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Domestic Violence - Topic Overview

What should you do if you know someone who is being abused?

Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Be a good listener and a caring friend.
  • Remind the person that no one deserves to be treated this way.
  • Let the person know that the abuse is against the law and that help is available.
  • Help the person make a plan to stay safe.
  • You can also suggest that the person call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) to find a local domestic violence support group.

Keep in mind that the person may not want or be ready to leave. He or she probably knows the abuser best and knows what options are safest. But it is important for victims of abuse to know where they can get help.

Why do victims stay?

People who are not abused might find it hard to understand why anyone would stay in a violent relationship. Some people think that if a person stays in an abusive relationship, she or he must be weak or needy. This is not true.

There is more to this issue than simply leaving or staying. A woman may fear that the abuser will hurt her and her children or take her children away. She may have limited financial options. She may blame herself. She may stay for religious reasons or because she does not want to break up the family. Also, she may still love her abuser and hope that things will get better. Men who are being abused may have similar feelings.

What are the harmful effects of domestic violence?

Domestic violence hurts victims as well as their families. Don't ignore it.

People who suffer from abuse can be badly hurt. They are also likely to have long-lasting (chronic) health problems, such as depression, headaches, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is because of the repeated injuries and stress from living with abuse.

Abuse can happen more often and get worse when women are pregnant. It is dangerous for both the mother and the baby. It can raise the baby's risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and death. The pregnant woman is at higher risk of other problems, such as infections and bleeding.2

And abuse has a big effect on children. Children who live in a home where abuse happens see violence as a normal way of life. It also raises their chance of being in a violent relationship as adults, either as abusers or as victims.3 Teens are at greater risk for depression, drug and alcohol use, and unsafe behavior.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 08, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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