Reaching out for help, and admitting that you’re being abused, can be incredibly difficult. You may be worried that your partner will become more violent – a fear that should absolutely be taken seriously. You may also be worried about your financial independence and ability to support yourself after you leave. You may be confused about whether what you are experiencing is really abuse, or simply relationship struggles. And you may be ashamed and worried about what others may think if they find out your partner has been hurting you. These are all understandable concerns.
Abuse is very common. At least one in three women and one in seven men will be abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. And research has shown that this behavior rarely stops, without your partner admitting they have a problem and seeking serious help through a batterers’ intervention program to change their beliefs and choices – a change that may take many years of treatment. The fact is that once your partner has started controlling you, putting you down, and disrespecting you, the behavior is likely to continue. And if they are hitting, kicking, punching, or physically abusing you in any way, the level of violence will likely continue to escalate. If you are being abused now, the abuse will not stop on its own.
And you may be in serious danger.
One common tactic of abusers is to isolate you from friends and family, so that when you are ready to leave, you have no one to reach out to for help. This can also make it difficult to find someone to talk with when you are trying to decide whether to leave or stay. Of course, as with any life decision, it is much easier to navigate this process when you have someone you can lean on, and someone you can reach out to for support. And a recent study has found that reaching out for help will not only help you emotionally when leaving an abuser, it may also save your life.
A study out of Dallas County, Texas examining more than 30 intimate partner homicides over the course of two years, discovered that all of the victims had one, unfortunate thing in common—none of them reached out for help prior to their death. In October 2014, the Texas Council on Family Violence released a report stating that Dallas County had the highest per capita rate of murders in which women were killed by an intimate partner.
“The thing that struck us all, out of the cases we reviewed, is that not one victim had called a service provider before her death,” says Jan Langbein, committee member and chief executive of Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas. “At first my response was, what are we doing? Then I realized if she does reach out, she doesn’t die. That was the most profound thing.” Victims who reach out to advocacy programs are also much more likely to feel safe reaching out to law enforcement, courts, and others for assistance and support.
Those who are being abused who reach out for help are able to access many life- saving services, such as counseling, protective orders, legal help, financial assistance, support groups, advocacy, and shelter. Advocates are also able to help you create a safety plan, so you can decide how and when to leave, in a way that works for you.
If your partner is hurting or abusing you in any way, please know that you deserve better. You deserve to be safe and respected, especially by someone you love. And you absolutely do not have to face this alone. Trained advocates are available to listen and support you 24 hours a day at 800-799-SAFE (7233). Your call can be completely confidential. Ready to talk about an escape plan? Find an advocate in your area by going to DomesticShelters.org and searching in your zip code.