistently show up, take on what you can, and ask for help with things that are difficult for you.
Connection also means no ultimatums. We’ve learned that tough love is not what people respond well to. You might be the only person they are reaching out to. If you give them an ultimatum that they can’t live up to, they won’t have anyone left. Instead, try to leave the door open to make it easy to keep coming back to you.

Even if the person you’re concerned about doesn’t reach out, you can be the one to take the first step by reaching out. This can be a lifeline for your loved one. They may not be calling or reaching out because they cannot, not because they don’t want to or don’t need support.

That said, we know that it’s really hard to stay connected when you’re worried and scared, and unsure how to help someone you care about. But it is not helpful to sacrifice your own well-being in the hopes of helping someone else. If you need help, talk to your trusted supports and reach out to experts when needed. If you need to take a break, take it.

Domestic Violence Statistics

  • Our years of experience offering 24/7 support, information, and advocacy for people in abusive relationships have been informed by the hard realities of domestic violence. Relationship abuse is ugly, even (and especially) when it comes from the people we love. The more informed we keep ourselves and others, the more prepared we’ll be to recognize and stop abuse when it happens.
  • On average, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the US will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 10 high school students has experienced physical violence from a partner in the last year alone. Statistics like these demand that we all commit ourselves to ending abuse for good.
  • Learn the facts about domestic violence in different situations. The statistics on this page have been compiled from various sources. You can find the citations by clicking the drop down for the statistic.
  • An average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a single year.
  • Nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) and 1 in 10 men (10%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by a partner and reported it having a related impact on their functioning.
  • Just under 15% of women (14.8%) and 4% of men in the US have been injured as a result of intimate partner violence that included rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the US have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Intimate partner violence alone affects more than 12 million people every year.
  • Over 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Almost half of all women and men in the US have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).
  • Women ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
  • From 1994 to 2010, approximately 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.
  • Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender at rates of 77% for women ages 18 to 24, 76% for ages 25 to 34, and 81% for ages 35 to 49.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) have been raped in their lifetime.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 women (9.4%) in the US have been raped by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence from an intimate partner reported significant impacts (short-term or long-term) like injuries or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • 35% of men reported the same significant impacts from experiences of rape, stalking, or physical violence from an intimate partner.
  • More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner; 40.8% reported being raped by an acquaintance.
  • For male victims, 52.4% reported being raped by an acquaintance; 15.1% reported being raped by a stranger.
  • Estimates suggest 13% of women and 6% of men will experience sexual coercion (unwanted sexual penetration after being pressured in a non-physical way) in their lifetime; 27.2% of women and 11.7% of men experience unwanted sexual contact.
  • 1 in 6 women (16.2%) and 1 in 19 men (5.2%) in the US have been a victim of stalking at some point during their lifetime in which they felt fearful or believed that they (or someone close to them) would be harmed or killed.
  • Two-thirds (66.2%) of female stalking victims were stalked by current or former intimate partners.
  • Men who were stalked were primarily stalked by partners (41.4%) or acquaintances (40%).
  • The most common stalking tactic experienced by both female (78.8%) and male (75.9%) victims of stalking was repeated unwanted phone calls, voice, or text messages.
  • Estimates suggest 10.7% of women and 2.1% of men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
  • Children witnessed violence in nearly 1 in 4 (22%) intimate partner violence cases filed in state courts.
  • 30% to 60% of intimate partner violence perpetrators also abuse children in the household.
  • 40% of child abuse victims also report experiencing domestic violence.
  • One study found that children exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average.
