Break Point!

Volume 1, Issue 9 View the Archives November, 1998
No Safe Place: Violence Against Women
How to Recognize the Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship
What to Do When You Decide to Leave
During An Explosive Incident
Preparing to Leave
Whom to Call and Where to Turn
Prevention Web Sites of the Month
Next Month in Injury Prevention

No Safe Place: Violence Against Women

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

Domestic violence is being recognized as a serious and widespread health crisis. Violence that occurs within a family or an intimate relationship is considered domestic violence. This includes child abuse/neglect, partner battering and elder abuse. Breakpoint will focus on partner abuse, how to recognize the signs of abuse, how to leave the abusive situation and where to get help.

Partner abuse is the intentional violent or controlling behavior by a person who is or was in an intimate relationship with the victim. With over 4 million women battered in this country, most people know someone who is or has been in an abusive relationship. No one really wants to talk about it and so many people on the outside of the relationship do not know quite what to do or how to handle the situation. Partner abuse is the leading cause of injury to women in America. While women are the primary object of most partner abuse and domestic violence, men can be victims as well.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 with any comments or questions.

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How to Recognize the Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Partner abuse predominantly affects women who are victimized by men. Every 12 seconds a woman in this country is abused. The abusers come from all walks of life, from poor families to CEO's of major corporations. Abusers can be an average person to a sports star or an entertainment figure of public notoriety. The warning signs are the same. The abuser can exhibit one or more signs. This is a list of some of the most common warning signs seen in men who abuse women:

  • Jealousy - the abuser will always say his jealousy is a sign of his love. As the jealousy progresses, he will accuse the woman of paying too much attention to others especially those of the opposite gender and begin to limit her contact with other people.
  • Controlling Behavior - At first the batterer will say his behavior is out of concern for the woman's safety or her needs to use her time well. As the control gets worse, he is in full control of every aspect of her life; clothing, finances, friends or work.
  • Quick involvement - Many battered women dated or knew their abuser for less than six months prior to becoming engaged, married or living with them. The man started out very charming and then began to pressure the woman to commit to the relationship. The male will often use guilt to keep the woman in the relationship if she shows signs of breaking the relationship off.
  • Isolation - the abuser tries to cut the woman off from all resources and may keep her from her friends and family. He may keep her from attending work or school.
  • Cruelty to animals or children - The abuser may physically harm animals. He may expect children to be capable of doing things beyond their ability and then punish them for not meeting his expectations.
  • "Playful" use of force in sex - The man may like to throw a woman and hold her down during sex. He may want to act out fantasies in which the woman is helpless. May use sex as a weapon or may demand sex when the woman is ill or tired.
  • Verbal abuse - He may say things that are cruel or hurtful; use terms do degrade the woman or belittle any accomplishments made by the woman.
  • Sudden or severe mood swings - Commonly from sulking to rage and extreme hypersensitivity is also a hallmark.
  • Threats of violence - any threat of physical violence meant to control the woman.
  • Past battering - The man may make comments of past abuse but uses terms as "She had it coming" or "She made me do it".
  • Breaking objects or striking out - especially breaking loved one's possessions to terrorize a woman into submission.
(Family and Children's Services, Greensboro, NC)

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What to Do When You Decide to Leave

Leaving an abusive relationship can be the hardest decision you may need to make. The fear and isolation double the intensity of the decision. Many battered women often take years to leave the relationship. Many women do not even know what they need to know or where they need to go. You will need to keep yourself safe and avoid further injury before you make the transition away from the abusive relationship. These are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe before and after you decide to leave:

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During An Explosive Incident

  • Argue only in a safe place - If an argument seems unavoidable, try to have it in a room or area that has access to an exit, and not in the bathroom, kitchen or anywhere near weapons.
  • Practice your exit - Practice how to get out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, elevator, or stairwell would be best to leave.
  • Prepare a bag - Have a packed bag ready and keep it in an undisclosed but accessible place in order to leave quickly.
  • Alert a neighbor - Identify a neighbor you can tell about the violence and ask that he/she call law enforcement if he/she hears a disturbance coming from your home.
  • Share a code word - Devise a code word or signal to use with your children, family, friends and neighbors when you need law enforcement.
  • Plan your lodging - decide and plan where you will go if you have to leave home (even if you don't think you will need to).
  • Call a crisis line if you need help
  • Trust your instincts - Use your own instincts and judgment. If the situation is very dangerous, consider giving the abuser what he wants to calm him down. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.

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Preparing to Leave

  • Set up your own accounts - Open a savings account in your own name to start to establish or increase your independence (have statements mailed to a trusted friend). Think of other ways in which you can increase your independence.
  • Store some necessities - Leave money, and extra set of keys, copies of important documents (including photos of injuries, medical bills and other evidence) and extra clothes with someone you trust so you can leave quickly.
  • Seek friends' or family's help - Determine who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you some money.
  • Be ready to call support numbers - Keep the shelter phone number close at hand and keep some change or a calling card in your possession at all times for emergency phone calls.
  • Memorize your plan - Review your safety plan as often as possible in order to plan the safest way to leave your batterer.
  • Make a checklist - Keep a checklist of the things you will need to take when you leave.
(Family and Children's Service's Greensboro, NC)

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Whom to Call and Where to Turn

The following are numbers to call in Chicago if you or someone you know is a victim of partner abuse:

The Illinois Coalition on Domestic Violence

WellSpring Women's Shelter

Rainbow House

A Friend's Place
312/274-HELP (4357)

Green House

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Prevention Web Sites of the Month

Abuse Survivors' Resources - generous resources from a survivor
ConflictNet - Promotes dialogue and sharing of information to encourage appropriate dispute resolution
Division of Violence Prevention - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - youth, family and intimate violence
Domestic Violence Resource - resources, statistics, etc...
National Archive of Criminal Justice Data - Facilitate and encourage research through sharing data and provision of specialized training
Partnerships Against Violence
Real Men - Real Men work to end violence against women - Anti-sexist men's group
Screening for Family Violence - guide to clinical preventive services
Violence Against Women Office - research, reports and studies

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • National Drunk and Drugged Prevention Month
  • National Lights on for Life Day (December 18)
  • Safe Toys Month

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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