What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which someone tries to control a partner or family member through intimidation, physical harm, threats and/or fear.

There are many forms of domestic violence, including: physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and financial abuse. All forms of abuse are damaging, confusing, and harmful.

There is help for you and your family. The first steps are talking about the abuse with someone you trust and seeking professional help.

How can I tell if it is happening to me?

Everyone’s experience of domestic violence is different. However, there are some common signs of abuse that you should be aware of.

Common warning signs and red flags of abuse may include:

  • your partner embarrassing and humiliating you
  • calling you repeatedly throughout the day to know your whereabouts
  • controlling what you wear, do, or say
  • isolating you from friends and family
  • blaming you for the abuse
  • extreme jealousy
  • threatening to hurt you or your children
  • intimidation
  • threatening to commit suicide if you leave
How is it affecting my children?

Children can be affected by domestic violence both directly and indirectly. Some common reactions can include:

  • Fear
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Confusion
  • Withdrawal
  • Acting out
  • Feelings of depression, anger, or guilt
  • Psychosomatic reactions and anxiety

If you notice a change in your children’s emotions, behavior, or academic performance, talk to them and get them the help and support they need.

How can I help my children?

There are ways you can help your children cope with the impact of domestic violence.

  • Help children identify safe and positive role models, including teachers, relatives, and friends.
  • Encourage children to talk to a counselor and build support in the family and community.
  • Listen to your children; give them space to talk about their feelings.
  • Establishing and maintaining family routines, including rules, meals, naps, and bedtimes, can help children feel safe and in control.
  • Spend time with your children doing things you enjoy.
How can I stay safe?

It is important to make a safety plan for you and your children if you are in an abusive relationship. The sooner you do, the better prepared you and your children will be when violence occurs.

If you are still in the relationship:

  • Identify a safe place to go during an argument
  • Tell a friend or family member you trust about the situation
  • Put all your important documents (including important phone numbers and cash) in one place so they are easy to access in an emergency
  • Give your children instructions for how to stay safe – tell them not to intervene in an argument so they don’t get hurt

If you are thinking about leaving:

  • Identify a safe place to go
  • Memorize important phone numbers and resources
  • Think about how and when you can leave most safely

If you have already left the relationship:

  • Think about your legal options for a restraining order, custody, and visitation
  • Think about how you can travel safely to and from work
  • Think about how you can safely take your children to and from school
How can I keep my children safe?

Instruct your children not to intervene in a fight or an argument so that they do not get hurt.

  • Help them identify safe adults they can trust, such as friends, family members, or neighbors.
  • Teach them how to call for help, and talk to them about calling 911 in the case of an emergency.
  • Have them memorize important phone numbers.
  • If they are at home and feel unsafe, help them determine where they can go to feel safe during an argument.
How do I help a friend who is being abused?

It can be very difficult to talk to a friend who is in an abusive relationship, or living in a home with domestic violence.

  • Listen to your friend without judging
  • Remember that you can’t pressure them to leave their partner
  • Remind them that the abuse is not their fault
  • Educate yourself on the signs of an abusive relationship and help them to recognize warning signs and red flags
  • Encourage them to develop a safety plan
  • Help them by connecting them to resources in their school or community
Where can I get help?

Visit our Get Help page to learn more.