When a relationship that was loving turns frightening and hurtful you may experience a range of emotions and reactions. Panic, fear, pain and betrayal combine to confuse you and make you feel powerless. Violence in a relationship is unfortunately not uncommon, with millions of people affected every year. Whether your partner is hurting you or others in your household physically, emotionally or both you have rights, responsibilities and options.

Recognize You Are At Risk

A partner acting violently is never justified. The level of violence can begin with a shove or a slap and can escalate over time to serious injuries or death. Violence includes threats, forcing unwanted sexual activities, shoving, hitting, injuring with objects including weapons, biting, burning, kicking and choking. If the violent action happens once or twice research shows it will happen again and may increase in severity. This is true despite your gender and the gender of your partner.

Recognizing you are at risk also include acknowledging your children, whether with this partner or simply in the household with you, are also at risk. They are in danger of being physically hurt and are also paying a tremendous emotional price watching or hearing any abuse aimed toward you. The situation is serious and you need to act to keep yourself and any children safe.

Do Not Believe Your Abuser

Your partner may tell you that your fear is unjustified and that you are overreacting to any violence. In contrast your abuser may admit the hurtful behavior and beg forgiveness only to snap in the future to abuse again. Expect the partners who turns violent to try to destroy your self esteem. Rely on this person to attempt to convince you that no one will believe the truth you speak.

Your children or other family may be regularly threatened by your partner as a way to attain your cooperation and obedience. Financial support may be cut off and you may be physically prevented from seeing family and friends who could help you.

The earlier you identify the abuse and take action to protect yourself the better. It is completely normal to be afraid and anxious when someone is violent towards you. It is never your fault and the best reaction is to leave, putting as much distance as possible between you and your violent partner.

The Next Step

Ironically you may have known family or friends in a violent relationship and been mystified when they did not just leave. Now that you are in the situation you realize the power your abuser attempts to hold over you. You may feel very vulnerable and alone without any path you feel you can safely follow.

Often batterers will threaten to kill you or someone close to you, including themselves, if you attempt to leave. If you rely upon your partner for financial security that lifeline may hold you in the relationship past the point where you should leave for your own safety and the welfare of your children.

Get Some Counseling

Depending on your personal culture and upbringing you may feel you cannot walk away from a marriage even if you are being battered. Feelings of shame and failure may make it difficult to seek help, and many victims of domestic violence believe they have brought the ill treatment upon themselves.

You may need to seek some counseling to realize that you have not done anything to cause the violence toward yourself. Confide in a trusted friend or family member to find professional help to clarify your responsibility for the situation and to formulate a plan to escape the abuse with any children.

Take Control

Only if you feel you can do it safely you could try to encourage your partner to seek help from a local group or organization that helps batterers better manage their anger or aggression. Know that is just one step as you need to get support for yourself and your children.

Family, friends or a religious counselor may be able to help you extricate yourself from a violent relationship. If you have no one you feel you can turn to, contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or a local domestic abuse shelter. These organizations are well versed in strategies to help an abuse victim and family.

Seek Legal Counsel For Permanent Relief

Most states offer victims of abuse an expedited procedure to keep your violent partner away from you and your children. Often know as restraining orders or orders for protection, these legal proceedings may not need you to hire a lawyer to obtain the legal relief, but having an attorney at your side can help.

Once you are away from the abuse and the influence of your partner an attorney can help you chart the course for you to take back your life. If you share children together or were married the attorney can offer advice on separation, divorce, custody and financial support.