Domestic Violence: Protecting Yourself and Your Children


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What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is abuse by a caregiver, a parent, a spouse or an intimate partner. It can take many forms. Some types of abuse include the following:

  • Physical abuse is the use of physical force to inflict harm, such as hitting, kicking or biting.
  • Sexual abuse means any forced sexual activity.
  • Emotional abuse includes threats, constant criticism and put-downs.
  • Controlling access to money and controlling activities are other abusive behaviors.

What should I know about domestic violence?

Violence against a partner or a child is a crime in all states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of every 4 women and 1 out of every 9 men in the United States are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Abuse happens to people of all races, ages, incomes and religions.

People who are hurt by their partners, parents or guardians do not cause the abuse. Alcohol and drugs do not cause abuse, although they can make the violence worse. Abuse can begin, continue and even increase during pregnancy.

What can I do if my children or I am abused?

First, make sure you and your children are safe. Go to a safe place, such as the home of a friend or relative or an emergency shelter. Take your children with you. Call the police if you think you can't leave home safely or if you want to bring charges against your abuser.

If possible, take house keys, money and important papers with you. Do not use drugs or alcohol at this time because you need to be alert in a crisis. The staff members at emergency shelters can help you file for a court order of protection.

What are other ways I can get help if I am abused?

Talk to your doctor, who can treat any medical problem, provide support and make referrals. Call an emergency shelter and ask about counseling and support groups for you and your children. Nurses, social workers and other health care professionals can also help you.

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Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 07/10
Created: 09/00

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