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Pregnancy, Children and Abuse

Pregnancy is a particularly perilous time for an abused woman. Not only is your health at risk, but also the health of your unborn child. Pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause, Abuse can begin or may increase during pregnancy.

How many children witness the abuse of their mothers?

Studies show that 3-4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year. Abusive relationships can be very damaging to children, even if they are just witnesses.

Witnessing can mean SEEING actual incidents of physical/and or sexual abuse. It can mean HEARING threats or fighting noises from another room. Children may also OBSERVE the aftermath of physical abuse such as blood, bruises, tears, torn clothing, and broken items. Finally children may be AWARE of the tension in the home such as their mother’s fearfulness when the abuser’s car pulls into the driveway.

You may worry that seeking help may further endanger you or your children, or that it may break up the family ,but in the long run, seeking help when you safely can is the best way to protect your children- and yourself.
What are the feelings of children who are exposed to battering? Read more…

How Domestic Violence Affects Children

Domestic violence doesn’t just damage the person who is abused. Kids can be affected by family violence in all kinds of ways. Following are some symptoms/effects. Keep in mind that isolated incidents probably aren’t indicative of a problem; it’s more important to look for patterns and extremes. Read more…

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For Adults

One resource for learning how to assist children in these situations is Lundy Bancroft’s “Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse,” in which he shares ways parents can encourage their children to cope, heal and talk about the abuse they’ve seen.

Have conversations. Let children know that it’s okay to talk about what has happened.

Remind your kids that the abuse is never their fault. Make sure that they know that you care about them. Children are extremely resilient, and while the impact of abuse can be long lasting, knowing that they have someone to depend on that loves them will help them heal.

Above all, proceed with caution and listen to your instincts. Tap into what you feel is best for both you and your child. There are often pros and cons of either staying with or leaving an abusive partner. It can be a dangerous situation either way. If you do decide to leave your relationship, consider when and how to best leave. Allow children to be open about their feelings in the process, and devise a safety plan (whether staying or leaving).

Call The Hotline toll free, 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for more information about what you can do. http://www.thehotline.org/

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Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?

It can be hard to understand why anyone would stay in an abusive relationship. The reasons vary from the financial to the psychological, and it’s rarely as easy as just walking away. Not leaving does not mean that the situation is okay or that the victim wants to be abused.


  • Men and women in abusive relationships often love the abuser so much that they believe the good overrides the bad. They hope that each episode of abuse is the last.


  • An abuser often threatens to kill the victim or her loved ones if she leaves. If you’ve already seen the violence he’s capable of, this is a real and terrifying possibility.


  • A victim of domestic abuse may not be able to afford to leave the situation. Abusers often maintain tight control of household funds and don’t allow their partners to work.


  • Victims of abuse may feel guilty about moving their children to a different home and school. Abusers may threaten to take the children if their partners think about leaving.


  • People who are abused may feel embarrassed to reach out for help. They may have been conditioned to think that the abuse was their fault. Their religion may teach that divorce is shameful or a sin.


  • Abusers often isolate their partners from family and friends, leading victims to believe they have no one else to turn to.

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Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Why doesn’t she just leave? It’s the question many people ask when they learn that a woman is being battered and abused. But if you are in an abusive relationship, you know that it’s not that simple. If you are being abused, remember:

  • You are not to blame for being battered or mistreated.
  • You are not the cause of your partner’s abusive behavior.
  • You deserve to be treated with respect.
  • You deserve a safe and happy life.
  • Your children deserve a safe and happy life.
  • You are not alone. There are people waiting to help.
  • Read More

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Stay Safe Action Plan

The most violent time in an abusive relationship is the minute the woman leaves, or tries to leave. In fact, in domestic violence cases, more than 70 percent of injuries and murders happen after the victim leaves. This phenomenon is known as separation assault. After following the Exit Action Plan for how to leave an abusive relationship safely, know the plan for staying safe!

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An Exit Action Plan

Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Planning a safe exit from an abusive relationship is a necessary and important step before breaking the ties with your partner. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests following these steps to improve your chances of leaving safely.

