Coping techniques: Domestic violence

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. In an emergency call 911.
  2. When the police arrive tell them everything that happened that resulted in your calling them. If you were hit state where and how many times, and you were choked or struck with an object be sure to describe that. If you chose to leave at that time you can ask the police to wait for you to gather your things and escort you out. You can also request information about domestic violence shelters from them. File a report with the police department for any form of assault, and keep copies of the report and incident number, as well as the names and badge numbers of the reporting officers, in your records.
  3. Seek medical attention for any injuries. Request that they be photographed. This will also help to create a trail of documentation.
  4. Understand that you are not the cause of abuse nor is it in any way “your fault.” While women are not the only victims of domestic violence, it’s estimated that one in four women will at some time in her life be the recipient of violence. No matter what your background or behaviors, the only reason one person strikes another is because they choose to do so. Not because they were drunk, or because “you got them mad,” or they had a difficult childhood.
  5. Consider that staying in an abusive relationship—even for a well-intentioned reason, such as a belief that your partner can be helped and that you’re the only one who can do so—winds up reinforcing the abusive relationship.
  6. Couple’s counseling is not recommended in the presence of abuse.
  7. Familiarize yourself with the cycle of violence: rising tension (verbal abuse, threats, intimidation), violence (shoving or pushing, preventing the other person from leaving the room, sexual assault, physical assault)) and the honeymoon period (apology/promises or blaming the victimized partner or denial that violence occurred, physical intimacy, relative harmony). This is called a cycle because it repeats. The violence tends to become more intense over time.
  8. Develop a safety plan. This is a plan you can put into action immediately as your safety is threatened. It includes having an extra set of keys where you can reach them, also credit cards, cash, documents, change of clothing, whatever you know you need to survive away from home, stored someplace where they can reached easily. Get in the habit of keeping your car’s gas tank filled and of parking so that you can take off immediately, without having to back up or open a garage door or gate. A safety plan also includes escape routes from your home, such as a window, as well as what routes not to take, such as into an enclosed space with no exit or into rooms that provide potential weapons, such as the kitchen or garage. Practice this escape route so that you know that it’s effective. Have a safe place you can go to, whether that’s the home of a friend or family member who knows what you’re facing, a women’s shelter or a 24-hour environment such as a restaurant or coffee shop. Consider asking your neighbors to call the police if they hear an incident in your home. Consider having a code word to use with neighbors or friends in order to request that they call the police on your behalf.
  9. If you need to return home to get something and you don’t feel safe, contact your local police station and request an escort.
  10. Become familiar with your abuser’s red flags—the signs that they are becoming angry, or fearful, or threatened, or feeling out of control. When you pick up these cues consider leaving the house on any reasonable pretext as early in the sequence as possible.
  11. While it isn’t fair that you leave your home because of someone else’s abusive behavior, it’s a very good thing that you be safe. For this reason familiarize yourself with domestic violence shelters and resources in your area. Memorize the phone numbers for use in an emergency.
  12. Dysfunctional family systems sustain the dysfunction by enforcing secrecy. As much as possible consider developing as wide a support network as you can.
  13. Cell phones and computers have use records that are difficult to eliminate. Consider using public telephones and computers at your local library if you have reason to suspect that your abuser would monitor your activities through these media. Therefore familiarize yourself with where these resources are in your area, and get in the habit of having change for phone calls on you.
  14. Consider joining a support group for people who have experienced abuse in relationships. This can provide a counter to isolation, a place to share resources and to process decisions that you’re considering, as well as an opportunity to learn new ways to establish intimacy with those who know from firsthand what you’re going through. As well this can be a place to develop new ideas about what you need and deserve in relationships.