Unique challenges

  • If you're an immigrant, you may be hesitant to seek help out of fear that you will be deported. Language barriers, lack of economic dependence and limited social support can increase your isolation and your ability to access resources.

    Laws in the United States guarantee protection from domestic abuse, regardless of your immigrant status. Free or low-cost resources are available, including lawyers, shelter and medical care for you and your children. You may also be eligible for legal protections that allow immigrants who experience domestic violence to stay in the United States.

    Call a national domestic violence hotline for guidance. These services are free and protect your privacy.

  • If you're an older woman, you may face challenges related to your age and the length of your relationship. You may have grown up in a time when domestic violence was simply not discussed. You or your partner may have health problems that increase your dependency or sense of responsibility.
  • If you're in a same-sex relationship, you might be less likely to seek help after an assault if you don't want to disclose your sexual orientation. If you've been sexually assaulted by another woman, you might also fear that you won't be believed.

Still, the only way to break the cycle of domestic violence is to take action. Start by telling someone about the abuse, whether it's a friend, loved one, health care provider or other close contact. You can also call a national domestic violence hotline.

At first, you might find it hard to talk about the abuse. But understand that you are not alone and there are experts who can help you. You'll also likely feel relief and receive much-needed support.

Create a safety plan

Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. Consider taking these precautions:

  • Call a women's shelter or domestic violence hotline for advice. Make the call at a safe time — when the abuser isn't around — or from a friend's house or other safe location.
  • Pack an emergency bag that includes items you'll need when you leave, such as extra clothes and keys. Leave the bag in a safe place. Keep important personal papers, money and prescription medications handy so that you can take them with you on short notice.
  • Know exactly where you'll go and how you'll get there.

Protect your communication and location

An abuser can use technology to monitor your telephone and online communication and to track your location. If you're concerned for your safety, seek help. To maintain your privacy:

  • Use phones cautiously. Your abuser might intercept calls and listen to your conversations. He or she might use caller ID, check your cellphone or search your phone billing records to see your call and texting history.
  • Use your home computer cautiously. Your abuser might use spyware to monitor your emails and the websites you visit. Consider using a computer at work, the library or at a friend's house to seek help.
  • Remove GPS devices from your vehicle. Your abuser might use a GPS device to pinpoint your location.
  • Frequently change your email password. Choose passwords that would be impossible for your abuser to guess.
  • Clear your viewing history. Follow your browser's instructions to clear any record of websites or graphics you've viewed.

Where to find help

In an emergency, call 911 — or your local emergency number or law enforcement agency. The following resources also can help:

  • Someone you trust. Turn to a friend, loved one, neighbor, co-worker, or religious or spiritual adviser for support.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233). Call the hotline for crisis intervention and referrals to resources, such as women's shelters.
  • Your health care provider. Doctors and nurses will treat injuries and can refer you to safe housing and other local resources.
  • A local women's shelter or crisis center. Shelters and crisis centers typically provide 24-hour emergency shelter, as well as advice on legal matters and advocacy and support services.
  • A counseling or mental health center. Counseling and support groups for women in abusive relationships are available in most communities.
  • A local court. Your district court can help you obtain a restraining order that legally mandates the abuser to stay away from you or face arrest. Local advocates might be available to help guide you through the process.

It can be hard to recognize or admit that you're in an abusive relationship — but help is available. Remember, no one deserves to be abused.

March 01, 2017 See more In-depth