Services for Battered Women
Living in a domestic violence situation is difficult for everyone: it’s difficult for the woman suffering the abuse, for her children, for those who love her and want her to do well. If you are continuing to live with a relationship where you are subject to verbal, emotional, and/ or physical abuse, you do have the power within you to change things. Even if you are legally married to a man who is abusive, without a job, or living with an addiction to substances, you can take the steps to ensure your future safety and that of your children, no matter how helpless you may currently feel.
You likely have a number of reasons for staying as long as you have, but for every reason you have for remaining a victim of domestic violence, there is a single reason to leave: your life. According to a study published in the journal Social Work, there are a number of services and options available to battered women across the country, no matter what their circumstance. All you have to do is take a deep breath and take the first step toward creating positive change in your life today.
IF YOU ARE IN AN EMERGENCY SITUATION AND YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN ARE IN IMMINENT DANGER, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.
Beware of Restraining Orders
You may feel that you don’t need to leave your home, that you can find a way to be safe without moving. Especially if you have children, your focus may be in maintaining as much stability for them as possible. Going to the police with your report of abuse or violence may get you a restraining order and, in some cases, have your husband or boyfriend escorted out of your home, but he will be released and that restraining order is nothing but a piece of paper.
While getting a restraining order is a good backup plan, it’s important to note that police will not stand guard and make sure that your ex does not violate the order. Rather, they can only take action when he actively violates that order – if you can get to a phone and call them when that happens and if they arrive in time to stop him from hurting you. In some cases, unless you leave your home and your job and make yourself untraceable, getting a restraining order may add fuel to the fire.
When Friends Walk Away
People who are close to you will soon start to notice when you are covering up bruises or won’t allow them in the house when your abusive husband or partner is home. It won’t take long for friends and family to urge you to make a change, leave, and get out of the house. When you refuse, they may not be able to stay for long and watch you be harmed by this person in your life. They may ask you, “Why don’t you leave? What do you possibly get from staying?” And while it’s not a question that you can easily answer, it’s common for close friends and family to take a step back when you opt to maintain the status quo, creating a wall of silence that is isolating.
It’s understandable that it would be hard for loved ones to watch you continue to live in a situation that harms you, but the resulting isolation can increase the abuse and make it even harder when you finally work up the courage to move forward and break free from the relationship.
But remember: No matter how isolated you may feel, you are not alone.
Studies have investigated the availability of treatment and services for battered women and found that though there are a number of options available, many women in violent relationships do not take advantage of those services. If friends and family are not there to help you out of a bad situation at home, battered women’s shelters are far safer and far more effective choices to ensure your swift and safe exit from a violent relationship. They offer services that include:
- Employment assistance
- Legal assistance
- Access to financial assistance and healthcare
- Medical treatment
- Support groups
Battered women’s shelters offer a wide range of services and can even accommodate your children and provide them and you with the help you need to get back on your feet. That often includes access to safe childcare and even higher education that can provide you with the skills you need to get a job that will aid you in providing for your family.
If you have a substance abuse disorder, battered women’s shelters are often the best bet after you successfully complete a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.
Leaving a domestic violence situation is not a spur-of-the-moment decision or something you should take lightly. If you have stayed for a long period of time in an abusive relationship, then you recognize the danger that you risk with almost every interaction that your husband or boyfriend perceives as negative. The safest way out is to devise a plan in advance without letting him know, a plan that will not only secure a safe exit for you and your children but ensure that you are not followed when you leave.
- Understand that you may have to leave with little warning and do everything you can in advance without revealing your plans (e.g., a full tank of gas in the car, a key to the house hidden outside, etc.)
- Pack an escape bag with cash, important documents, a few clothes, and whatever you and your kids will need to leave – but store it at a friend’s house or somewhere that it will not be found by your partner.
- Memorize a list of emergency contact numbers in case you must leave without your phone.
- Purchase a pre-paid phone with cash if possible so your purchase is untraceable and keep it with the escape bag.
