What You Should Know About Domestic Abuse

What is domestic abuse?

There are many forms of domestic abuse, ranging from screaming threats to pushing and shoving. Contrary to what many women think, abuse isn’t just physical battering.

Domestic abuse may include emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, using children, threats, using male privilege, intimidation, isolation and a variety of other behaviors used to maintain fear, intimidation and power. In all cultures, the perpetrators are most commonly the men of the family. Nearly one in three adult women experiences at least one physical assault by a partner during adulthood, according to the American Psychological Association in a 1996 report.

Domestic abuse does not discriminate against race, age and socioeconomic background. No specific type of woman is more prone to being battered by her partner, nor is one type of woman completely safe from abuse.

What Victims of Domestic Violence Need to Know?

  • The abuse is not your fault.
  • You don’t deserve to be abused.
  • You can’t change someone who is abusive.
  • Staying in the relationship won’t stop the abuse.
  • With time the abuse always gets worse.
  • If you stay, make a plan to keep yourself safe when the abuse happens again.
  • You CAN Fight Back!

Signs of Domestic Abuse

Acts of domestic violence generally fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Physical battering — The abuser’s physical attacks or aggressive behavior can range from bruising to murder.
  • Sexual abuse — Physical attack by the abuser is often accompanied by or culminates in, sexual violence.
  • Psychological battering — The abuser’s psychological or mental violence can include constant verbal abuse, harassment, excessive possessiveness, isolating the woman from friends and family, and depriving her of food, money, clothes, and destroying her personal property. Be Prepared!

If you have been assaulted, you can report it to the police.

The Criminal Code says that assault is a criminal offence. The Code describes three types of assault and sets maximum penalties (called sentences) for each type.

The three types of assault are:

  • Simple assault (most common assault). Examples are slapping, pushing or shoving, punching or threatening that he or she will harm you or your children.
  • Assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm. Examples are an assault where you are beaten with a baseball bat or an assault where you get a black eye or broken bones.
  • Aggravated assault is an assault where your life is endangered or you are wounded, maimed or disfigured. Examples are where the offender threatens to kill you or where your injuries from the assault leave you with a limp or scars.

Warning signs of an Abusive Relationship

  • Are you frightened of your partner’s temper?
  • Are you often compliant because you are afraid to hurt your partner’s feelings or are afraid of your partner’s anger?
  • Do you have the urge to “rescue” your partner when your partner is in trouble?
  • Do you find yourself apologizing to others for your partner’s behavior when you are treated badly?
  • Have you been hit, kicked, shoved, or had things thrown at you by your partner when he was jealous or angry?
  • Do you make decisions about activities and friends according to what your partner wants or how your partner will react?
  • Do you drink or use drugs to dull the pain or join your partner so he won’t get mad?
  • Do you consent easily to your partner to avoid angering him?
  • What are some of the warning signs?
  • He is extremely jealous.
  • Wants to know where you are at all times.
  • Gets upset if you spend time with friends or family.
  • Holds rigid expectations of male/female or adult/child role.
  • He expects you to meet his emotional needs.
  • Blames others and you for his problems.
  • Threatens you with violence.

There may be many other warning signs; you can phone the nearest Woman’s Shelter for further information.

Do something before it’s too late!

In your contact with any family member, the following observations should be considered clues to the possibility of wife assault. A history of wife assault or child abuse in his family of origin. A suspicion of child abuse or sexual abuse in his role as a father. Abuse of drugs or alcohol.

A history of suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.

Such characteristics as:

  • Impulsiveness.
  • Temper tantrums.
  • Jealousy.
  • Possessiveness.
  • Excessive dependence on his wife.
  • Immaturity.

What do we know about abusers?

  • They try to isolate victims from family and friends.
  • They minimize and deny their behavior.
  • They veil power and control over others.
  • They blame victims.
  • They distrust others.
  • They often have been victims or witnessed abuse.
  • They usually have low self-esteem.
  • They are not in touch with their own feelings.

