Frequently Asked Questions
Get the facts about domestic violence!
Q:What kinds of behaviors are abusive? Is it just the physical stuff?
A: There are lots of different types of abuse. You can check out a list of abusive behaviors here.
Q: Do abusers ever stop abusing?
A: This is hard question. Unfortunately, for many abusers, abuse is something that is “hard-wired”, or built into their personalities. It is very, very difficult to get someone who is abusive to stop abusing. It happens very rarely. Some abusers may choose or be mandated by a court to go into a batterer intervention program, where they will learn about abuse and talk about their behaviors. This can sometimes make them change their behavior, but oftentimes it only changes it temporarily or not at all.
Q: Why do people abuse other people?
A: The main reason a person abuses another person is to gain power and control. This may be because the abuser feels as though they lack power and control in other areas of their life, or it may be because this is how the abuser feels or has been taught they should behave. No matter the reason an abuser abuses, the fact is that abuse is a choice. Even if you are feeling anger or pain, it is never okay to express your pain or anger by causing pain to someone else. Abuse is never okay.
Q: I feel like the abuse is my fault. If I could just change, I think the abuse will stop. Is this true?
A: Although we may wish the abuse could stop, we cannot change ourselves to stop it. It is not your fault that the abuse is happening; it is your abuser’s choice to abuse. Many times people in abusive relationships feel like they are walking on eggshells, like they have to step very carefully to avoid making their abusers angry with them. If you “fix” one thing the abuser asks you to, they will find another thing to be angry about. Abuse is about power and control, so abusers will always, always find a reason to abuse in order to reinforce that power and control.
Q: My partner is threatening to commit suicide if I leave. I want to leave, but I’m afraid they’ll do it. What should I do?
A: It’s really scary when someone you care about is telling you they are going to hurt themselves. It’s also unfair (and abusive) when someone tries to get you to stay in a relationship by making you feel guilty or scared. It is your right to end a relationship when you want to. If your partner is threatening suicide, you may decide to give them a few suicide hotline numbers (listed below) and/or talk to their friends and family about your concern. Suicide is a very scary threat, and should be taken very seriously. It is unfair, though, for your partner to try and make you feel responsible for their well-being. If they do decide to hurt themselves, it is not your fault.
Hope Line: 1-800-SUICIDE
Girls and Boys Town National Hotline: 1-800-448-3000
The Trevor Project (Suicide hotline for GLBTQ youth) 1-866-4-U-TREVOR
Q: How can I find a support group in my area?
A: You can visit the resources page for domestic violence and sexual assault agencies near you. You can call and ask about support groups or advocacy for teens that have experienced abuse.
Q: My last relationship was abusive, and now I’m scared to be in another one. Is there any way I can avoid being in an abusive relationship again?
A: There are a number of warning signs that may indicate a person is abusive. If your partner is exhibiting more than two or three of these signs, you may want to ask yourself how you’re feeling about the relationship and whether or not you think it may get abusive. It’s not fair that you have to be scared about being in another abusive relationship, and the worst part is that often abusers will seek out people who they think might be ‘easy’ to abuse, and people who have been in abusive relationships before often seem like ‘easy’ targets. It is good to be on your guard, but don’t let your past relationships scare you away from dating. It is your right to be in a safe and healthy relationship if you choose to date.
Q: I go to the same school as my abuser, so there’s no way I can break up with him/her, because I’d never be able to get away. What can I do?
A: Although minors don’t qualify for a restraining order, there are ways to ensure your safety from your abuser at school. Work with your administration and teachers, involve your parents if necessary. Let them know what’s happening so that they can help make sure you are safe from harassment and violence at school. It is every student’s right to be free from those things in school, and so it is your right to ask for extra protection in this situation. You may decide to keep a log of all the things your abuser (or your abuser’s friends) say or do to you at school that feels upsetting or uncomfortable. This way you can show your principals and teachers the number of times it happens and the nature of the incidents. It may also be possible for you to switch schools. Either way, in a situation like this it is important to involve adult allies to make sure your rights are respected and protected.
Q: I think I might be in an abusive relationship but I’m still not sure. How do I know?
A: There are some really good sites and quizzes out there to help you decide if your relationship is abusive.http://www.thesafespace.org/the-basics-relationships-101.html has a lot of information about dating violence, and a really great basic quiz to help you decide if you’re in an abusive relationship.
Q:My mom/dad/relative/friend is in an abusive relationship. How can I convince them to leave?
A: Even though we may really want people we care about to leave abusive relationships, they are only going to leave when they’re ready to leave. In addition to the difficulty of leaving someone you care about, there are numerous barriers to leaving that people face. So, rather than convincing them to leave, there are ways to be supportive that still leave the survivor in control of their own destiny. Since abusive relationships take away a sense of power and control over one’s own life, helping survivors to have as many choices as possible may help them regain self-esteem and independence. Therefore, when talking to a survivor about their abusive relationship, offering options is okay, but offering advice is usually not. It is important that they are empowered to make their own decisions about their own lives, even if we may personally feel like they are making bad choices. Many times, survivors stay in abusive relationships because it is the safest thing for them to do at that time (remember, danger levels increase a lot when someone decides to leave an abusive relationship). It may be helpful for you to review barriers to leaving if you feel frustrated, as it is an excellent reminder of just how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship. The best thing you can do for your parent, relative, or friend is to show them that you care. You can also check out the how to support a friend who… section for more tips.
Q: I’m in an abusive relationship, but I don’t think I’m ready to leave. How can I stay safe?
A: You have probably been doing a lot already to keep yourself safe, so you may already know all of these things. Just in case, here is a short list of things you may choose to do:
- Keep important phone numbers close by and/or carry your cell phone with you at all times in case you need to call for help.
- Make sure someone else besides your abuser knows where you are going and who you’ll be with if you go out.
- If possible, ensure you have easy access to transportation while with your abuser.
- Tell someone that you’re in an abusive relationship. That way you will have someone to talk to if you need to. It is important that you take care of yourself and try not to be isolated from friends and family (which may be difficult, depending on your abuser’s tactics).
- Try and make sure you have a ‘safe place’ to go, either in your home or someone else’s home, where the abuser cannot get to you or would not know how to find you.
- Keep a stash of money (or a credit card) somewhere for emergencies.