When you're experiencing domestic violence, knowing what to do and where to turn can be confusing. Because the abuse has likely shattered your self-confidence, it's easy to feel alone, hopeless, or trapped, or even feel you're to blame. It's also common to worry that getting help won't really be helpful at all, and that it could, in fact, be dangerous. "These are common feelings to have and are the byproducts of a dangerous relationship," says Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C. "Being battered is not your fault, and getting safe can happen," she says.
The first steps are to realize you aren't alone and to reach out for help. "It's important to work with someone who has expertise or specializes in the area of domestic violence so he or she can help with safety planning and support," says Sheryl Clinger, director of Advocacy/Policy and Community Engagement at The Center for Family Safety and Healing at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Regardless of where you are in the process -- questioning whether your partner's behavior is abuse, ready to leave an abusive relationship, unable or unwilling to end the relationship, trying to stay safe after you've left the abuser, or seeking help for legal issues after the relationship -- judgment-free help is available.
Helpful for: questioning your partner's behavior, maintaining safety if continuing the relationship, preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and staying safe after leaving a relationship.
Twenty-four hours a day, trained counselors at the hotline provide callers with crisis counseling, safety planning for victims during and after the relationship, and assistance in finding other resources, including shelter. The hotline receives calls from victims, concerned friends and family, and even abusers looking for help to stop abusing a loved one. They also offer a secure, confidential online chat option.
Helpful for: staying safe after leaving a relationship and finding legal services.
This website provides easy-to-understand legal information on obtaining a protection order, divorce and custody issues, suing an abuser, preparing for court, and more. The site has downloadable court forms, safety tips, and help for victims searching for shelters, attorneys and courthouse locations in each state.
Helpful for: preparing to leave an abusive relationship, staying safe after leaving a relationship, and finding legal services.
This page offers a searchable online directory of more than 10,000 local, state, national, and international programs and services for victims of crime. Visitors can search the directory by location, type of victimization, service needed, and agency type.
Helpful for: questioning your partner's behavior, preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and staying safe after leaving a relationship.
The network's national sexual assault hotline and its online hotline provide counseling and assistance to victims of sexual violence and their families and friends. Trained counselors are available around the clock by phone or online to answer questions about sexual abuse, provide safety information, offer support during recovery, and make referrals to local rape crisis centers.
1-800-903-0111 ext. 3
Helpful for: postrelationship legal issues
The only national organization of its kind, the clearinghouse provides technical assistance to abused women facing charges related to their battering. This could include a woman who defended herself and is being charged with assault or homicide, a parent who fled with her kids and now faces a kidnapping charge, someone accused of "failure to protect" her children from violence, or a woman who committed a crime because she was coerced by the abuser. The organization doesn't provide personal legal representation; it assists women and their defense teams with information and resources to protect battered women and hopefully increase the likelihood of a better outcome for the case.
Helpful for: questioning your partner's behavior, maintaining safety while in the relationship, staying safe after ending the relationship, and finding legal services.
This 24-hour hotline offers information to parents who are seeking help for child abuse, those who need prevention tips, and individuals concerned that child abuse is occurring. Professional crisis counselors provide support and referrals to emergency and social services resources. The website includes a list of contact information for Child Protective Services in each state.