Things You Can Do:
- Talk to your partner, if it is safe. Explain how you want to be treated.
- Leave, either temporarily or permanently. Leaving temporarily may send a message to the batterer that you will not allow yourself to be mistreated. He may honestly want to seek help, but unless there is a consequence to their actions (in this case, your leaving) the batterer has no reason to change. If the abuse continues, it is your responsibility to protect yourself by leaving permanently.
- Get Help. It is very difficult to extract yourself from a violent situation by yourself. Talk about your situation. Silence about abuse is what keeps women trapped in the cycle. Talk to your family, friends, counselors, physicians, clergy, and neighbors. You’ll get the information you need to make sound decisions about your future, and gain control of your life.
- Know the law, it’s on your side. Assault is a crime. Arrest and prosecution are known deterrents to continued family violence. A restraining order can be a useful tool because it excludes the offender from the victim’s home and/or place of work or school. Offenders can be required to participate in counseling or anger management classes as part of a protective order. Emergency protective orders can be issued when the victim fears for his/her safety, even though violence has not occured.
Things You Can’t Do:
- You can’t change your partner’s behavior. You cannot stop your partner’s violence toward you. He is in control of his actions just as you are in control of yours.
- You can’t stay in an abusive relationship and be safe. Without intervention, family violence becomes more frequent and severe.
- You can’t “do the right thing” to please the abuser. It is not about you. The choice to abuse you is lies with the abuser.
- You can’t save the relationship by yourself. You can go to counseling to get help for yourself and you can “be” whatever you think it takes to make things better, but it takes two people to make a relationship work.
- Don’t blame yourself for your own victimization. It’s not your fault!
- You can’t forgive and forget. It only gives the abuser permission to strike again. If the abuser does not suffer consequences, he has no reason to stop.
- You can’t shield your partner from the consequences of abusive behavior. “He really didn’t mean it officer…” Helping him avoid jail is NOT helping him. He’ll promise anything to avoid the consequences of his violence toward you. Don’t further risk your life to help someone who is hurting you.
- Don’t respond to violence with more violence. Violence is not an appropriate or helpful response to another person’s actions or words. However, if you are in extreme fear for your life, you have the right to defend yourself.
Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago. Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance. He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”