Think Your Partner is Abusive? 4 Steps You Can Take Now
A resource guide for domestic violence survivor safety
“I don’t know what to do.”
I’ve heard those words from so many survivors of domestic violence, or intimate partner violence. I’ve also said those words myself, when I was being abused by a partner. So if you think your partner might be abusive, but you don’t know what to do about it, you’re not the only one.
Here’s some good news: It’s possible to figure out some answers.
If you’re looking for clarity, safety, or healing, there are steps you can take and resources you can access to find the right path for you. I find myself referring to these resources often, when I’m talking to or writing for victims and their loved ones. And I know everyone should be able to find them if they need them.
So this is a resource guide organized by the steps you can take if your partner is abusing you or you think they might be.
There’s a lot of info here, so take your time, and don’t feel like you have to use all of these options. The whole point is to find what works for you — which might mean starting with just one small step, and that’s totally okay.
Here are some ideas for what to do now.
Step 1: Keep your technology safe when you’re accessing info about domestic violence.
Let’s start by making sure you’re safe right now, while you check out these resources. Some abusers will violate your privacy or monitor your technology use.
For example, here’s an article from NPR on how abusers use smartphones to stalk and control their victims.
How might this apply to your life? You can look out for signs that your abuser’s using technology against you, and safeguard your devices to protect yourself.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a great resource for technology safety.
- Technology Safety Plan in English
- Technology Safety Plan in a few other languages
- Quick Tips for Tech Safety
- More Technology Safety Docs to choose from
NNEDV also has the Safety Net Project that’s all about tech safety for victims.
Step 2: Learn to identify domestic violence.
Learning about common signs of intimate partner violence can help you answer the question “Am I being abused?” And it might also help you realize that you’re not alone.
There are lots of misconceptions floating around about partner abuse — about how it shows up, who can experience it, and more. Learning the facts instead of the myths can give you some clarity.
Take good care of yourself as you dive in — grab your favorite snack, a pet, or some comforting music, for example. Then check out some of these resources.
- What healthy relationships are like, from the National Domestic Violence hotline
- Abuse defined, from the National Domestic Violence hotline
- Help Guide on domestic abuse
- Signs of domestic violence against men, from Mayo Clinic
- Facts about LGBTQ domestic violence, from The Network/La Red
- Identifying LGBTQ domestic violence, from the National Domestic Violence hotline
- Transgender intimate partner violence toolkit, from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)
- LGBTQ people of color IPV toolkit, from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)
- I must also mention that trusting your own gut can be a great resource for figuring out what’s going on. If something feels off in your relationship, tune into what your intuition is telling you.
Step 3: Talk to a professional.
Connecting with someone who “gets it” can make a big difference when you’re not sure what to do about abuse or the potential for abuse.
It’s possible that a trusted loved one could be the one who gets it. But I also recommend reaching out to someone with a specific expertise in domestic violence, for an informed perspective on what’s going on.
Luckily, there are resources you can contact (many of them free) to do just that.
A note on expertise: While the professionals are considered the “experts,” always remember that you are the expert in your own life. You get to make the decisions to determine the course of your own life.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1–800–799-SAFE (7233)
- Chat online with the National DV Hotline
- What to expect when you contact the hotline
- Regional resources by state
- International directory of domestic violence agencies
- Deaf services
- Legal help
- LGBTQ anti-violence programs by state, from NCAVP
- The Network/La Red hotline for survivors in LGBTQ, polyamorous, and BDSM communities: 800–832–1901
- The Northwest Network line for LGBTQ survivors: 206–568–7777
- Loveisrespect for young people: Chat online, text loveis to 22522, or call 1–866–331–9474
Step 4: Make a safety plan.
A safety plan can help you prepare in advance to keep yourself safe. It can include what you might need to leave your partner — but if you’re not ready to leave, you can also plan for emergency situations, your emotional health, and more.
That might sound complicated, but know that if you contact someone from Step 3, they can help guide you through the process of creating a safety plan.
Here are some resources on what a personalized safety plan can include.
- Emotional safety planning
- With children
- While pregnant
- With pets
- For trans and gender non-conforming survivors
- While living with an abusive partner
- For leaving an abusive partner
- Keeping yourself safe if you’re not ready to leave your partner
- Firearm safety
- Creative Interventions Toolkit for community-based approaches to violence
- What to do instead of calling the police, if law enforcement is not an option for you
There you have it — the four steps I’d advise anyone to take if they’re being abused by a partner or think they might be. But don’t just take my word for it — you’re the one who knows what’s best for yourself, which means that one powerful resource you already have is your own intuition.
So even if you do nothing else on this list right now, try doing this much: Give yourself some love for checking out these options and opening yourself up to a whole new set of possibilities for keeping yourself safe.
You deserve it.
Find more of Maisha’s writing on abuse on her website.