  • Know the phone number to your local battered women’s shelter.
  • Let a trusted family member, friend, coworker or neighbors know your situation. Develop a plan for when you need help; code words you can text if in trouble, a visual signal like a porch light: on equals no danger, off equals trouble.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
  • Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made.
  • Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.
  • Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
  • If you need to sneak away, be prepared. Make a plan for how and where you will escape.
  • Back your car into the driveway, and keep it fueled. Keep your driver’s door unlocked and other doors locked for a quick escape.
  • Hide an extra set of car keys.
  • Set money aside. Ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
  • Pack a bag. Include an extra set of keys, IDs, car title, birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards, marriage license, clothes for yourself and your children, shoes, medications, banking information, money ” anything that is important to you. Store them at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house. Try to avoid using the homes of next-door neighbors, close family members and mutual friends.
  • Take important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc.
  • If time is available, also take: 
Citizenship documents (such as your passport, green card, etc.) 
Titles, deeds and other property information 
Medical records 
Children’s school and immunization records 
Insurance information 
Verification of social security numbers 
Welfare identification 
Valued pictures, jewelry or personal possessions
  • Know abuser’s schedule and safe times to leave.
  • Be careful when reaching out for help via Internet or telephone. Erase your Internet browsing history, websites visited for resources, e-mails sent to friends/family asking for help. If you called for help, dial another number immediately after in case abuser hits redial.
  • Create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to relocate.

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If you get a restraining order, and the offender is leaving:

  • Change your locks and phone number.
  • Change your work hours and route taken to work.
  • Change the route taken to transport children to school.
  • Keep a certified copy of your restraining order with you at all times.
  • Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
  • Give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools along with a picture of the offender.
  • Call law enforcement to enforce the order.

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If you leave:

  • Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail. Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports. Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.
  • Change your work hours, if possible.
  • Alert school authorities of the situation.
  • Consider changing your children’s schools.
  • Reschedule appointments if the offender is aware of them.
  • Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
  • Alert neighbors, and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
  • Talk to trusted people about the violence.

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Sue Else, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, offers steps for staying safe after leaving an abusive relationship:

Consider going to a shelter
Domestic violence shelters are available to provide safety and to help you get on your feet. In addition to safety, they provide services, support and resources for you and your children.

Secure your new home
Consider new window and door locks, outdoor lights, an alarm system, steel doors and smoke detectors.

Don’t move to a secluded area
Move to a neighborhood with lots of neighbors, perhaps an apartment complex, with a Neighborhood Watch program.

Keep new address confidential
Get a P.O. Box, and don’t give out your real address. Try to rent a home that has utilities included, sign up for an Address Confidentiality Program through your state government, and make sure your voter registration doesn’t have your address. Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports. Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.

Stay off social networking websites
You don’t want information about who you’re friends with and what you’re doing public. You don’t know who could be friends with your ex.

Obtain a protection order
Keep a copy on you at all times. Give copies to family, friends, co-workers and your children’s school.

Change your patterns
Shop at new stores, take different routes to work, change coffee shops and gas stations, go to a faith service at a different time, switch to a new bank.

Secure your accounts
Change your passwords, PIN codes, and call utility companies and ask them to add a password that only you know to your account.

Get a new computer
Spyware could be on your old computer, allowing the abuser to know everything you do on the computer and read all of your e-mail.

Get a new cell phone and number
Verizon HopeLine donates phones to victims through local shelters. Call the telephone company to request caller ID. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.

Protect yourself at work
Alert your supervisor and the security staff, remove your number from the office directory, and even change office locations. Ask security to walk you to your car.

Safety plan with your children
Teach children what to do if the abuser kidnaps them or breaks into the house. You don’t want to scare your children, but help them be prepared. Alert the school or daycare of the danger.

Don’t isolate yourself
Don’t park your car in large parking garages, jog at night or in secluded areas. Park as close to the location as possible.

Document everything
Keep records of all texts, e-mails, stalking and harassment. Keep video or written journal ” and hide it!

Keep loved ones informed
Always tell a trusted person where you are going, EVERY DAY. Have check-in times so loved ones always know you are safe.

Be prepared
Have 911 ready to call when you are walking to your car. Be aware of your environment; if something feels out of the ordinary, IT IS!

Have a bag packed
Include an extra set of keys, identification, car title, birth certificate, social security, clothes for you and your children, shoes, money, jewelry ” anything important to you.

