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Close the Door on Intimate Partner Violence

Many people believe that intimate partner violence—also called domestic violence—is a concern, yet they still do not understand the full scope of the problem.

The CDC defines intimate partner violence (IPV) as actual or threatened physical or sexual violence, or psychological and emotional abuse, directed at a spouse, former spouse, current or former boyfriend or girlfriend, or dating partner.

Here are some facts from the CDC that can help put this issue in perspective:

  • About 1.5 million women and 835,000 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year.

  • Nearly two-thirds of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, or stalked were victims of a current or former husband, partner, boyfriend, or date.

  • Among women who are assaulted or raped by an intimate partner, one in three is injured, some seriously enough to require medical treatment.

  • Guns and other firearms were the major weapons used in homicides of intimate partners from 1981 to 1998.

  • Nearly one-third of African-American women experience IPV, compared with one-fourth of Caucasian women.

Given these statistics, it is likely that at some point you have known or will know someone who is a victim of domestic abuse. Or you may be one of those victims yourself.

An abusive relationship usually develops slowly. It may not be easy to identify abuse, which can be subtle. Early signs may include extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, verbal threats, a history of violent reaction or abuse, and verbal or emotional abuse. Other indications of an abusive relationship include having to ask your partner for permission to make decisions; being accused of things you haven't done or of being unfaithful; having to limit time with your family or friends because your partner demands it; or submitting to sex against your will.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, or know someone who is, these suggestions may help.

Explore your options

Anyone in an abusive situation knows that trying to get out of the situation can be difficult and even dangerous. This doesn't mean that you don't have options. First, contact your local domestic violence organization or the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It provides crisis intervention, information, and referrals to local organizations.

Make a safety plan

A safety plan is a list of things you can do to help increase safety for you and your children. For example, identify areas in the house that are safe—where there are no weapons and where you can go during an argument. Try to keep a phone nearby, so that you can call for help (get a cell phone, if possible) and memorize important numbers. Let neighbors or friends you trust know about the situation and develop visual or verbal signals you can use to tell them that abuse is occurring and you need them to call the police.

Preparing to leave

Changing or leaving an abusive situation requires careful planning. If you've decided to leave, here are some ways you can prepare:

  • Tell someone about the abuse. Know where you can get help and who can help you.

  • Find out about your rights. Learn about state laws that protect women. Also, find local resources such as battered women's shelters and ask for help in preparing to leave.

  • Keep important documents, such as extra checks, credit cards, address book, identification cards, birth certificates, and documentation of abuse, together in a safe place in your home or in the home of someone you can trust.

  • Put aside money if you can and hide an extra set of car keys.

  • Plan for a quick escape and know where and how you will escape.

  • You can get a protective order from a court to keep the abusive partner away from your home and work.

  • Acquire job skills as you can. This can help you become financially independent.

  • While there is danger in leaving, it's also dangerous to continue to live with an abuser—the violence usually becomes more frequent and severe over time. You can't stop an abuser's actions. But you can take steps to get out of the abusive situation and begin to put your life back on track.