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Domestic Violence - Staying Safe
It takes great courage to leave an abusive situation. Many victims are afraid to leave their abuser due to economic reasons, the risk of losing custody of their children, low self-esteem, a desire to keep the family together, religious or cultural influences, exhaustion, or the threat of more serious violence against them or their children. However, there are resources available to help you safely leave an abusive relationship. The following tips may assist you in taking the first step:
Please note: Military families who need assistance with domestic abuse should contact your installation Family Advocacy Program (FAP). The FAP may be contacted through the medical treatment facility, Family Support Program or installation security.
  • Know that you have rights and that you can take action. Domestic violence is a crime and you are entitled to protection by the law.
  • Get medical help if you are a victim of violence. Go to a hospital or doctor and report what happened and ask that they document your visit.
  • Document any evidence of physical abuse (torn clothes and photos of bruises and injuries).
  • Give essential items to a person you trust for safekeeping, including a spare set of keys, extra clothes, important papers (i.e., birth certificate, social security card, spare driver’s license, etc), prescriptions and money.
  • Plan ahead for the safest time to get away and the items you need to take with you.
  • Rehearse with your children and identify a safe place where they can go for help if needed.
  • Know where you can go for help. Tell someone what is happening to you and bring along telephone numbers of friends, relatives and domestic abuse programs.
  • Call the police if you are in immediate danger and need help.
  • Ask a neighbor to call police if they hear suspicious noises coming from your home and/or arrange a signal with a neighbor. For example, if the porch light is on, call the police.
  • Contact your local domestic abuse hotline, shelters or other resources available in the “Helpful Resources” section of this digest.
  • Speak with your human resources representative, supervisor, security or a counselor about the best way to stay safe—and keep your co-workers safe—while at work.
  • In order to maintain safety after a relationship ends, keep a copy of your restraining order (if applicable) with you at all times and leave a copy with someone you trust; and make your home as safe as possible by changing the locks and installing a security system, smoke detectors, and an outside lighting system.
  • Tell your caregivers the names of those who have permission to pick up your children and instruct them never to let your children leave with anyone else.
How Abuse Affects Children

Living in an abusive home can have serious long-term effects on children, even if they are not direct victims of physical, sexual or psychological/emotional abuse. Children living in a home where abuse takes place against a partner are more likely to receive mistreatment or neglect, are at greater risk for physical or sexual abuse, and may suffer emotional consequences of seeing or hearing a family member be abused. Even infants can sense the effects of abuse and may become fussy, refuse to eat, have difficulty sleeping and suffer developmental problems. School-aged children may imitate the violence they see and/or become aggressive, violent or destructive with toys, siblings, friends or pets. Other children become withdrawn, fearful or anxious. They often have trouble making friends, low self-esteem, and may do poorly in school. Adolescents may have similar reactions and, in addition, they may engage in risky behaviors and become violent as adults.

Recognizing Abuse in a Friend or Loved One

Crimes of domestic violence are often overlooked by family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors and the police, which can make it even more difficult for the victims to receive the help they need. Additionally, many victims don’t think of themselves as abused or battered. If you suspect that a friend, loved one or co-worker may be in an abusive relationship, watch for the following signs, which may indicate domestic violence:

  • Depression, anger, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts—Signs of depression, anxiety or becoming withdrawn may indicate long-term emotional or psychological abuse.
  • Medical problems—Pay attention to chronic complaints of poor health, frequent visits to the doctor or hospital, fatigue, puffy eyes, changes in eating or sleeping habits, frequent “falls” or “accidents” resulting in bruises or injuries, or overuse of alcohol, drugs or sedatives.
  • Emotional distress—Look for signs of agitation, anxiety, confused thinking, lack of eye contact, isolation, inability to make decisions, criticism by a partner in front of others, and nervousness or anxiety when talking about a partner.
  • Inappropriate dress—Watch for changes in dress, such as wearing hats, sunglasses while indoors, turtlenecks during warm weather, etc.
Note—These indications are not proof that domestic violence exists—they are merely signs that it might be occurring.

This document is provided to you in conjunction with LifeCare. It is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any reader with specific authority, advice or recommendations.

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