Wife Abuse – Prevention
Since there is no one cause of wife abuse, there is no easy way to prevent it. Until society rejects its tolerance and acceptance of violence for resolving conflict and expressing anger, meaningful changes in family relationships will not occur. Prevention starts with people changing their attitudes toward violence and women. No one deserves to be beaten or physically threatened, no matter what the excuse. It is a crime to beat anyone–a stranger, a friend, or your wife–and the law should be enforced. The tolerance of family violence as a way of life in one generation encourages family violence in another generation. Since the wife abuser didn’t learn to deal with anger appropriately as a child, he handles his frustrations through aggression. He needs to know that it’s human to feel anger, but inhuman to release those feelings by beating others. By learning to deal with these emotions through acceptable behaviour, he can gain respect for himself and others. It’s another positive step toward developing mutual respect in the husband/wife relationship where each sees the other as a worthy human being.
Options to Stop the Abuse
Police: If you are in immediate danger, you can call 911. The mandatory arrest law says that the police must arrest the person they think is the abuser. If you call the police, you may also have the option of pressing criminal charges through the District Attorney’s office. Most District Attorney’s offices have a domestic violence advocate to help you with the process. Even if you do not call the police, there are other things you can do.
Restraining order: A restraining order is a (free) court order that tells your abuser to stay away from you and any places you list (including the home if you live together) on the restraining order. If your abuser does not stay away, you can call the police and they will arrest him/her for violating the restraining order. You can get a restraining order if you have been hurt, threatened to be hurt, or forced to have sex within the last 180 days.
The person you want restrained from you has to be your spouse or former spouse; or someone you’ve lived within a sexually intimate relationship (even for a short time); or someone you’ve been sexually intimate within the last two years; or an adult related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption; or the other parent of your minor child. In addition, the abuser must have caused you bodily injury, attempted to cause you bodily injury, placed you in fear of immediate serious bodily injury, or caused you to engage in involuntary sexual relations by force or threat of force WITHIN THE LAST 180 DAYS, and you must be in immediate and present danger of further abuse. If you have children, you might also be able to get a temporary custody order at the same time. If you have children but had to leave them behind to get out of danger, you can also get a writ of assistance at the same time, which mean the County Sheriff will go with you to get the children.
For many women, restraining orders are helpful. However, you need to decide whether you think it is enough to protect you. If it’s not, you might want to think about going to a shelter, or staying with friends or family.
Shelter: Domestic violence shelters are specifically for women who are leaving abusive relationships. They are usually in confidential locations to protect women and their children. They are free, and most will provide shelter from 4 to 8 weeks. The staffs at these shelters are trained and can help you and your children understand what happened in the abusive relationship, and your emotions and reactions. They can also help you find other resources in the community or make plans for the future. If you call and they are full, don’t give up. Their space availability changes almost every day.
Family or Friends: Sometimes family or friends are not available, or do not understand your situation. But if you can access them, they could be very helpful. They might be able to provide you with a place to stay when you decide to leave, or emotional support, or transportation, or even help you with thinks like money, childcare, or finding a job.
Support groups: If you aren’t ready to leave yet, or if you have left and want some place to work through the pain and other feelings associated with the abuse, a support group would be a good resource. You will learn more about the abuse and how it has affected your life, and get support and good ideas from others who have experienced the same feelings.
Counselling: Counselling is another place to work through the trauma of having lived in an abusive relationship. Many battered women suffer from Post Traumatic Stress, and the panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms left over from the abuse won’t go away without help.
Emergency money: Adult and Family Services (Welfare) is one place that might be able to provide some emergency money for you. If you have children and haven’t used an emergency grant within the last 12 months, you might be eligible for a one-time grant of $1200 to help you get started on your own. By participating in the JOBS program, you might qualify for an even larger grant (up to $7200). You might also qualify for food stamps, job training, Aid to Dependent Children, or childcare assistance. There may also be some resources available in your community or through organizations to which you belong.
Books: Informing yourself about your current situation and your options for the future will help you make important decisions. Ginny NiCarthy has two good books for women who want to leave abusive relationships: Getting Free: A Handbook for Women in Abusive Relationships and The Ones That Got Away: Women Who Have Left Abusive Partners. E. White’s Chain Chain Change: For Black Women Dealing with Physical and Emotional Abuse is another excellent resource that addresses some of the specific problems facing African American women who are trying to leave abusive relationships. Likewise, M. Zambrano’s Mejor Sola Que Mal Acompanada: Para La Mujer Golpeada/For the Latina in an Abusive Relationship is an excellent bilingual resource for Latinas.
Other Options: If you are not ready to leave, you can make plans for any emergencies that might come up, or for getting out permanently. You might want to pack a bag with a few essentials and leave it with a friend or in the trunk of your car. You might be able to save a little money each week and keep it hidden somewhere. You could keep copies of medical records, birth certificates, identification, or other important documents in a safe place. If you make long-distance calls when you’re making your plans, you won’t want to use your home phone (numbers show up on bills). If you think you may someday have to go to court for custody hearings or to press charges against your abuser, you could keep a journal or photographs to document the abuse. You could put yourself on a waiting list for low-income housing. Be creative. Ask for help. You can escape from the violence.