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Restraining Order

An Abuse Prevention Order, called a “209A Order,” or a “protective order,” or “restraining order,” is a civil court order intended to provide protection from physical or sexual harm caused by force or threat of harm from a family or household member.
You can obtain an order against:

  1. a spouse or former spouse
  2. a present or former household member
  3. a relative by blood or a present or former relative by marriage
    the parent of your minor child
  4. a person with whom you have or had a substantial dating relationship

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A 209A Order can be obtained in any District Court, Superior Court , or Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts.
An emergency 209A Order can be obtained through any police department after court hours, on weekends and holidays. You do not need a lawyer to file for a 209A Order and there is no charge for filing.

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Technology Safety

Technology is wonderful thing. Most people don’t use technology as a form of control, but sometimes abusers use technology to monitor their partners. Here are some things to keep in mind if you believe your partner may be trying to control or spy on you with technology.

Safe Computer Use
If an abuser has access to your computer, they can monitor what you do by installing programs that keep a record of everything that happens on the computer. The most common form of computer monitoring is the use of a program called a key-logger, which records everything you type. These programs are targeted towards parents worried about their children’s internet use, but they can also be misused to spy on adults. However, if you uninstall the program, the person who installed it will probably find out. It may be safer to simply use a different computer when you look for help or a new place to live, for example. It may be safest to use a computer at a public library, community center, or Internet café.

An easy way to increase your privacy is to always empty the “Recycle” or “Trash Bin” of any documents before shutting down the computer. Make this a regular routine so it is not an unusual action that may trigger suspicion.

Safe Web Browsing
Your web browser keeps a record of every webpage that you visit. While this cannot be completely erased from your computer, clearing your browser’s “history” is an easy way to increase your privacy. Read more…

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How to help a friend:

  • Be a good listener
  • Believe what they are telling you
  • Don’t judge them
  • Support their choices
  • Don’t tell them what to do
  • Help them find resources
  • Talk about safety planning
  • Tell them they are not alone
  • They don’t deserve to be treated that way
  • It’s not their fault
  • They have choices and with help they can leave safely.

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Games Batterers Play

Abusers will often use different tactics to manipulate the victim and obtain and maintain power and control in the relationship. The following list provides examples of such manipulation tactics.

Threats of suicide: Occasionally attempts are made, but rarely succeed. Makes victim feel responsible for their partner’s well being.

Threats to kill victim or the children: Certainly the most fear producing threat. May involve hunting for the victim or brandishing weapons. Can produce paralyzing fear.

Threaten mythical legal actions and sanctions: the most common threat is taking away child custody because of desertion.

Harass or threaten relatives or friends: makes victim feel responsible for the safety of these people. Often follows through with this threat.

Burns clothes or belongings: a symbolic gesture, which alternatively enrages and depresses the victim.

Organizes a posse of relatives and friends, including in-laws, to search for and convince the victim of her/his mistake: can be very overwhelming and powerful.

Reports that the abuser (or a close friend or relative) has been in a car accident and has been hospitalized: this fake report is very effective in flushing a victim from hiding and leaving them off guard for other tricks.

Cry, saying he/she can’t live without the victim: guilt and a sense of responsibility for abuser’s life is difficult to shake.

Promise to get counseling: usually won’t follow through, but sometimes will go only to focus on how to get the victim back. Will usually discontinue when and if victim returns home. Couples counseling is very dangerous for victims of domestic violence and is strongly discouraged.

Makes promises in general: won’t hit again, will clean house, give up drinking or drugs, get rid of guns, go to work, etc.

Develops psychosomatic complaints: can’t eat, can’t sleep, nausea, etc. Again, guilt and responsibility make it tough to ignore.

These are only a few of the many possible “games” batterers may play. Victims who have not been helped to anticipate these “games” could quite effectively be forced to return to unchanged situations, only to find the threats and promises very short-lived. (adapted from Susan Swala, RDVIC, Morgantown,; Domestic Violence Project at WMLS/Americorps Spring 2003 Western Massachusetts Legal Services, Inc. 152 North Street, Suite E M, Pittsfield, MA 01201)

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One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
Domestic violence affects 25% of all American families and can have a devastating impact on both survivors and children.

Domestic violence accounts for as many as 35% of all hospital emergency department visits by women.

80% of women who are stalked by a former husband are physically assaulted by that partner.  30% are sexually assaulted by that partner.

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2012 Domestic Violence Census

Massachusetts Summary
On September 12, 2012, 54 out of 54, or 100% of identified local domestic Violence programs in Massachusetts, participated in the 2012 national Census of Domestic Violence Services.

Read more about how many received services and how many requests were unmet on just one day.



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