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DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct.17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- After all the love and respect she'd received while dating, Andria thought when she got married that she was getting the fairy tale she always wanted. Four months later, everything changed drastically. Whether it was the pressure of a baby on the way, a new marriage, the home or the job, something triggered a cycle of physical and verbal abuse that became a regular part of her home for the next four years.
Andria's story is all too common: one in four women and one in seven men in the United States suffer serious physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner at least once during their lifetimes.1 Every day, three women lose their lives in this country as a result of domestic violence.2
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – a time to reach out to those who are in volatile family situations and offer help. Based on her personal experience, Andria, a contributes to SupportInASplit.com, a blog for people who are supporting someone going through a divorce, shares what to look for if you suspect your friend might be in an abusive relationship.
Has he or she started to pull away from your friendship?
There are a few reasons your friend might withdraw due to an abusive relationship. 1) An abuser is a very controlling person. Rather than subject herself to a possible argument over who, what and where she's been, she'll simply stop going out or being around friends. 2) She may feel uncomfortable talking with you as much, for fear something about her home life will come up. "I was always hoping that with enough counseling things would get better, so I didn't want my friends and family to harbor resentment for him later if we were able to work through it," says Andria.
For local resources, check out what's available in your state.
Does he or she have bruises or injuries more frequently?
If you start to notice your friend has more-than-usual unexplained marks on her body, pay attention. It may seem obvious, but if your friend is trying to hide abuse, she's going to be coming up with all kinds of reasons why a mark is where. "I ran into a shelf in our daughter's room," is one Andria used to cover a huge bruise that was clearly visible on her upper right arm. Also, if your friend is suddenly covering up more than she used to, it may not be because she's cold. Long sleeves in July should be a red flag.
To help your friend, or find out more, check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Does your friend's spouse or partner make you feel uncomfortable?
Pay close attention to how your friend and the partner interact with others and one another. If the suspected abuser often overpowers conversations and becomes argumentative over small things, it may be a sign of an underlying issue. Also note how he talks to your friend. If he is constantly poking fun at her or belittling her, it may be more than a little teasing. Notice how she reacts, too. If she seems afraid to stand up for herself or nervous about responding, that may be a clue.
What to Do if you Suspect Abuse
Try to get your friend to talk about it. Start slow and ask general questions about how she is doing or how things are at home. Let her know that you only want to help and will do anything you can for her. She may only share a little at a time, but encourage her to get help. Call your local battered women's shelter for advice, offer to let her and her children stay with you if you can, or offer to watch her children while she pursues whatever action she needs to take. For more ways to help a friend who may be abused, check out these helpful resources.
In addition to physical and emotional needs, there are legal needs as well. An attorney trained in the specific state laws surrounding restraining orders and child custody may be one of the first people to call. For local resources, find out what's available in your state.
While many states and local agencies can provide assistance for those without the ability to pay, others above the income category may want to enroll in a legal plan. These types of plans, which are offered by providers like ARAG, offer access to a nationwide network of attorneys and other legal resources. Legal plans are usually offered through employers or organizations, although some options are also available to individuals. To find out more about how legal plans work, visit www.ARAGgroup.com.
1National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) Summary Report, 2010.
2Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003.
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