Defending Yourself Against Domestic Violence

Alice Cooper crooned the #12 US Billboard hit “Only Women Bleed” in 1975. But Alice Cooper had that wrong. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, 25 percent – approximately one in four – women experience domestic abuse at the hands of a loved one. They’re the victims in 85 percent of such reported crimes. But the remaining victims are men. Men bleed, too.

An intimate relationship is a bit like a fishbowl. It surrounds your life. You wake up with your partner and you return home to him or her at the end of the day. If you’re a partner who does not work, you wave goodbye in the morning and wait for your mate to come back after the work shift. Sometimes you wait knowing that when he or she does comes back, it’s going to hurt.

You may think there is no way out. There’s always an escape hatch, but sometimes you must take the path to that hatch one step at a time.

Understanding Domestic Violence

The first step is understanding and awareness. There is more than one kind of domestic violence or abuse. If your partner never lays a hand on you, but he strikes your child or kicks your pet as a warning to keep you in line, that’s abuse. If he never hits you, but he only gives you $10 a day to feed your family of four and he wants an accounting or receipts for every dime you spend, this is abuse. It’s a form of control. If he threatens or forces you into a sexual practice that makes you cry with shame, or if he regularly tells your friends and family you’re useless – all this is abuse.

Finding Your Way Out of a Violent Relationship

Your friends may suspect what’s going on. They might notice a bruise or pick up on your fear and misery. They might wonder why you don’t leave. You don’t leave because, frankly, it’s not as easy as grabbing your toothbrush and heading for the door. You might fear that if you do, the repercussions will be worse than what you’re going through if you stay. Maybe your partner has threatened to kill you if you leave, and you believe he’s capable of it. Maybe you have literally no money of your own to make the break. Maybe you have children, and someone has told you that you can’t take them with you when you run.

Are you trapped? No, you are not.

You can go immediately to a shelter if you feel you’re in physical danger. And in most states, you can indeed take your children with you. Although you can’t necessarily move out and into another residence with them, absent abuse in your home, you have the right to remove your children from a dangerous situation. If you can get to a shelter, you can stay there until your lawyer sorts things out.

What if you can’t afford a lawyer? Legal aid in almost every state has special provisions for victims of domestic violence. If you’re simply looking to legal aid to get you divorced, you usually have to qualify income-wise. But if you’re a victim of domestic violence, those requirements are often waived.

You are not defenseless. Assistance is out there. Someone is there to reach a hand out to you. Look in the phone book for domestic abuse shelters, services or counseling. Browse the Internet. Someone waits to help you safely take your next step toward freedom.

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