- Do not make any phone calls related to your escape from your home phone or on your cell phone. Your partner may be able to look up phone numbers you called before you left to track down your whereabouts using the phone bills. Instead, use pay phones or community phones and plan to leave your cell phone behind when you go.
- Write no emails from your home computer that have to do with your escape and do not research anything about battered women’s shelters or domestic violence from your home computer, especially if they indicate locations where you can go for help. Erasing the history is not enough protection; much of this information can be restored. Also, create a new email account that your partner does not know about it and never access it from home. Instead, use public computers at libraries, community centers or coffee shops to get the information you need to get out.
- Beware of GPS tracking. Your partner does not have to know a lot about electronics to have a GPS tracking device attached to your car, your phone, or some other personal item. You may also find them in the kids’ belongings. If you find one before you leave, keep it in place and don’t turn it off until you are gone in order to avoid tipping him off about your planned escape.
- Close old accounts and change your passwords. You will need to have as much cash on hand as possible, and you will not be able to access your joint checking accounts and savings accounts after you leave without leaving a clue to your whereabouts. Be prepared to leave everything behind with no trace. Close all accounts that you share, including credit card accounts and bank accounts. Create all new passwords to your email and online accounts and when you open new accounts, make sure to use passwords that include no personal information that your partner can guess.
- When you get where you’re going, make an effort to continue to remain untraceable. Keep all phone numbers unlisted and rent a post office box for all mail rather than using your home address. Cancel all accounts that you share with your partner and when you open new ones, use different banks and credit card services and make sure that you use only your PO box address. Do everything you can to keep all your information private and unlisted.
Find out what your resources are when it comes to changing your children’s school and consider changing your job and moving to a new town. Your first priority is staying off your partner’s radar; if he can easily track you or your children down to your place of business or their school then all your planning could go to waste. He could be able to follow you home, take your children out of school, or confront you at your work. Don’t take any chances.
Domestic Violence Is Not Your Fault
The actions of your partner are not your fault. No matter what you have said or done in the past, it does not give anyone the right to physically harm you or degrade you. It is important to remember that domestic violence is never the fault of the victim. Every human has the right to be treated with respect. You have the right to be treated with respect, especially in your own home. Your partner’s problems, including his inability to manage anger, control his substance abuse, or deal with past trauma are not your fault. They are his issues, and he must deal with them through active and intensive therapy.Many abusers will apologize continually after they hurt you, and promise that they’ll never repeat their actions and that they will get help. However, they rarely seek help and if they do, they do not complete any therapeutic program that can aid them in learning new behaviors. Eventually, they’ll have a bad day or get loaded, and it will happen all over again. This is called the cycle of violence and studies show that it only worsens over time. Your best shot is to break free and leave.
Getting Treatment for Substance Abuse and Trauma
A new life is waiting for you that can include positive relationships, but if you are living in a world limited by drug and/or alcohol abuse and trauma, it is unlikely that you will be able to avoid repeating old habits by either returning to your partner or starting a new relationship with a similar type of person. If you genuinely want to change your life experience and start over, then make changes in every area of your life that requires change.
Drug and alcohol abuse may have been your mechanism for dealing with your abusive relationship or it may have predated your relationship and muddied your thinking so that you felt you could do no better than someone who treated you so poorly. When you stop drinking and using drugs, your mind becomes clearer, and you have the ability to work through the psychological trauma that you experienced and learn how to make better choices – healthier choices, choices that prioritize your continued wellness and success in life on every level. The best way to facilitate both a recovery from addiction and an escape from an abusive relationship? Choosing an inpatient drug and alcohol addiction treatment just for women.
Your Future in Recovery Starts Today
You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be safe. You deserve to come home without fear. You deserve a life that is characterized by positive relationships and respect. Your children deserve to grow up watching you live a positive example, showing them how to treat others and how to expect to be treated by others.
If you are struggling with substance abuse issues and you are ready to break away from a violent relationship, we can help. Contact us at The Orchid at the phone number listed above and speak to a counselor about your needs in recovery.