CONGRESS PASSED A STRIPPED DOWN VERSION OF THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT LAST WEEK, rolling back many provisions that protected immigrant women and college students. Domestic abuse is on the rise, yet women may have fewer protection than ever. This week on Daytime, I’m talking about what women can do to protect themselves, and what to do if you or someone you know if the victim of domestic or dating violence.
How many women are affected by domestic abuse, and who is most vulnerable?
College students and immigrant women are most likely to be victimized and they have the fewest resources to protect themselves. 43% of college women reported being victims of dating violence.
What should you do if you are a victim of domestic abuse?
a) Call the police
Even if you’re not sure you want to press charges, even if you don’t think he’ll hit you or hurt you again, call the police. You never know, and it’s better to be safe than bruised and broken in the ER.
b) Tell the police you’ll cooperate, even if you’re not sure.
It’s not up to you to press charges, it’s up to the state. Your job is only to be honest with the police about what happened, and help them do their jobs. It’s not you putting him in jail, or risking his job, school, or status. It’s his own actions. It’s not your job to protect him from himself, especially when he doesn’t return the favor.
c) File a restraining order immediately, even if you’re not sure what to do next
The restraining order is only temporary (unless the judge decides to make it permanent) but it will give you a chance to catch your breath, get yourself to a safe place, and figure out what you need to do next.
d) Contact your local women’s shelter right away.
You’ll want to make an appointment with a counselor and a legal aid for advice on what to do next. Even if you don’t have any plans to go to the shelter, call and make an appointment to talk it out with someone who understands what you’re going through. The worst thing you can do is try to deal with this on your own, talk to someone and get a little outside perspective.
e) Contact the Victim’s Advocate at your police station
This person is usually kind and smart, and she (or he) can help you navigate the system, and explain all your options.
f) Go to the doctor so that your injuries can be documented, take photographs of all injuries as well as any damage to property
Tell the doctor or nurse exactly what happened, and ask them to document everything. Once evidence is gone, it’s gone forever. Document everything now, even if you never use it. Trust us.
Why is what you do in the first 12 hours so critical?
What you do first really matters. Call the police and the shelter, talk to the advocate. If you take him back after he hits you or throws you against the wall, you’re just teaching him that he can hit you with no real consequences. Trust me, no one’s behavior ever improved with this knowledge. It’s going to get worse every time, and it will be harder and harder for you to leave or get help. Don’t suffer through this alone.
Where can women go for more information?
There are two really fantastic sites that have advice and resources specifically for college students, including warning signs, videos, legal help, and advice on what to do next.
You deserve better.