Every romantic relationship is different. But there’s one thing all women should know doesn’t belong in a relationship: ABUSE, whether physical or emotional. Sometimes abuse is disguised as or confused with love. But it’s not. No one has the right to hurt you, control you, or make you feel afraid — even if they say they do it because they love you.
I’m sharing this message because intimate partner violence is a serious problem with long-lasting emotional and physical effects. It impacts all types of women — your age, race, ethnicity, income, or education level does not matter. Are you one of these women? Please know you are not alone. Nearly 1 in 4 women 18 or older in the United States have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. That means someone they love or once loved, such as a current or former husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or partner hurt them on purpose. And I hate to say it, but in some cases, women don’t survive the attack.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reviewed female homicide data found that over half of the killings for which circumstances were known were related to intimate partner violence. Over 90 percent of these women were killed by a current or former intimate partner, and arguments and jealousy were cited as common causes. One in 10 of these women had also experienced some form of violence the month before their deaths.
Everyone DESERVES to be in a healthy relationship that is safe and supportive. If you’re in an abusive relationship, you have options. People want to help you. Whether you’re considering getting help for yourself or a loved one, here are some things to consider:
- Abuse takes many forms and can change over time. Abuse isn’t just physical. It can be emotional or financial, too. However, abuse often starts out as emotional and becomes physical later. If you’re not sure whether you’re being abused, read these signs of abuse. Remember that it’s important to get help early.
- Safety planning is a must. Having a safety plan makes it easier to prepare for and react to different situations so that you can stay safe. Whether your partner is emotionally, financially, or physically abusive, you want to stay or leave, or you have children or pets, your plan should be specific to you. For example, if you’re planning to leave an abusive partner, you can make plans for before you leave, when you leave, and after you leave so that you’re prepared for each stage. Your before-you-leave plan will help you figure out how much money you need to save, where you can go once you’re ready to leave, and which important documents you need to bring with you. Your leaving and after-leaving plans will help you stay safe and get back on your feet, in a way that works for you. Safety planning can be overwhelming, to say the least. Fortunately, you can get free and confidential help. Talk to a domestic violence advocate who is trained to help you create a safety plan.
- Help is available. Whether you need help with safety planning, are in a crisis, or want to find out about shelters and services in your area, you can call a help hotline. For example, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY), has advocates available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing abuse. You can also find services in your area, or talk to a health care professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or counselor. If you feel comfortable, you can reach out to people you trust, including family, friends, and community organizers.
- You’re not alone. Even though it may feel like you’re alone, other women have been there and have made it out safely. Beverly Gooden is one of them. Read about why she stayed, why she left, and how she found a new community and built a new life for herself.
If you’re being abused, you may feel trapped, afraid, sad, angry, shocked, confused, or ashamed. You may even feel like it’s your fault. It’s NOT. No one has the right to hurt you — ever. Take the first step to safety, and talk to someone about what is happening to you.