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More than one-third of women and one in 12 men have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime , according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. Anyone would agree that’s too many. If you’re asking yourself what you can do to help, read on. Below, 10 steps you can take to help stop domestic violence in your community.
1. Know the signs. Domestic violence can happen to anyone—white, black, young, old, rich, poor, educated, not educated. Sometimes violence begins early on in a relationship and other times it takes months or even years to appear. But there generally are some warning signs. Be wary of the following red flags an abuser may exhibit at any point in a relationship:
- Being jealous of your friends or time spent away from your partner
- Discouraging you from spending time away from your partner
- Embarrassing or shaming you
- Controlling all financial decisions
- Making you feel guilty for all the problems in the relationship
- Preventing you from working
- Intentionally damaging your property
- Threatening violence against you, your pets or someone you love to gain compliance
- Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to
- Intimidating you physically, especially with weapons
2. Don’t ignore it. Police officers hear the same thing from witnesses again and again—I heard/saw/perceived domestic violence but didn’t want to get involved. If you hear your neighbors engaged in a violent situation, call the police. It could save a life.
3. Lend an ear. If someone ever confides in you they are experiencing domestic violence, listen without judgment. Believe what they are telling you and ask how you can help, or see this list of 25 ways to help a survivor.
4. Be available. If someone you know is thinking about leaving or is in fear the violence will escalate, be ready to help. Keep your phone with you and the ringer on, make sure you have gas in your car and discuss an escape plan or meeting place ahead of time.
5. Know the number to a nearby shelter. You never know who might need refuge in a hurry. Keep numbers to shelters (find local shelter numbers here) and the National Domestic Violence Hotline in your phone (800-799-7233).
6. Check in regularly. If a loved one or friend is in danger, reach out regularly to ensure his or her safety.
7. Be a resource. Someone experiencing violence may not be able to research shelters, escape plans or set up necessities like bank accounts and cell phones while living with his or her abuser. Offer to do the legwork to help ease stress and keep things confidential. Here’s a list of items a survivor may need to take with them.
8. Write it down. Document every incident you witness and include the date, time, location, injuries and circumstances. This information could be very useful in later police reports and court cases, both criminal and civil.
9. Get the word out. Assist a local shelter or domestic violence organization in their efforts to raise awareness in your community. Or use your personal connections to start a grassroots campaign. Organize talks at your workplace wellness fair, HOA meetings and church groups.
10. Put your money where your mouth is. Use your power as a consumer and refuse to support the culture perpetuated in music, movies, television, games and the media that glorifies violence, particularly against women.
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