  • According to the US Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, domestic violence may be the single major precursor to fatalities from child abuse and neglect in the US.
  • 9.4% of high school students reported being hit, slapped, or physically hurt intentionally by their partner in the previous 12 months.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men who experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.
  • More than a quarter (28%) of male victims of completed rape were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger.
  • Approximately 35% of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults, compared to 14% of women without an early rape history.
  • The majority (79.6%) of female victims of completed rape experienced their first rape before the age of 25; 42.2% experienced their first completed rape before the age of 18.
  • 1 in 10 high school students has experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the past year.
  • Most female (69%) and male (53%) victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner had their first experience with intimate partner violence before the age of 25.
  • 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, digital, verbal, or other controlling abuse.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 college women (29%) say they’ve been in an abusive dating relationship.
  • 52% of college women report knowing a friend who’s experienced violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, digital, verbal, or other controlling abuse.
  • 57% of college students who report experiencing dating violence and abuse said it occurred in college.
  • 58% of college students say they don’t know what to do to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse.
  • 38% of college students say they don’t know how to get help for themselves if they experience dating abuse as a victim.
  • Over half of all college students (57%) say it’s difficult to identify dating abuse.
  • 36% of dating college students have given a dating partner their computer, email, or social media passwords; these students are more likely to experience digital dating abuse.
  • 1 in 5 college women has been verbally abused by a dating partner.
  • 1 in 6 college women (16%) has been sexually abused in a dating relationship.
  • Victims of digital abuse and harassment are twice as likely to be physically abused, twice as likely to be psychologically abused, and 5 times as likely to be sexually coerced.
  • Almost 1 in 10 teens in relationships reports having a partner tamper with their social media account, which constitutes the most frequent form of harassment or abuse.
  • Just 1 in 5 victims say they experienced digital abuse or harassment at school during school hours; most takes places away from school grounds.
  • Approximately 84% of victims are psychologically abused by their partners; half are physically abused and one third experiences sexual coercion.
  • Only 4% of victims experience only digital abuse or harassment. Social media, texts, and emails provide abusive partners with just another tool to cause harm.
  • Current or former intimate partners accounted for nearly 33% of women killed in US workplaces between 2003 and 2008.
  • In 2005, nearly 1 in 4 large private industry establishments reported at least one instance of domestic violence, including threats and assaults.
  • 44% of full-time employed adults in the US reported experiencing the effect of domestic violence in their workplace; 21% identified themselves as victims of intimate partner violence.
  • A 2005 survey found that 64% of respondents who identified themselves as victims of domestic violence indicated that their ability to work was affected by the violence. 57% of domestic violence victims said they were distracted; almost half (45%) feared being discovered, and 2 in 5 were afraid of an unexpected visit by their intimate partner (either by phone or in person).
  • Nearly two thirds of corporate executives (63%) say that domestic violence is a major problem in society; 55% cite its harmful impact on productivity in their companies.
  • 91% of employees say that domestic violence has a negative impact on their company’s bottom line; just 43% of corporate executives agree. 71% of corporate executives do not perceive domestic violence as a major issue at their company.
  • Over 70% of US workplaces don’t have a formal program or policy to address workplace violence.
  • Domestic violence issues lead to nearly 8 million lost days of paid work each year, the equivalent of over 32,000 full-time jobs.
  • 96% of employed domestic violence victims experience problems at work because of the abuse.
  • Women in the US are 11 times more likely to be killed with guns than women in other high-income countries.
  • Female intimate partners are more likely to be killed with a firearm than all other means combined.
  • The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%. More than half of women killed by gun violence are killed by family members or intimate partners.

