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Domestic Violence

How to react and prevent domestic violence

What is domestic violence? The term "domestic violence" used to refer to physical abuse between spouses or against one spouse (most often the wife). It now encompasses other forms of in-home abuse, such as against children or the elderly. It can also include emotional abuse.

Domestic violence statistics show that 4 million American women experience a serious assault by a partner during an average 12-month period. Around the world, 1 out of every 3 women has been abused in some form during her lifetime, whether it be beaten, coerced into sex, emotionally abused or another form of violence. Shockingly, many women are first abused during pregnancy.

Here are a few tips on how to de-escalate conflict and deal with it safely and non-violently:

  • Take a step back. Everyone should take a few minutes to breathe and calm down before returning to the situation.
  • Listen. Each party should have the opportunity to share his or her side of the argument without the other one interrupting. Yelling and screaming will not help accomplish anything.
  • Discuss. Once you have both expressed your feelings and your side of the debate, have a mature, calm discussion about how to resolve the problem. Can you negotiate a new way of doing things? Is there a stress management technique you could use?
  • Think back. Remind yourself why you are in this relationship. Why do you love this person? Why is this the best situation for you? If you can't remember why you are together, perhaps it is time to move on.

If this non-violent method does not work for you or is simply not an option at this point, you must take precautionary measures to keep yourself (and other family members, like children) safe. If faced with domestic violence, take the following steps:

  • Think about your escape routes. How can you get out of the house or building if you need to?
  • Choose a place to go. Once you're out, don't wander the streets. Head straight to your own safe haven, whether this be a friend or relative's house, a shelter or a motel or hotel.
  • Pack an emergency bag. This will be your survival kit. Keep this hidden, as discovery of the item could be used as an excuse by your abuser to retaliate against you for planning a getaway. If you are worried about being discovered, hide the kit at a friend's house. Include keys, money, a change of clothes, medication, birth certificates and identification, credit cards and legal documents.
  • Ready your resources. Memorize the number of a local shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE.

Nobody should have to deal with domestic violence, which is why there are so many resources out there to help battered women, abused children and other victims of domestic violence. For information on domestic violence shelters in your area or to talk to someone about your situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you are in immediate danger, dial 911 or leave the house when possible. You can visit a police station, fire station, hospital or doctor's office for help and guidance on what your next steps should be.

If you know somebody who is a victim of domestic violence, do not let him or her suffer any longer. Help that person get out of a terrible situation. You can also attend a domestic violence conference in your area for more information about helping victims in your community and preventing future instances of domestic violence.

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