Occurrences of male abuse against women are exponentially higher and more dangerous than the reverse. Domestic violence isn't a trend -- it's an epidemic. And, according to Kristen Howell, director of development for Genesis Women's Shelter in Dallas, Texas, it is pervasive, intergenerational and often deadly. She offers advice on how to recognize traits of an abusive relationship and, more importantly, how to get out of one in a safe manner.
"Many people mistakenly believe that domestic violence begins with a physical assault," she says. "Verbal and emotional abuse often act as part of a grooming process that is aimed
at one partner having power and control over the other person." She also warns that an abusive partner can have hold over his counterpart through rage, hostility, isolation, obsession and
intimidation. "He also will hurt things that are important to her -- pets, children, special belongings. It's all to gain control."
Howell offers the following advice on how to get out of an abusive relationship:
The first thing a woman should do when she realizes she is in a violent relationship is to tell people who can help. Professionals can devise safety plans, assist with documentation for police reports, divorce and custody battles, and more.
Some women decide in one day that living with abuse is no longer an option, and they will leave and never look back. Other women prepare methodically -- gathering important documents, getting finances in order, developing a safety plan with a lawyer. Either way is fine, and the most important thing is leaving safely.
Leaving is one step in getting away. Keeping him away is the next hardest step. Abusive partners will go to great lengths to win the relationship back, so it is important to cut ties as much as possible.
Starting over is expensive, daunting, lonely and scary. But women can get through that part with support and resources. Expert counseling makes a big difference in navigating the confusion and
keeping on track.
Diane G. Sagan, author of Shelter from the Storm and a survivor of a 10-year abusive relationship, found relief for herself and her children at a local shelter. "After being in denial for a long time, I began making a secret plan to save money. I thought I could hold things together for six months, but I didn't even come close."
Sagan has made a career out of her past experiences, using her life's events to create a fictionalized story of a woman who successfully removes herself from an abusive relationship. She also serves as an inspirational speaker and mentor for women who are going through similar tough times. She urges women not to take matters into their own hands but to use the legal system instead as leverage to start over.
"Do not go back, no matter what he promises you," she emphasizes.
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