Safety With an Abuser

No one deserves to be abused. Our hope is that if you are being abused, you will be able to find a way to safely get out of the abusive relationship. However, the reality is that for many different reasons, some victims are not able to leave an abusive relationship once the abuse begins. If you’re in a physically abusive relationship, please consider the following tips to help try to keep you and your children safe until the time comes when you are able to leave.

Following these suggestions (often known as a safety plan) can’t guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer. However, it is important that you create a safety plan that is right for you. Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger. You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your children safe.

  • The abuser may have patterns to his/her abuse. Try to be aware of any signs that show s/he is about to become violent so that you can assess how dangerous the situation may be for you and your children.
  • If it looks like violence may happen, try to remove yourself and your children from the situation before the violence begins if you can.
  • Be aware of anything the abuser can use as a weapon. If you can, try and keep any sharp or heavy objects that s/he may use to hurt you, like a hammer or an ice pick, out of the way.
  • Know where guns, knives, and other weapons are. If you can, lock them up or make them as hard to get to as you can.
  • Figure out where the “safer places” are in your home – the places where there aren’t weapons within arm’s reach. If it looks like the abuser is about to hurt you, try to get to a safer place. Stay out of the kitchen, garage, workshop or other room where items that can be used as weapons are kept. Try to avoid rooms with tile or hardwood floors if possible.
  • If the abuser does start to harm you, don’t run to where the children are; the abuser may hurt them too.
  • If there’s no way to escape the violence at that moment, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball. Protect your face and put your arms around each side of your head, wrapping your fingers together.
  • Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry. The abuser could use these things to strangle you.
  • Create a plan with your children for when violence happens. Tell them not to get involved if the abuser is hurting you since that may get them hurt. Decide on a code word to let them know that they should leave the house and get help. If the abuser won’t let them leave the house safely, figure out with them where would be a safe place for them to go within the house where they can call for help (such as a room with a lock and a phone). Make sure they know that their first priority is to stay safe, not to physically protect you.
  • Practice different ways to get out of your house safely. Practice with your children as well.
  • Plan for what you will do if your children tell your partner about your plan or if your partner finds out about your plan some other way.
  • Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that the violence isn’t their fault or your fault. Tell them that when anyone is being violent, it is important to keep safe.
  • If you need help in a public place, yell “Fire!” People respond more quickly to someone yelling “fire” than to any other cry for help.
  • If you can, always have a phone where you know you can get to it. Know the numbers to call for help such as 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Know where the nearest pay phone is in case you have to run out of the home without your cell phone.
  • Let friends and neighbors who you trust know what is going on in your home. Make a plan with them so that they know when you need help and so they know what to do (such as calling the police or banging on your door). Make up a signal with a trusted neighbor, like flashing the lights on and off or hanging something out the window, which will alert him/her that you need help.
  • Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway (so you can quickly pull out) and having a full tank of gas. Keep your car keys in the same place so you can easily grab them. If you would be leaving by yourself (if you don’t have children), you might want to even keep the driver’s door unlocked (and the other car doors locked) so that you are prepared to make a quick escape if you have to.
  • Keep a copy of important papers with you or in your car, such as your and your children’s birth certificates, passports, immigration papers, and Social Security cards, in case you have to leave in a hurry.
  • If you can, call a domestic violence hotline from time to time to discuss your options and to talk to someone who understands you, even if you feel that you are not ready to leave.
  • Think of several reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night that the abuser will believe, in case you feel that the violence is about to erupt and you need an excuse to get out.

Safety when Preparing to Leave an Abuser

No one deserves to be abused. If you are in an abusive relationship, and you feel that you would like to leave the abuser, here are some tips to help keep you as safe as possible when preparing to leave.

  • Make a plan for how you are going to leave, including where you’re going to go, and how to cover your tracks. Make one plan for if you have time to prepare to leave the home. Make another plan for if you have to leave the home in a hurry.
  • If you can, keep any evidence of the physical abuse and take it with you when you leave. Make sure to keep this evidence in a safe place that the abuser will not find – this may mean that you have to keep it in a locked drawer at work or with a trusted family member. If the abuser finds it, you could be in more danger. Such evidence of physical abuse might include:
    • Pictures you have of bruises or other injuries. If possible, try to have these pictures dated;
    • Torn or bloody clothing;
    • Household objects that the abuser damaged or broke during a violent episode;
    • Pictures that show your home destroyed or messed up after violence happened;
    • Any records you have from doctors or the police that document the abuse;
    • Whenever you are hurt, go to a doctor or to an emergency room as soon as possible if you can. Tell them what happened. Ask them to make a record of your visit and of what happened to you. Be sure to get a copy of the record.
    • A journal that you may have kept with details about the abuse, which could help prove the abuse in court.
    • Anything else you think could help show that you’ve been abused.
    • If you have evidence of other types of abuse (threatening voicemails, text messages, emails, etc.), bring copies of those with you as well.
  • Get a bag together that you can easily grab when you leave. Some things to include in the bag are:
    • Spare car keys;
    • Your driver’s license;
    • A list of your credit cards so that you can track any activity on them;
    • Your checkbook;
    • Money;
    • Phone numbers for friends, relatives, doctors, schools, taxi services, and your local domestic violence organization;
    • A change of clothing for you and your children;
    • Any medication that you or your children usually take;
    • Copies of your children’s birth certificates, Social Security cards, school records and immunizations;
    • Copies of legal documents for you and the abuser, such as Social Security cards, passports, green cards, medical records, insurance information, birth certificates, marriage license, wills, welfare identification information and copies of any court orders (such as your protection order or custody order);
    • Copies of financial documents for you and the abuser, such as pay stubs, bank account information, a list of credit cards you hold by yourself or together with the abuser;
    • Any evidence you’ve been collecting to show that you’ve been abused; and
    • A few things you want to keep, like photographs, jewelry or other personal items.

