Domestic violence is a senseless, vicious crime, but it is unfortunately one that is far more common than many people realize. If you know someone who is being abused, you may wonder what you can do or how you can help that person break free from the individual who is causing so much physical and emotional pain.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), more than 10 million people are victims of domestic violence each year. This amounts to 20 people subjected to physical abuse from a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend or intimate partner every minute of the day. While women are more at risk of suffering abuse, 1 in 4 men will be physically abused by a partner at some point in their lives. On average, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men will suffer severe abuse at the hands of a spouse or intimate loved one.
Domestic violence and abuse comes in many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, stalking and financial abuse.
Fortunately, North Carolina offers many resources for victims of domestic violence so that victims can get the assistance they need. If you know someone who is being abused, the following are some actions you can take to help that person not only escape an abusive relationship, but also obtain access to other beneficial resources that could help in the effort to regain control of his or her life.
Let the Person Know You Are Willing to Help
The first step is to let the abuse victim know you are there for him or her and you are willing to lend a hand. Although some victims may feel ashamed, guilty or embarrassed to make others aware of the abuse they have endured, it can be extremely comforting to know another person cares and wants to assist.
Advise the person to reach out to either the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network. The professionals at these organizations are trained to assist victims of domestic violence and can provide valuable advice and resources.
Establishing a Safety Plan
Being in an abusive relationship is not easy. In many cases, the victim may not want to leave the abuser due to fear for personal safety or the safety of children from the relationship. There may also be a deep commitment to the individual, financial reasons or a belief that the abuser has changed and the abuse will stop.
Whatever rationale the victim has, it is important to establish a safety plan. This way, if the abuser becomes violent again or the abuse escalates, the victim will be safer with information and a plan about what to do and where to go for assistance.
Safety plans should include identifying steps, such as being able to recognize the abuser’s tone so as to properly assess the current level of danger, and knowing which rooms or areas of the house either have no weapons or pose less risk. Victims should also remember to steer clear of any children so they do not inadvertently become a target for the enraged abuser.
Other steps that could help the victim stay safe include:
- Trying to make yourself as small of a target as possible.
- Keeping a phone on you at all times so you can call for help.
- Working out prearranged signals or code words with neighbors, co-workers and friends so they can be easily alerted if you are in distress or in need of assistance.
- Making sure your children know what to do and where to go for help.
- Figuring out and practicing an escape route.
- Always keeping your vehicle gassed up and ready to go.
Help the Victim Seek a Protective Order
As soon as your friend, family member or loved one decides to leave his or her abuser, or following an attack, the abuse victim may need to get a Temporary Protective Order. On an immediate and emergency basis, these orders can be issued by the court. If the abuse or threat of violence has continued for an extended period of time, and the victim feels that he or she (or children from the relationship) may be in imminent danger, a longer-term solution could be pursued. Following a hearing, the court may issue a Domestic Violence Protective Order, which is generally in force for up to a year.
Suggest an Alcohol or Drug Abuse Treatment Program
In cases where you may be close with both the victim and the abuser, and you believe the violence could be caused by excessive drug or alcohol use, you may want to consider suggesting an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program. In some instances, simply making an individual realize what he or she stands to lose based on existing actions and behaviors could be enough to bring about true change.
As long as you feel comfortable doing so, and your wellbeing will not be put at risk, you might want to see if an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program could help get to the root of the problem.
Recommend Domestic Violence Support and Counseling Services
Whether a victim is still in an abusive relationship or has finally broken free, emotional scars will likely remain. One of the ways you can help a domestic violence abuse victim heal is to recommend domestic violence support and counseling services. Being able to discuss the painful situation with a skilled and qualified professional can go a long way toward a person’s recovery. It can also help head off potentially harmful or dangerous habits from developing as a coping mechanism for dealing with the abuse.
Seek a Legal or Court Advocate
Court advocates, as well as experienced domestic violence attorneys, can be a valuable resource for victims of domestic violence who are seeking to rise above a physically and emotionally painful relationship. An advocate can answer a victim’s questions, provide support, assist family and friends in understanding the problem, advise them on how they may be able to help, aid in connecting with the proper authorities and even be by a victim’s side throughout court proceedings.
Retaining legal counsel can give a victim a decided advantage when dealing with an abuser and can dramatically improve an abuse victim’s chances of being able to get justice. If you know someone who is being abused, urge that individual to contact a skilled Raleigh domestic violence attorney at once.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: National Statistics
- North Carolina Victim Assistance Network: About the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network