In the case of domestic violence

Second in a series

by Anthony G. “Tony” Spencer

Domestic violence is a behavior used to exert power and control over someone in a family or a home. Most people who assault a household or family member would never do the same to a co-worker, acquaintance, or friend.

Before an assault ever occurs, the abuser typically engages in conduct such as intimidation, isolation, economic control and threats to maintain power. He may attempt to control through criticism, moodiness, or anger. He may be over-protective and “caring,” becoming jealous and insisting on always being together.

The abuser may trivialize his partner’s concerns and accuse her of imagining or exaggerating things or of being hysterical or overly sensitive. He may hover menacingly or throw things or block the door or drive recklessly. He may use humiliation, making fun of his partner’s body or telling sexual jokes about her to others. He may try to seduce his partner’s friends or family members.

An abuser may speak to his partner in a demeaning way or call her demeaning names. He may threaten to report her as a bad mother. He may insist on having the last word or say that something is not open to discussion. He may control access to money, a car or a phone.

If you are in a relationship with someone exhibiting the warning signs of abuse, take action now. The Haven operates a 24/7 confidential hotline at 800-224-2836. The people who answer calls to The Haven Hotline can give advice and offer assistance to anyone in an abusive relationship.

Don’t be caught by surprise. Prepare now for your safety and the safety of your children. Be equipped ahead of time with a plan for a quick escape. Know where to go at any time of the day or night and how you would get there. Put aside some emergency money and an extra set of car keys. Gather important documents to take with you if you need to leave in a hurry. Keep extra clothes and shoes for you and your children at the home of a trusted friend or neighbor.

If you believe you are about to be assaulted, stay out of rooms where there are guns or knives. Do not attempt to threaten the abuser with a weapon, as it may put you in an even more dangerous situation.

If you have been assaulted, immediately call 911 for police and medical attention. If this is not an option, try to protect yourself as best you can and contact 911 as soon as possible. Provide all relevant information to the 911 call-taker, including the abuser’s location and description, an account of what happened, and whether there were any weapons involved. If you know the location of a weapon, tell 911.

Many victims of domestic abuse feel that their situations are hopeless. There is hope. There are many people specially trained and available to help you. If someone you know is exhibiting the warning signs of domestic abuse, call the Haven Hotline, 800-224-2836.

Anthony G. “Tony” Spencer serves as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Lancaster County.