Hide this bag somewhere the abuser will not find it. Try to keep it at the home of a trusted friend or neighbor. Avoid using next-door neighbors, close family members, or mutual friends, as the abuser might be more likely to find it there. If you’re in an emergency and need to get out right away, don’t worry about gathering these things. While they’re helpful to have, getting out safely should come first.

  • Hide an extra set of car keys in a place you can get to easily in case the abuser takes the car keys to prevent you from leaving.
    Try to set money aside. If the abuser controls the household money, this might mean that you can only save a few dollars per week; the most important thing is that you save whatever amount you can that will not tip off the abuser and put you in further danger. You can ask trusted friends or family members to hold money for you so that the abuser cannot find it and/or use it.
  • If you have not worked outside of the home and worry about your ability to support yourself, try to get job skills by taking classes at a community college or a vocational school if you can. This may help you to get a job either before or after you leave so that you won’t need to be financially dependent on the abuser.
  • Getting a protective order can be an important part of a safety plan when preparing to leave. Even if you get a protective order, you should still take other safety planning steps to keep yourself and your children safe. A legal protective order is not always enough to keep you safe.
  • Leave when the abuser will least expect it. This will give you more time to get away before the abuser realizes that you are gone.
  • If you have time to call the police before leaving, you can ask the police to escort you out of the house as you leave. You can also ask them to be “on call” while you’re leaving, in case you need help. Not all police precincts will help you in these ways but you may want to ask your local police station if they will.

If you plan on taking your children with you when you leave, it is generally best to talk to a lawyer who specializes in domestic violence and custody issues beforehand to make sure that you are not in danger of violating any court custody order you may have or any criminal parental kidnapping laws. This is especially true if you want to leave the state with the children.

If you are considering leaving without your children, please talk to a lawyer who specializes in custody before doing this. Leaving your children with an abuser may negatively affect your chances of getting custody of them in court later on.

If you are fleeing to a confidential location and you fear that the abuser will go looking for you, you might want to create a false trail after you leave. For example, you could call motels, real estate agencies, schools, etc., in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to go and ask them questions that will require them to call you back. Give them your old phone number (the number at the home you shared with the abuser, not the number to the place you are going). However, do not make these phone calls before you leave. If anyone calls you back while you are still with the abuser, or if the abuser is able to check your phone to see what numbers you have called, the abuser would be tipped off that you are preparing to leave, which could put you in great danger.

Safety in Court

After you have left an abusive relationship, there may be many occasions where you will have to see the abuser in court to deal with a protection order, custody, child support, divorce, or criminal proceedings. Since you are in a courthouse surrounded by people and even court officers, you may feel like it is okay to let your guard down. However, please remember that any time you come into contact with the abuser, you have to take steps to protect yourself. Here are some tips to help keep you as safe as possible.

Following these suggestions (often known as a safety plan) can’t guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer. However, it is important that you create a safety plan that is right for you. Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger. You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your children safe.

