Help your loved one leave her abusive partner | Amy Johnson

This holiday season, while you are preparing for festivities and celebrations, consider preparing yourself to help those in need who may need your support to leave a partner who is abusing them.

During these next couple of months, stress in families is likely to increase. Financial stressors are especially prevalent during the holiday season, along with an increase in alcohol consumption. These risk factors for violence against partners and family members increase in November and December, and can be the tipping point in already fragile family environments.

According to city statistics, there were more than 1,600 reports of domestic violence in the Federal Way area in 2009, which is an average of more than four per day. Keep in mind: Those are only the incidents that were reported. Most authorities on domestic violence agree that many more occurrences remain a secret or a suspicion. Given these alarming statistics, and the fact that domestic violence occurs across all cultures, all educational levels and all economic backgrounds, what can we do?

To help a loved one, consider these tips from Eastside Domestic Violence:

• Listen, don’t blame, and respect their decisions.

• Believe them. Make sure they know they are not to blame and that no one deserves abuse.

• Encourage them to see they have options and choices. Eastside Domestic Violence has a 24-hour crisis line at (425) 746-1940. So does the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence at (800) 562-6025 with trained volunteers who offer support, safety planning and resources.

• What to say: I believe you. You are not alone. You don’t deserve to be hurt. You know best what your partner may do. It’s always best to have a safety plan in place.

• What not to say: Why don’t you just leave? Why did you go back? What did you do to provoke your partner?

• For more suggestions, go to www.edvp.org.

If you are questioning whether you are a victim of abuse, here are some questions to ask yourself:

• Do you feel afraid of your partner?

• Do you avoid certain topics out of fear of anger?

• Do you feel you can’t do anything right for your partner?

• Do you believe you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?

• Does your partner humiliate, criticize or yell at you?

• Does your partner hit, punch, slap, kick or bite you or the children?

• Does your partner force you to have sex?

• Is your partner excessively jealous and possessive?

• Does your partner keep you from seeing friends and family?

• Does your partner limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?

• For more information about staying safe, legal guidelines and reporting incidents, go to http://www.edvp.org.

As a final point, I challenge you — whether directly affected by domestic violence or not — to use accountable language when discussing violence against partners and family members. Consistent use of vague language like “domestic dispute” masks responsibility for violent actions taken by one person toward another. For example, when a mugger assaults and robs a cab driver, it is not described as a "fare dispute.” Likewise, be wary of the term “abusive relationship.” A relationship does not hit someone — a partner does.

As with many roads to recovery in our culture, awareness is the first step. Educate yourself, if not for you, then for any friends or loved ones in need this season, and all year long.

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