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Health & Sex

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When Intimacy Turns Violent

Know the early signs of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse to protect yourself from an abusive relationship and domestic violence.

Protect Yourself from Abuse

If you are - or suspect you are - in an abusive relationship, there are steps you can take to help ensure your safety, says McMahon.

  • In a heated situation, stay away from the kitchen - reportedly one of the most common places for domestic violence - where there are too many potential weapons. Also avoid any small rooms, such as bathrooms or closets, where you can be trapped.
  • Call 911 as soon as possible.
  • Get medical help as soon as possible if you've been hit.
  • Take photos of any injuries to yourself or your children.
  • Try to keep a phone with you at all times, and memorize emergency phone numbers (such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE).
  • Set up a system with a trusted neighbor - such as flashing your porch lights on and off - to alert her that you're in danger and you want her to call the police.
  • Keep a small suitcase packed for yourself and your children, with key documents like your Social Security card, health insurance card and driver's license.
  • If you're being stalked, get an unlisted phone number, screen all your calls, and frequently change your driving times, routes and other daily habits.
  • Alert the security officer at your workplace if you think you're in danger.

Finally, says McMahon, pay attention to your instincts. "If you're feeling bad about the relationship - even if you don't know why - don't ignore it. Listen to your gut."

Domestic Violence and Abuse: The Facts

If you wonder whether domestic violence is really a problem, consider these numbers.

• Battering. About 572,000 assaults by intimate partners are officially reported each year, and at least 170,000 of these assaults require hospitalization, emergency room care or a doctor's care.

• Sexual assault. Every year about 132,000 women in the United States report rape or attempted rape - and more than half of them knew their attackers. Domestic violence experts estimate that many more women are raped but don't report it. Every year, 1.2 million women are forcibly raped by their current or former male partners, some more than once, according to the National Association of Women.

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