What to Do if You’re a Victim of an Abusive Relationship

It’s easy to live in a bubble and feel like you’re safe from harm, but all it takes is one bad relationship to show you the world isn’t as warm as you thought.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States. One in three women have been victims of physical violence by a partner, while one in four men have also been victimized. On a typical day, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide, while thousands more suffer in silence.

If you’re a victim of domestic violence, or feel like you could be, it’s important that you know how to respond. Here are a few helpful suggestions that could save your life:

Know the Definition of Abuse

A lot of victims don’t speak up because they don’t realize they’re in an abusive situation. Familiarizing yourself with the definition of abuse will help you make smart choices.

“It is called abuse anytime people use their ability or influence to limit or control your rights and freedoms. The relationship is not equal because you are afraid that if you speak up or take action, you will be threatened, hurt, or the relationship will end,” explains. “Abuse is never your fault.”

Create a Plan of Action

If you’ve been a victim of domestic violence in the past, or feel like you may be abused in the future, it’s important that you take strides to protect yourself. Abusers often have erratic tendencies, and a small issue can quickly escalate into a serious situation.

“Whether you still live with an abuser or potentially abusive person, or if you have already sought refuge from an abusive environment, it is critical to create a plan of action in case you are confronted with a potentially abusive situation,” Charles R. Ullman & Associates explains.

A plan of action should include a list of people to contact, a safe place to go, and a way to seek treatment and care (if necessary).

Learn Self Defense

In addition to developing a plan of action and pursuing the right legal channels for prosecuting an abuser, it would be smart to learn some self-defense methods for protecting yourself. In a scenario where you can’t call the police or seek out help fast enough, this could mean the difference between life and death.

Here’s some helpful advice from Avital Zeisler, who runs self-defense programs for women.

Get Out of the Relationship

You’ve probably heard people say something like, “Why don’t you just leave the relationship?” What they don’t realize is there’s a complicated web of factors in place that makes walking out the door harder than it sounds. Having said this, we don’t present this last tip lightly.

When we tell you to get out of the relationship, we mean find people who can help you get out in a safe and calculated manner. Divorce could be the endgame, but the first step is to get yourself physically safe. If you don’t feel like you have people in your life who are capable of helping, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for further guidance.

You Are Not to Blame

One of the defining marks of an abuser is to make the victim feel they’re to blame. By equating their violent acts with your actions (or lack of actions), they try to force you into feeling like you “asked for it.” But no matter what happens, it’s important that you understand you are never to blame. Repeat that out loud: you are never to blame.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s time to take action. Disclose your situation to someone you trust and work on a plan to get out of harm’s way. You owe it to yourself, your family, and your loved ones to find relief.