The single most dangerous element in living with an abusive man is your denial of the problem. More women are killed by their domestic partners than by the hands of strangers. If your spouse has shown any of the signs or symptoms of being abusive, it is extremely important that you get help. Depending upon the situation, help comes in all forms from seeking counseling to calling the police. The way to find out what intervention is most appropriate for your situation is to call the women’s shelters in your area. Even if you do not need “shelter” in a physical sense, the shelters can provide you with invaluable information anonymously and for free! If you do not have a shelter in your area, chances are the closest big city will have one. All of the shelters have toll-free lines, so it doesn’t matter which one you call. All calls are kept anonymous for your safety. The caseworker at the shelter can assist you in figuring out what you need to do to be safe. Some women feel embarrassed to call the shelters; they believe they should be able to handle it themselves, or their problem is not as bad as other women’s. They may believe that because they are middle class or professional women, the shelter is not for them. This kind of thinking is a form of minimization, which adds to denial. It can be lethal. The shelter is for any woman who thinks she may be abused. No one is turned away.
Until you can access help from the outside, there are some things you can do in the house to make yourself safer:
- Keep an extra set of car keys hidden somewhere that your husband doesn’t know about. Abusers often trap their wives by preventing their leaving.
- Entrust one friend with your story who will let you come to them in an emergency. This should preferably be a person your husband doesn’t know.
- If you have a cell phone, keep it with you (and charged) whenever he is around.
- If you can, sleep in separate rooms and keep the door locked.
- Some abusers have patterns; if you suspect your husband will be violent, leave the house.
- Keep extra clothes for your kids and yourself at a neighbor’s house or in the trunk of your car.
- Always keep a full tank of gas.
- If there are firearms, try to get them out of the house; or at the very least, keep the ammunition in a separate place.
- Never argue with your husband when he is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Keep some money in a place where your husband can’t find it.
- Have a get-away plan in place.
- ALWAYS TELL YOUR ATTORNEY!
Even if you think this doesn’t pertain to you, consider doing some things to make yourself safe, even if it feels like a silly over-reaction. It is better to be safe than sorry. You owe that to your children, family and friends. Most of all, you owe it to yourself. Maybe one day you will look back and laugh at being overly cautious, but maybe one day you will look back with gratitude that you were prepared.
While this is written in a gender specific style that suggests this is only a woman’s issue, the number of men being abused by their wives/partners is, unfortunately, growing. For men, coming forward and disclosing the abuse often presents its own set of issues, as men are concerned that their situation will be minimized or they will be seen as “unmanly”. Because much of domestic violence is psychological and emotional, men can fall victims to manipulation as easily as women. Regardless of your gender, disclosing to a trusted party is always the first step toward changing the situation.
©2010. Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC, is a licensed psychotherapist in Connecticut. Her newest book is available at bookstores everywhere, Amazon.com or at www.profileactics.com. This article is from her first book, From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce, which won an Honorable Mention Award by the Independent Publishers Association. To read more about the author and her work, please visit www.donnaferber.com
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Guest Contributor Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC
Donna F. Ferber, is a psychotherapist in private practice for 28 years. She is a licensed professional counselor, a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor and an educator. Donna works with individuals and in groups. Her office is in Farmington, Connecticut.