By: Arianna Rodriguez, Domestic Violence Advocate
As the Domestic Violence Advocate at Mary’s Center, I’ve seen how abusive relationships are often cyclical in many ways alternating between tension, explosion, a honeymoon phase, forgiveness, manipulations, and gifts. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
It can be really hard to leave an abusive partner and typically it takes an average of seven attempts before that happens. Abusers know how to manipulate the victim and make them feel dependent on them. I work with our participants to give them the confidence and means to leave their abusive relationships. Here’s helpful information I share with them:
- If you leave your abusive partner, you will NOT be alone.
One of my main jobs is to connect those who have been abused with counselors, support groups, and legal service coordination. One thing I want to stress to everyone who goes through abuse is that there are resources, there is help, and you are not alone. Abusers often try to make their victims feel isolated, whether this is through cutting them off from family or friends, controlling their financial situation, or using psychological abuse. I help people deal with abuse in its many different forms—emotional, economic, sexual, and psychological. If you are worried about how you will support yourself, I can help you find a shelter. If you are worried about being alone, I can set you up with counseling and support groups. My job is to figure out the resources that will make you safe.
- You will not lose your kids if you report your partner’s abuse.
Often abusers will threaten to take children away from the person they are abusing. However, the processes for custody are complicated and take time, and the only time children are removed from a household is in instances where it is proven that a parent is negligent, abusive, or doesn’t have the capacity to take care of a child. Your partner cannot legally take your kids away from you.
- The legal system in the United States is different than other countries. Under our laws, you will be protected from your abuser.
Many of the people I meet with who are experiencing domestic abuse come from other countries with different laws when it comes to domestic abuse and don’t believe they will be protected. However, part of my job is navigating the legal system, I know the system protects those who have been abused.
- Citizenship status will be NOT be a concern if you report abuse.
In domestic violence situations, the court or police will not ask about your citizenship status. The laws are set up to protect the person being abused in these situations. This means that even if you file a restraining order, your documentation status will not matter. Additionally, the system will not deport you if you file a report. In fact, in situations of domestic violence, victims are eligible for special visas to make sure those who have been abused are protected.
- If you are experiencing or have experienced abuse it is important to have a safety plan.
I work with my participants to develop an individualized safety plan to make sure they are protected and can escape if they are in danger. Among the things that are in the plan are: having important documents handy (identification, kid’s birth certificates, insurance, etc.), having the basic necessities ready to go (diapers, a change of clothes, chargers, etc.), letting friends and/or family know where you are and how they can help, and having key words for them that indicate that they need to call the police for you, if you are unable or scared to call the police.
If you are in a situation of domestic abuse, please reach out for professional help. Mary’s Center can help you and our services are free and confidential. You can call me at 202-748-2611. I am available for appointments Monday – Friday from 8:30 – 5:30, but since abuse does not follow a schedule, you can also call a 24-hour hotline.
For more information, you can visit our page at www.maryscenter.org.