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Take Steps to Protect Yourself from Relationship Violence

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    Content last updated on:
    December 06, 2012

    The Basics

    It can be hard to know if your relationship is headed down the wrong path. While it’s not always possible to prevent relationship violence, there are steps you can take to try and protect yourself.

    If you think your partner might be controlling or abusive, you can:

    • Trust your gut – If you think something’s not right, take it seriously.
    • Find out about the warning signs of someone who might become controlling or violent.
    • Get help – Talk to people who are experts in relationship violence.

    Remember, controlling or violent relationships usually get worse over time. If your partner might be controlling or abusive, it’s better to get help now than to wait.

    The Basics

    What is relationship violence?
    Relationship violence (also called dating, domestic, or intimate partner violence) happens when one person in a relationship tries to control the other person.

    When many people think about relationship violence, they think about physical violence, like hitting or pushing. But people can use other methods, like threats, to control their partners.

    Relationship violence can include:

    • Physical violence, like pushing or throwing things
    • Sexual violence, like forcing or trying to force someone to do something sexual
    • Threats of physical or sexual violence, which may include threatening to hurt another person or pet
    • Emotional abuse, like embarrassing the other partner or keeping that person away from family and friends

    If you feel controlled by or afraid of your partner – even if you haven’t been hurt physically – trust your gut. There are people who can help you figure out what to do next.

    The Basics

    How do I know if my relationship is healthy?
    In a healthy relationship, both people:

    • Make decisions
    • Are honest about their feelings and needs
    • Can disagree with the other person without fear
    • Feel supported and respected
    • Have friends and activities that don’t always involve the other partner
    • Believe that there are more good times than bad in the relationship

    Healthy relationships have problems, too. But in a healthy relationship, both partners take responsibility for their actions and work together to make decisions and sort out the problems.

    The Basics

    How do I know if my relationship might become violent?
    Relationship violence can start slowly and be hard to recognize at first.

    For example, when people first start dating, it’s common to want to spend a lot of time together. It may be hard to tell if you are spending less time with other people just for now, or if your partner is trying to control your time.

    It might help to ask yourself these questions:

    • Does my partner respect me?
    • Does my partner blame me for everything that goes wrong?
    • Does my partner make most of the decisions in our relationship?
    • Am I ever afraid to tell my partner something?
    • Do I ever feel forced to do something I don’t want to do?
    • Have I ever done anything sexual with my partner when I didn’t want to?
    • Does my partner promise to change and then keep doing the same things?

    Get more information about signs of abusive relationships.

    The Basics

    What are the health effects of relationship violence?
    Some health effects are clear, like physical injuries. But the stress of relationship violence can lead to other serious problems like:

    • Eating disorders
    • Depression
    • Mental health problems – like panic attacks, trouble sleeping, and flashbacks (reliving the violence in your mind)
    • Trouble trusting people and building other relationships
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a type of anxiety disorder

    The Basics

    What if I’m not sure my relationship is violent?
    It’s okay if you are not sure – you can still get help. Domestic violence agencies have counselors who are experts at helping people with questions about their relationships. You don’t even have to give your name.

    Domestic violence agencies provide:

    • Emotional support
    • Safety planning
    • Shelter in an emergency
    • Legal help
    • Help with housing

    If you have questions about your relationship, call 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). If you are in danger right now, call 911. Find out more about getting help.

    Take Action!

    Take Action!

    If you think your partner is controlling or abusive, take steps to protect yourself.

    Trust your instincts.
    You are the expert on your life and relationships. If you think your relationship is unhealthy or you are worried about your safety, trust your gut.

    Make a plan to stay safe.
    If you are in a relationship with someone who is violent or might become violent, it’s important to plan for your safety. This is true whether you are planning to stay or to leave. Take steps to protect yourself.

    Protect yourself online.
    When you look at information online, your computer keeps a record of sites you’ve visited. If you are worried that someone may search your computer, check out these tips for using the computer and Internet safely.

    Take Action!

    Get help.
    If you have questions or concerns about your relationship, there are people who can help. Start by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline  at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). If you are in danger right now, call 911.

    Use these tips to help someone in an unhealthy relationship.

    What about cost?
    Domestic violence agencies offer free services, like hotlines, counseling, and help finding resources such as housing or lawyers. To find an agency near you or to talk to a counselor over the phone, call 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233).

    The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, also covers screening and counseling for intimate partner violence for women.

    Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out what this means for you.

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