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Domestic abuse

Written by Aetna By Aetna

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What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse, sometimes referred to as domestic violence, is a very serious issue. It happens when someone you’re close to hurts you. Women and children are often the targets, but it can happen to anyone. Physical and verbal abuse can damage your belief in yourself. You may begin to feel isolated, helpless and alone. If this happens to you or you’re worried that it might, then it’s time to make a change. 

Recognize the patterns of abuse

Seeing a pattern of abuse is important. If you are the target of abuse, days or weeks may pass between attacks. Watch out for these warning signs. Your abuser may:

  • Call you names, insult you or put you down
  • Blame you for their violent behavior
  • Try to prevent you from going to work or school or seeing friends and family
  • Beg for forgiveness and promise to change
  • Start acting tense, angry or depressed

Get ready to leave

Domestic abuse tends to get worse over time. If you’re being abused, it’s important to take steps to remove yourself from the situation. Know that you’re not alone. You can get help from friends, family, clergy and counselors. Domestic violence shelters and social services can also help.

You don’t deserve to be abused. Before you leave:

  • Contact a shelter for help with making your plans.
  • Know how to get out of your home in a hurry. Find a back door or window that you can leave through.
  • Figure out where to go in an emergency. Learn how to get there without a car. If you have children, make sure they know how to get there if you can’t be with them.
  • If you trust a neighbor, set up an emergency signal, like a crooked window blind. Ask the neighbor to call the police if they see this sign.
  • Pack an emergency “care package.” Include clothing, cash, a set of car keys, any daily medications and important papers. Have a trusted friend keep these items for you.
  • Find a safe place to live. A friend’s house or a shelter may offer refuge until you find a more permanent place.

Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. Often, the safest time to leave is soon after your abuser has made up with you. But you are the best judge of when to leave. Trust your instincts and get ready. That way, you can act quickly when the time is right.

After you leave

You have rights. Domestic abuse is against the law. Shelters and hotlines can help you take action. Here are some of your options:

  • Go on record. File a criminal complaint. Arresting your abuser is often the best way to stop future abuse. Or you can file a voluntary statement, which gives you the option of dropping charges later.
  • Get a restraining order. This will make it illegal for your abuser to contact you for a certain length of time.

Emergency contact

If there’s an emergency or you’re worried about your safety or your child’s safety, you should:

Call the police

Dial 911 immediately if there’s an emergency.

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 and is completely confidential. You can reach them at 1-800-799-7233.

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