Abusive Relationships: When Should I Seek Help?
Did you know that a call is made to a West Virginia domestic hotline every 9 minutes? According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 33.6 percent of West Virginia women and 41.2 percent of West Virginia men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and or intimate partner stalking during their lifetimes. Furthermore, one-third of homicides in West Virginia occur because of domestic violence.
At Seneca Health Services, we understand it can be challenging to know what to do if you are in an abusive relationship. And while it can be difficult, telling someone about the abuse you are experiencing can enable you to break free from the dangerous circumstances in your life and begin a journey to healing. If you need help, we want you to know that our team is here for you. You are never alone.
Continue reading to learn more about when to seek help if you are in an abusive relationship.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is defined as the is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. Domestic violence is not only physical or sexual violence — it includes threats, economic abuse and emotional abuse too. Though domestic violence can take several forms, it consistently involves an imbalance of power and control in a relationship.
Anyone can be affected by domestic violence. It can happen to individuals of any age, gender, income status or education level. According to the NCADV, nearly 20 people per minute are abused physically by an intimate partner in the United States; this equates to more than 10 million women and men per year. Sadly, many more cases of abuse go unreported.
How Do You Recognize Domestic Violence?
Recognizing the signs of abuse can be difficult at first because abuse often starts subtly. Abuse regularly begins with easily dismissed behaviors like name-calling, threats, distrust or possessiveness, for which the abuser regularly apologizes and promises to change. However, despite frequent apologies, their cycle of violence and control usually worsens over time and becomes more dangerous.
According to Mayo Clinic, examples of abusive tendencies to be aware of include (but are not limited to) the following characteristics:
- Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
- Tries to prevent or discourage you from going to work or school or seeing family members or friends
- Attempts to control how you spend money, where you go, what medicines you take or what you wear
- Acts jealous or possessive
- Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Tries to control whether you can see a health care provider
- Threatens you with violence or a weapon
- Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets
- Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
- Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it
When Should You Seek Help?
If you are facing the tough decision on whether or not to leave an abusive relationship, keep in mind that an abuser will probably not change their behavior, despite their commitments to do so. Abusers have severe psychological and emotional problems, which cannot be fixed easily. According to the Help Guide, if you stay with an abuser, you are reinforcing and enabling the behavior. If an abuser truly desires to change, they must take responsibility for their actions and seek professional help.
Protect Your Communication and Location
It is not uncommon for an abuser to monitor your communication channels and or location, but do not let that deter you from getting help. To maintain privacy, Mayo Clinic recommends that you take the following precautions:
- Use phones cautiously. Remember to check your cell phone settings, as an abuser can listen in on calls, read your texts and track your location via your cell phone. Consider using a friend’s cell phone or a second cell phone instead.
- Use your home computer cautiously. Consider using a computer at work, the library or at a friend’s house to get help.
- Remove GPS devices from your vehicle.
- Frequently change your email password.
- Clear your viewing history.
Find Help From These Resources
If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency number or law enforcement agency.
The following resources may be of additional help:
- Talk to someone you trust.
- Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) for crisis intervention and referrals to resources.
- Talk to your healthcare provider. Doctors and nurses will treat injuries and can refer you to safe housing and other local resources.
- Call a local women’s/men’s shelter or crisis center.
- Call a mental health or counseling center. You can reach the Seneca Health Services office nearest you here.
- Talk to a local court. Your district court can help you obtain a restraining order that legally mandates an abuser to stay away from you or face arrest.
Make an Escape Plan
Leaving an abusive relationship is not easy. If you are considering leaving, Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following precautions:
- When the abuser is not around, call a women’s/men’s shelter or domestic violence hotline for free, anonymous advice.
- Pack an emergency bag with items you will need when you leave, such as extra clothes and keys. Leave this bag in a safe place.
- Keep important personal papers, any evidence, a list of emergency contacts, money and prescription medications handy, so you can take them with you on short notice. Place them in a safe place the abuser cannot access.
- Know where you will go, how you will get there and safely practice your escape plan. If you have children, be sure they practice the escape plan as well.
Protect Yourself Once You Leave
After leaving an abusive relationship, it is just as critical to keep yourself as safe as before you left. The NCADV states that abusers often continue to stalk, harass, threaten and try to control their victims once they leave because abusers feel a loss of control. Therefore, victims are usually in the most danger once they leave an abusive relationship or seek help. To protect yourself, the Help Guide recommends taking the following precautions:
- Consider relocating; if you have children, they may need to switch schools.
- If you remain in the same location, be sure to change your routine.
- Get a prepaid mobile phone or an unlisted landline.
- Use a post office box.
- Apply to your state’s address confidentiality program.
- Cancel your old bank accounts and credit cards. When you open new accounts, be sure to use a different bank.
- Consider getting a restraining order or protective order against the abuser.
Finding Help | Seneca Health Services
Healing from the trauma of an abusive relationship can be challenging. You may experience feelings of fear, numbness or other upsetting emotions after leaving an abusive relationship. But remember, you are not alone. Through counseling and support groups for domestic violence survivors, you can begin on a healing journey.
We want you to know that we are here for you at Seneca Health Services. We have therapists certified in various types of therapy, including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, which can assist our patients in coping with a traumatic experience. When a patient enters our therapy services, they will find compassion, companionship, understanding and so much more. If you need help or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Seneca office nearest you or use the link provided here.
Greenbrier County, West Virginia: (304) 497-0500
Nicholas County, West Virginia: (304) 872-2659
Pocahontas County, West Virginia: (304) 799-6865
Webster County, West Virginia: (304) 847-5425