How to Handle Abusive Situations
Everyone should feel safe in their own home. If you have concerns about abuse at home, the first step is to say something to a person you can trust. It may be a close friend, a doctor or a person who works with a domestic violence hotline or shelter. If it's an emergency, call 911.
A startling number of women (1 in 4) will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and 60 percent of domestic violence incidents happen at home. There are more than 3 million cases of child abuse (involving more than 6 million children) every year in the U.S., and children under age 2 are at the greatest risk for serious harm from child abuse.
Abuse can be physical, sexual and/or emotional. Recognizing the signs and seeking help is crucial to gaining security and a better life. These are all forms of domestic abuse:
- Physical - any physical acts that cause injury or pain such as bruises, bleeding and fractures.
- Sexual - any forced sexual activity.
- Emotional - possessive and controlling behaviors, criticism and put-downs that damage self-esteem; controlling access to money, friends, school or activities; threats.
- Neglect - failure to meet a child's basic needs; not providing adequate shelter, food, medical care or supervision; guardians who deliberately and consistently pay little or no attention to a child, spouse or parent who depends on them.
If your family is affected by abuse, it's important to know you are not alone, it's not your fault and help is available. Seeking help can be difficult - you may feel embarrassed, ashamed and frightened, not even sure you're making the right decision.
Health professionals and law enforcement officers who are experienced in helping people leave abusive situations can help you receive medical care, stay safe and take legal action against someone who is abusive.
Resources for Help
If you don't feel safe in your home, call for help right away:
- The police. They're equipped to safely help you find a shelter and obtain a restraining order if needed.
- Harbor House of Central Florida: 24 Hr. Crisis Hotline: 800.500.1119
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233), www.thehotline.org
- National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-4-A-Child (800-422-4453) www.childhelp.org
- A local crisis center or women's shelter. It may be able to provide emergency shelter as well as advice on legal and support services. Find one near you: www.domesticshelters.org
- Your doctor. You can tell your doctor if your home life is unsafe or emotionally abusive.
- Your district court. It can help you get a restraining order against an abuser.
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