Preparing to Leave

  • Keep evidence of abuse (i.e., pictures, police reports, etc.) in a safe place that is accessible to you.
  • Know where you can go to get help; tell someone you trust what is happening to you.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or emergency room and report what happened to you.
  • Make sure that they record your visit.
  • Make sure that your children know that it is their job to stay safe, not protect you.
  • Keep a journal of all violent incidences.
  • Start an individual savings account and have statements sent to a trusted friend.
  • Acquire job skills.
  • If you must sneak away, leave extra money, extra car keys, important papers, and extra set of clothes for yourself and children with a trusted friend (avoid family members and mutual friends who may be influenced by the abuser). Include a list of important numbers (insurance numbers, driver’s license, medication, checkbook, credit card numbers, etc.) Practice effective Self Defense Tricks… just in case.

Getting Out

What to do when leaving an abusive relationship?

If you are contemplating leaving an abusive relationship, there are some things you should do that may assist you in the process of leaving:

Make a safety plan

  • Write down Contact Places in the community for support.
  • Assess your safety and that of your children.
  • Contact a shelter for a safe place to stay.
  • Seek interim custody.
  • Seek a support system from family, friends and advocates.
  • Be prepared, it helps you in a case of emergency.

Make an Escape Plan

  • Make sure you have important documents.
  • Save money in secret when you can.
  • Keep extra keys and clothes with friends.
  • Plan out all possible escape routes – doors, first floor windows, elevators, stairwells and rehearse escape routes with your children.
  • Arrange a safe place to go such as a friend or relative who will offer unconditional support – or a motel, hotel, or shelter.
  • Memorize the telephone number of a domestic violence shelter or call 911
  • Secure transportation.
  • Work out a signal system with a friend or other family members so that they know you are in danger.
  • Go when he is gone.
  • Don’t tell him you are leaving.
  • Create an excuse to slip away.
  • Avoid arguments in areas with potential weapons such as the kitchen, garage, or in small spaces without escape routes.
  • When leaving your home, be aware. Your spouse may try to hurt you to stop you escaping.
  • Start to learn self defense techniques immediately!

What can you do if you have been abused?

You can, and you should talk to someone about the abuse. You can tell a family member, a friend, or your doctor. You can also talk to a support group in your community. Women’s centers and legal aid offices may be able to tell you of other services which offer help.

You can get medical help – if you have been hurt you can go to your doctor or to the Emergency Department at a hospital. If your injuries are visible you can have pictures taken. They can be used in court should you decide to lay assault charges. There are special medical and police procedures for sexual assault cases. For more information, check the Sexual Assault Department and the law in your country.

You can apply for a peace bond (in the countries where this system exist)

A peace bond or ‘recognizance’ is a paper signed by a person (such as a spouse) promising to keep the peace and be of good behavior. The peace bond may have other conditions such as requiring the person to stay away from your home or place of work. A peace bond may last for up to one year. The judge decides how long it will last.

You have to go to court to get a peace bond. You do not have to be assaulted to apply nor do you have to lay assault charges. You do have to convince the judge that you have a reasonable fear of the offender. The offender will also be in court.

Finding a Place To Go

When an assault occurs you should attempt to protect yourself. One way you might do this is to leave the home. If you don’t have a friend or family member with whom you can safely stay, and cannot afford a motel, there are shelters in your country which will accommodate you in an emergency. The RCMP or the police, if requested, will escort you out of the family home to any safe place you specify.

If there are no shelters for you in the vicinity, the Salvation Army may be able to provide temporary assistance. It might also be worthwhile to check with the local Crisis Line or Help Line which may be able to provide a list of the organizations that can help during a crisis.

National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE 1-800-799-7233 1-800-787-3224 TDD 24-hour-a-day hotline staffed by trained counselors ready to provide immediate crisis intervention assistance to those in need. Callers can be connected directly to help in their communities, including emergency services and shelters as well as receive information and referrals, counseling and assistance in reporting abuse. This is a vital lifeline to anyone – man, woman or child – who is a survivor of domestic violence, or who suspects that someone they know may be the victim of abuse. Calls to the hotline are confidential, and callers may remain anonymous if they wish.

On Olga Timbol’s web site First Home Security you can find self defense tips and tehniques for women, as well as products to help protect yourself and your loved ones.

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