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Domestic Abuse: Changing Your Life

Abuse tends to get worse and occur more often over time. If you are being abused, plan ahead to get out for good. But don’t feel discouraged if it takes more than one try. With courage and help from others, you can change your life.

Close-up of Summons Domestic Relations document.

Increase Your Safety Now

You don’t deserve to be abused. Prepare now to protect your health and safety:

  • Contact a women’s shelter for help with making your plans.

  • Know how to get out of your home in a hurry. Find a back door or window that you can leave through.

  • Decide where to go in an emergency. Learn how to get there without a car. If you have children, make sure they know how to get there if you can’t be with them.

  • If you trust a neighbor, set up an emergency signal, such as a crooked window blind. Ask the neighbor to call the police if they see this sign.

How to Start

Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. Often, the safest time to leave is soon after your abuser has made up with you. But you are the best judge of when to leave. Trust your instincts and get prepared. That way you can act quickly when the time is right.

  • Pack an emergency “care package.” Include clothing, cash, a set of car keys, any daily medications, and important papers (such as birth certificates). Have a trusted friend keep these items for you.

  • Locate a safe place to live. A friend’s house or a women’s shelter may offer refuge until you find a more permanent place.

  • Look into job training. Many women’s shelters provide job referrals and childcare services.

Seek Legal Protection

Domestic abuse is against the law. Find out what your rights are. Women’s shelters or hotlines can help you get started. Here are some options:

  • Go on record: File a criminal complaint. Arresting the abuser is often the best way to stop abuse in the future. Or file a voluntary statement, which gives you the option of dropping charges later.

  • Get a restraining order: This makes it illegal for your abuser to have contact with you for a certain length of time.

  • Consider a no-fault divorce: It allows you to divorce sometimes without the help of an attorney. Or try a legal separation.

You’re Not Alone

Remember that you are not alone. Look to friends, family, clergy, and counselors for support. Women’s shelters and social services can also help. Check the phone book for listings or call the following resource:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

 

 

 

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