  • Try to get to court at a different time than you think the abuser will arrive to avoid seeing him/her on the street or in line to enter the court. If the abuser is always late, try arriving early. If the abuser always arrives early, try arriving closer to your hearing time or come with a friend. Remember: make sure to leave plenty of time to get through the lines, metal detectors, etc., so that you get to the hearing on time. If you are late, the case may be called without you and dismissed. Finding a domestic violence advocate to go with you can really help with safety.
  • See if your police department or sheriff’s department will take you to the courthouse. Meet them somewhere other than the courthouse and then ask the officer to walk you inside. Have the officer wait with you until you find the bailiff or courthouse security and let them know your situation. Try to sit near the court officers or security guards if you can.
  • Bring a friend or family member with you so you won’t have to be alone at all during the day.
  • If your friend or family member cannot spend the day in court with you, ask that person to drive you to court. It’s best to get someone whose car the abuser doesn’t know. Ask him/her to drop you off at the courthouse entrance so you don’t have to walk alone through the parking lot.
  • Stay together with whoever came with you while inside the courthouse. Ask your friend/family member to keep an eye on the surroundings and pay attention to safety considerations. If you need to use the bathroom and it has a lot of stalls, ask your friend/family member to come into the bathroom with you. If your friend/family member is unable to come into the bathroom with you, ask him/her to wait outside the bathroom for you.
  • Find someone who knows the courthouse well, like a domestic violence advocate or someone who works at the courthouse. Ask them about safe places you can sit where you will be close to courthouse security but where you will still hear your name called when they call your case. Ask them where all the exits are, in case you have to leave in a hurry. Besides the main exit, there may be exits through the courtrooms, side exits, or fire exits that you could use in an emergency.
  • Ask the bailiff or courthouse security to keep the abuser away from you. Let the bailiff or courthouse security know if the abuser sits near you or tries to harass you. If you have a restraining order, remember that the order is still in effect while you are in the courthouse. If the abuser violates the order while in the waiting room or in line at the courthouse entrance, you can report it to a court officer or call the police.
  • At the end of your hearing, ask the judge or the court officer/bailiff to “detain” the abuser. In other words, to hold him/her until you can leave.
  • If the judge or court officer won’t detain the abuser, think about letting the abuser leave the courthouse first, then wait a long time before leaving and try to leave out of a different exit than the main exit. However, even if you wait a long time, be aware that the abuser could still be out there waiting for you so be observant.
  • Have a police officer or sheriff walk out of the courthouse with you and walk you to your car if possible.
  • Have a friend pick you up at the exit or if you had a friend/family member come with you, make sure that s/he walks to your car with you.

Safety While Using Social Media

Here are some things you can do to try to stay safe online.

  • For any account that you create, use a strong password that no one could figure out and keep it private.
  • Limit the amount of identifying information you use, like your birth date, address, full name, etc. (This step can also help prevent identity theft.)
  • Be careful about what you post! Consider the articles you post to your profile, the pictures you put in an online album, or any status updates that indicate where you are at the moment (such as “checking in” at a restaurant) or where you are headed (such as a vacation destination). These types of posts can reveal a lot about you: your interests, your whereabouts, and your future plans, which can lead to someone finding you.
  • Log out of your account by clicking “log out” after each session on your social media page. Do not simply close the browser, as it does not always log you out of your account, which would then be viewable by any other user of the computer.

It’s good practice to assume that anything you put on the Internet can be seen. However, even information that you have not entered into a website yourself can show up on the Internet – for example, if you have a magazine subscription or if you donate to a political campaign, your personal information can be accessed on the Internet. Despite privacy settings, computer hackers and computer spyware can potentially access your information.

A good test to find out how searchable you are on the Internet is to search your own name (using a search engine such as Google) and see what comes up. If you have a common name, try modifying your search by including some basic information like your city or high school. If you find articles or images about yourself, you may try to contact the administrator of the website and ask that s/he remove them although there is no guarantee that the website administrator will honor your request.

Receive the Help You Need!

Call: 440-357-1018

Forbes House Helpline is Available 24/7/365