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Domestic violence involves the physical, sexual, financial, and emotional abuse of one person by another in order to intimidate, humiliate or frighten the victim as a way of maintaining power and control. Domestic violence typically involves an abuser and a spouse or partner. However, this crime is not always limited to violence within a romantic relationship. Each state defines domestic violence in a different way, but some definitions include abuse by family members or roommates (i.e. those who share a domestic relationship).
What is Domestic Violence?
While this list isn’t exhaustive, you may be the victim of domestic violence if someone:
- Hurts or controls you physically, sexually, psychologically, or financially
- Makes you feel trapped in your home or relationship
- Has made you fear for your life, or the lives of your children and pets
- Prohibits you from contacting or seeing your family and friends
- Prevents you from controlling your money and bank accounts, or you’ve been forced to take out loans and credit cards in your name
- Embarrasses, shames, and blames you for causing the behavior that hurts you
If you have experienced domestic violence, you may:
- Feel a range of emotions including, but not limited to confusion, fear, anxiety, and depression
- Still love or feel conflicted about the person who is hurting you
- Withdraw or be isolated from family and friends
- Feel like you cannot get away from the person hurting you
- Cope by using alcohol or drugs
- Have fears around child custody or worry about leaving pets behind
- Believe the person hurting you may change or stop the harmful behavior
- Worry about retaliation from the person who is hurting you
What can I do?
While no domestic violence situation is the same, these actions may be of assistance if you want to learn about your options or plan to leave:
- Call 911 for Immediate Assistance– You know yourself and your situation better than anyone. Trust your instincts and call for help if you feel you are in danger. If you call, you can ask the responding officer for an emergency protective order.
- Obtain a Protective Order—Learn more filing a protection order at Find Law or by contacting your local courthouse or advocacy agency.
- Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline—Reach NDVH at 1-800-799-7233 or online chat 24/7 for confidential help finding resources or to talk with someone about your relationship.
- Know Your Rights – Learn more about your rights as a domestic violence victim at Women’s Law
- Consider Counseling— Counseling can help you process the emotional impact of domestic violence. Find a local therapist at the Psychology Today search page or connect with a support group through a local domestic violence advocacy agency.
- Develop a Safety Plan – A personalized safety plan can help you identify ways to stay safe while in a relationship, while you are planning to leave, or after you leave. There are many resources online, like this one from NDVH, that can help. Consider also meeting with a local advocate for safety planning assistance.
- Connect with an Advocate— Advocates can often help you safety plan, connect you with shelter or other supportive resources, and walk you through the process of getting a protection order. Your local law enforcement division or the district attorney may also have advocacy services. Find an advocate near you by visiting our Connect Directory or the Domestic Shelters search page.
- Remember to Care for Yourself – Try to be kind to yourself and allow yourself time and patience as you move forward; everyone responds differently to crime. Practice self-care and coping skills strategies.
Women’sLaw.org provides legal information to help support women in domestic violence situations. They have helpful content on their site as well as an email helpline.
State Side Legal provides legal help for military members, veterans, and their families. Click the “Find Local Help” tab to search for advocates by location.
Find local Domestic Violence Shelters near you or someone you know in need. Select various criteria to focus your search for shelters and services which meet your exact needs.
The Power and Control Wheel examines the different types of abuse that may be present in domestic violence situations. The Power and Control Wheel is a helpful tool in understanding the overall pattern of abusive and violent behaviors employed by the abuser to establish and maintain control in a relationship.
Contact the DC Victim Hotline by phone at 1-844-443-5732 or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help you or a loved one after experiencing domestic violence.