Of women who reported being raped and/or physically assaulted since the age of 18, three quarters (76 percent) were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabitating partner, date or boyfriend. — (Prevalence Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, U.S. Department of Justice, November, 1998.)
Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year to 4 million women who are physically abused by their husbands or live-in partners per year. — (Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends, U.S. Department of Justice, March, 1998.)
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you must take action. You must get help. You are not alone. The statistics above should make that very clear.
Here are some practical things you can do to help end the nightmare for you and your family.
1. Know what the signs of being a victim of abuse are
You are a victim of domestic violence and/or abuse if you answer yes to these questions:
- Does your spouse regularly find fault with you or tell you are worthless?
- Does he refuse to let you have friends?
- Does he keep you from seeing your family?
- Does he stop you from leaving the house without a valid reason?
- Does he make you afraid by what he says (for instance, does he threaten you)?
Please note the following: If the abuser wants to change the way he acts, he can get counseling. WIth long term help some men have learned to stop being abusers. The abuse usually gets worse over time.
2. Get medical treatment if you are hurt
If you are injured after an attack of domestic violence, get medical treatment as soon as possible. You do not have to tell anyone who caused the injury, but it is better for your treatment if you tell the doctor exactly what happened. Keeping notes or a diary of your injuries and the times you were abused may help if you decide to leave later.
3. Once you recognize the abuse, know you are not to blame
As the statistics above indicate, you are not alone and the abuse is not your fault. No wife deserves to be abused by her husband, this is not just the law of America, this is the law of Islam. There is help if you are a victim and you must protect yourself and your kids from the violence.
4. Think about the effect on your kids
You have to think about the effect the domestic violence is having on your children because kids growing up in an abusive home accept it as a fact of life and think violence at home is normal. If the abuser is also abusing the kids, they can call child welfare services for help, advice or counseling.
5. Tell someone trustworthy about it
Telling someone else about it is a way of getting help. If you have been isolated from most family and friends, confide in someone you can trust from whom you do have contact with. Telling someone is a way of breaking out of suffering in silence. And in emergency cases, it could mean contact with someone who could one day save your life.
6. Know these words
There are certain words you need to know when the topic of domestic violence comes up with outsiders. Here are some of them:
Assault-this happens when someone uses force or the threat of force on someone else without the person's consent.
Bail hearing-this is a court proceeding that happens after a person has been arrested and charged. The court decides if the person should be released with conditions such as being told he cannot contact you or the decision to hold him in jail or on conditional release.
Criminal harassment-if your abuser is repeatedly following you or in communication with you or watching your behavior and acting in a threatening manner towards you or your children, this is committing an offence called criminal harassment and it is sometimes called stalking. In many cases men do this when women take shelter.
District attorney (in the U.S.) or Crown Attorney (in Canada)-this is a lawyer who represents the government. S/he presents the case to the court when a crime has been committed.
Custody-if you have custody of your kids you are legally responsible for making major decisions about their upbringing and schooling. Custody does not necessarily mean the kids won't see their father.
Legal aid or legal help-this is legal help for women who cannot afford it. This is usually found at a legal aid office. It is free. To find out about it, contact your local lawyers' referral service by checking the yellow pages.
Order of civil/family court or a restraining order-if you are afraid for your safety and don't want to contact the police, you can get an order from a civil or family court stating that the abuser must stay away from you (this is called a restraining order). You should get legal help to find out about the civil and family court orders in your state or province.
Peace bond-if you are afraid for your safety, you can get this. It is a criminal court order with conditions (for instance, the abuser may be told he cannot see or contact you at all. If he does not follow these orders, the police may arrest him). For more information about this, ask the lawyer.
Probation-this is a criminal court order that can be part of a sentence for an offender. A person on probation will have conditions set on release such as going to counseling.
7. Questions to ask if you are an immigrant women
If you are an immigrant woman who is suffering abuse in the home, ask yourself:
a. Am I going to lose my sponsorship by leaving my spouse as a result of abuse? The answer is no.
b. Is it better for me to leave? What about the custody of children and what services are available to me? The answer to this is to ask yourself: how dangerous is it if I stay? Is there a gun in the house? Has the abuser ever used a weapon like a knife or a stick to hurt me? Does the abuser take drugs or drink?
8. Keep the following documents with you
If it's an emergency and you have to leave the house quickly, do NOT stop to collect your things.
If there is time though, get the following documents: birth certificate, passport, citizenship papers, immigration papers, child custody papers (if there are any), the abuser's social insurance number, court orders such as a peace bond, health card, social insurance card, money and credit cards, checkbook, bankbook, savings bonds, personal telephone and address book, medicine, housekeys, drivers license and car keys, children's favorite toys, clothing for a few days and valuable jewelry. If you have been thinking of leaving the home to escape violence for a while, start collecting these things.
9. Establish a protection plan
A protection plan is a plan of where you will go if you must escape from the home during an attack and what you and your children will need if you are forced to leave (see list above).
You need a protection plan if you are in an abusive relationship or have recently left an abusive relationship, especially if you remain in the family home where your husband can return even in violation of any court order you have and threaten to assault you again.
But even if you leave the family home, your husband may search for you and once again threaten to assault you. Should this happen you need a protection plan so you can reach to safety with your children.
Keep in mind that an assault of domestic violence is usually followed by a period of calm, which is called the "honeymoon period" where the abuser feels and acts sorry for the abuse. This period is followed by a gradual buildup of tensions, leading to another attack. You need a protection plan so that when you feel another attack about to happen, you will be able to go to a safe place with your kids. Do not be misled into thinking that when a man is in the honeymoon period things are going to be okay from now on and the abuse will stop.
These are the elements of a protection plan:
- Be aware of the sort of behavior that precedes an attack. Is alcohol an element of abuse? Are there other indicators that an attack is about to happen? Usually, there are.
- Decide on some safe place you can go with your kids. This might include the mosque, a crisis shelter, another home, relatives, friends, hotel, or another place in which you feel safe.
- Decide how you will get there. Keep some money and a set of extra keys with you and some with your family and/or friends, so you can leave by taxi. This way, even if you don't have money, you can quickly escape to the friend's house by taxi when you feel an attack is imminent. You might arrange with friends, neighbors or relatives that they will come and pick you up when you feel it is necessary. The police, RCMP or social workers also might help.
- Decide how you may escape from your home when an attack is imminent. Make sure you know where the nearest public phone is and try to memorize the number of the local shelter and what to take when you leave.
10. Know these telephone numbers
The first few pages of a telephone book list numbers of police and other emergency services. Know these numbers by heart. Also, gather information such as the addresses and telephone numbers of people who can help.
11. Build your knowledge and skills
Try to do things that make you feel better like getting counseling from a qualified professional (preferably Muslim) or learning new job skills. Look for friends and family members who can help you.
12. For more information go to these places
Women's shelters, police, crown attorney's office-they all have a department dealing with this. You can also check hospitals, multicultural associations, women's centers, a local YWCA, telephone crisis lines, the Public Legal Education and Information Association (in Canada), lawyer referral services, legal aid offices, doctors or public health nurses, social workers, mosques, Islamic centers, Islamic social services Association (ISSA) or regional Islamic social services.
13. Find a longer term safe place
Where is the safest place you can stay for a while? It could be family, or a fellow Muslim sister who can help provide money for you and your kids. Look for those people who can be sympathetic.