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Domestic Violence

What is it?

  • Domestic violence is also called spouse abuse. Abuse of women is the most common form of abuse. At least 1 in every 6 women is hit sometime during their relationship. And, at least 1 million women each year are severely and repeatedly beaten by their husbands or boyfriends. But, men may also be abused. Abuse often gets worse and could even cause death. Remember that there are others like you and help is available when you are ready. No one has the right to beat you up. It is against the law.
  • There are different types of abuse.
    • Physical abuse is when someone hits, pushes, or physically hurts you. Physical abuse also happens when you are forced into doing something without the other person thinking about your rights. It is also abuse if you are kept from doing something that you want to do.
    • Sexual abuse is when you are forced to have sexual contact of any kind (vaginal, oral, or anal) when you don't want to.
    • Emotional abuse is when you are made to feel worthless, are constantly insulted, or made to feel frightened.

How do you know if you are being abused?

Answer the following questions. If you answer "yes" to even one of these questions, you are being abused. Does someone you know...

  • Throw you down, push, hit, choke, kick, or slap you?
  • Threaten to hurt you or your children?
  • Say it's your fault if he or she hits you, then promises it won't happen again (but it does)?
  • Put you down or say bad things to or about you?
  • Force you to have sex when you don't want to?


Abuse is never OK. People don't "ask for it." It is not caused by alcohol, drugs, money problems, depression, or jealousy. But, these things can give the attacker an excuse for losing control and abusing someone. Many people that are abusive were raised watching abuse or were abused themselves as children. It is important to remember that the actions of the other person are not your fault.

Signs and Symptoms:

You may have pain, bruising, bleeding, or swelling where you were hit. Black eyes and bruises on the face are common signs of abuse. Feeling bad about yourself and feeling like you are stupid may be a symptom of emotional abuse. Feeling like you deserve to be abused may be another symptom of emotional abuse. The other person may be angry or calm and may apologize less and less after each attack.


Making a decision to leave an abusive relationship can be very hard to do. It may take time for you to feel ready. It is important that you have a safety plan in case you are being threatened. Call a woman's shelter and a caregiver can help you make a safety plan. You do not have to give anyone your name.

  • Pack a suitcase or box for you and your children. Keep this at a friend or neighbor's house. In this suitcase, pack extra clothing, medicines you may need, and money. Remember to include an extra set of car and house keys. Also, take a favorite toy or plaything for your children.
    • Take important papers, such as:
      • A driver's license or photo ID.
      • Your social security number or green card/work permit.
      • Birth certificates for you and your children.
      • Health insurance cards.
      • The deed or lease to your house or apartment.
      • Any court papers or orders.
      • Pay stubs.
    • Keep the following phone numbers close at hand.
      • Social Services.
      • Local safe house or shelter.
  • National Organization for Victim Assistance
    510 King St, Ste 424
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    Phone: 1-800-879-6682
    Web Address:
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
    1120 Lincoln Street, Suite 1603
    Denver, CO 80203
    Phone: 1-303-839-1852
    Phone: 1-800-799-7233
    Web Address:
  • Tell a supportive friend or family member that you may show up at any time of day or night in case of an emergency.
  • If you do not have a close friend or family member you can trust, make a list of other safe places to go (shelters, hotels, and police or emergency departments).
  • Leave right away if you see the person start to lose control and you feel that violence is going to occur. Take any children with you and try to get to a safe place. The warning signs of danger are different in every situation. The abusive person may do one or more of the following things, which shows you he may become violent.
    • Excessive use of alcohol.
    • Threatening to use a weapon.
    • Threatening the children, other family members, or pets.
    • Forcing sexual contact.
  • If you are attacked or beaten, report it to the police so that the abuse is documented. Also, the police can protect you while you or the attacker are leaving. It is a good idea to get the officer's name and badge number and a copy of the report.
  • See a caregiver if you are injured. Tell them what happened to you. You may be afraid to report your injuries because of fear or shame. But it is very important to report your injuries to a caregiver so you can be cared for. Also, caregivers can see and document the abuse.
  • Find someone you can trust and tell them what is happening to you. This may be your caregiver, clergy member, close friend, or family member. You may feel better if you tell someone about the abuse. Feeling ashamed is also natural. But keep in mind, no one deserves to be abused.
  • Many victims do not leave their home because they do not have money or a job. Planning ahead may help you in the future. Try to save money and put it in a safe place. Keep your job or try to get a job. Many women's shelters can help you if you cannot get a job. Often, they can help you get the training you need to get a job.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about abuse and how it can be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.