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Domestic Violence
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There is never a good reason for domestic violence. Here are six steps a victim1 can take to escape an abusive environment.

1. Call Police. If you’re in immediate physical danger, call 911. Many law enforcement agencies are trained to deal with domestic violence situations. Most cities even have volunteer liaisons for abuse victims. Inquire about getting a restraining order.

2. Talk to someone you trust. Tell a trusted friend or family member what is going on in your relationship. Ask for help to establish a safety plan or find services. Talk to your pastor and request the church’s help. For pastors, instead of looking for what the victim might have done to cause the abuse, they can, and should, find ways to help the victim and her2 children escape continuing abuse. It is tragic enough when a member of the church is abused by her husband. The tragedy compounds when her experience is invalidated by a pastor or elder of the church who places blame on her.

3. Consult a counselor. Make sure that the counselor has extensive training and experience in domestic violence.

4. Make a safety plan. Find a place you can go: the home of a friend or family member, a hotel or domestic violence shelter. I read of a church that sheltered a victim and her children by moving them around members’ homes. This kept the abuser from finding them, and simultaneously, they didn’t have to rely on a shelter. Have an idea of how you will get out of the house: a window, fire escape, etc. Try to stash away some money—preferably cash—that your partner has no knowledge of or access to. Plan for transportation: family cars? Bus? Taxi? Have a bag ready with important documents, like your I.D., credit cards, insurance cards, medicine, bank information, passport, any other legal documents –including restraining orders and medical records. Pack a bag for your children as well. Arrange with a friend to have an “emergency phrase” that your partner will not recognize. For example, set up in advance that if you ask, “How’s your dog?” your friend will know to call the police.

5. Safeguard call communication. It is not uncommon for an abuser to monitor all mail, telephone and Internet communication. Avoid making long-distance calls from home, or your abuser may trace calls to find out where you may be headed. You may access the Internet at the public library so the abuser can’t search your browsing history or your e-mail account. Keep your passwords private and change them periodically. Store files on the Internet, so you can access them from any computer.

6. Contact a domestic violence agency. You may reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or online at www.ndvh.org

I’ll repeat something so important to remember that I must say it again: There is never a good reason or valid excuse for abuse! If you are being abused, take the above steps to find help and leave such a damaging environment—for you and your children. If you are a church member or leader, never blame the victim for inciting the behavior. Instead, do everything within your power to help the victim and protect her from further abuse.

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By Claudio Consuegra. Reprinted with permission from Mid-America Outlook Magazine, September 2008. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines

I use the term “victim” for someone experiencing abuse. Those who take action and leave the dangerous environment can be termed “survivors.

2 I use female pronouns in describing victims, and for the abuser, male pronouns. While most abuse is perpetuated by males toward females, there is a small fraction of abuse perpetuated by females toward males.

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