One of the most insidious things about domestic abuse is that people often don’t know it when they see it. The signs of an abusive relationship are often more subtle than an unexplained black eye, and you need to know what they are if you suspect that someone you know is being abused at home.
Knowing the Signs of Abuse
Even though we said that the signs of an abusive relationship are more subtle than a black eye, you should still be on the lookout for unexplained injuries. Not every injury that you see on a person can be attributed to an abusive partner, but it is often a sign that something is wrong. They may give inconsistent explanations for their injuries or be afraid to talk about them. They may also have issues with drug and alcohol abuse as a means of coping with their home life.
Abusers often isolate their partners from family and friends, so not seeing much of someone who used to be very sociable could be a major red flag. Keep in mind, abuse often gradually increases in severity. It often starts with emotional abuse and controlling behavior and ramps up in physical violence as less and fewer people are around regularly. Abuse crosses gender and sexuality lines, as well. Be aware that it can happen to anyone. If you think someone is being abused, say something. Don’t turn a blind eye and regret not doing anything for the rest of your life.
Helping Abuse Victims Out of the Situation
If you learn that a loved one is in an abusive relationship, it’s important that you help them leave their abuser safely and of their own free will. Trying to force someone to get help or forcibly removing a person from an abusive situation can have negative consequences. Be there for your loved one. Support them. Gently suggest getting help. Let them know you can and will help them. If you have the space for it and your abuser doesn’t know where you live, you can always let your loved one stay with you. Otherwise, you can help them find a shelter.
There are shelters for victims of domestic abuse in most areas of the country, so take some time to find investigate what will be appropriate for your loved one and their situation. Additionally, keep in mind that, because of the danger involved with domestic violence and the obsessive control most abusers feel they have over their victims, most shelters do not have their locations online or readily available to the public. Anonymity is an important part of keeping abuse victims safe. Calling an abuse hotline and seeking legal help with your loved one should give you a good idea of what your next steps should and could be.
Seeking Legal Help
There may come a time when your loved one will need legal help to get out of their situation. Even though keeping your loved one safe is your top priority, it’s best to have a domestic violence attorney in mind before you do anything. If you do the research and take that burden off of your loved one, it may just make the decision to leave and get help that much easier for them. You obviously don’t want to wait too long, so ask around about attorneys who specialize in this area sooner rather than later. The attorney can advise you on what actions can be taken moving forward and what documentation could help divorce, custody, restraining order, and other cases turn out in your favor.
Do not forget that domestic violence is a crime. Abuse is a crime. Contacting the police and reporting abusers can help build cases against them and get them away from their victims. However, reporting abuse to the police is, more often than not, not easy and is often a scary experience for the victim. Offering your support, asking for a domestic violence unit member, or victim advocate can help you help your loved one through the process. If you do research on the process as well as the reporting options you have before speaking with your loved one, you can be a calming presence through the ordeal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from professionals.
It’s important to remember that leaving an abusive situation can be very difficult. Many abusers have taken control of virtually every facet of their partners’ lives, and the victims may not be financially or emotionally ready to leave their abusive partners. It may take a couple of attempts before your loved one is able to leave their abuser once and for all. Stay patient and understanding, but don’t give up. If all goes well, your loved one will be in a much better situation sooner or later.