(MayoClinic.com) Your partner apologizes and says the hurtful behavior won't happen again — but you fear it will. At times you wonder whether you're imagining the abuse, yet the emotional or physical pain you feel is real. If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing domestic violence.
Domestic violence — also called domestic abuse, battering or intimate partner violence — occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. Men are sometimes abused by partners, but domestic violence is most often directed toward women. Domestic violence can happen in heterosexual or same sex relationships.
It might not be easy to identify domestic violence at first. While some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time. You might be experiencing domestic violence if you're in a relationship with someone who:
If you're lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you might also be experiencing domestic violence if you're in a relationship with someone who:
Sometimes domestic violence begins — or increases — during pregnancy. During this perilous time, your health and the baby's health are at risk. The danger continues after the baby is born. Even if your child isn't abused, simply witnessing domestic violence can be harmful. Children who grow up in abusive homes are more likely to be abused and have behavioral problems than are other children. As adults, they're more likely to become abusers or think abuse is a normal part of a relationship. You might worry that seeking help will further endanger you and your child or that it might break up your family, but it's the best way to protect your child — and yourself.Break the cycle
If you're in an abusive situation, you might recognize this pattern:
Typically the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time.
The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the greater the toll on your self-esteem. You might become depressed and anxious. You might begin to doubt your ability to take care of yourself or wonder if the abuse is your fault. You might feel helpless or paralyzed. If you're an older woman who has health problems, you might feel dependent upon an abusive partner. 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 — and the sooner the better.
Start by telling someone about the abuse, whether it's a friend, loved one, health care provider or other close contact. At first, you might find it hard to talk about the abuse. But 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:
An abuser can use technology to monitor your telephone and online communication and to track your physical location. If you're concerned for your safety, seek help. To maintain your privacy:
In an emergency, call 911 — or your local emergency number or law enforcement agency. The following resources also can help:
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.
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