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February 24, 2013

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Breaking away from the abuse

For some leaving a violent partner can be dangerous. But staying can be more dangerous.

By CHRISTIN COYNE

Dealing with domestic violence in a relationship is a complex issue but there are resources available for those seeking help, according to Freedom House Executive Director of Catherine Tietjen.

Freedom House offers a range of services for domestic violence victims, including a shelter, crisis counseling, education and therapy, legal advocacy, and referrals. 

Last year, they provided 114 people with shelter and served 745 people with outreach services, including 317 sexual assault victims and 176 male domestic abuse victims.

“It isn’t just simple ‘he hits me so I leave him,’” Tietjen said. “It might be simple if I’ve just started dating.”

However, it’s usually more complicated, Tietjen said. Psychological abuse usually starts first, tearing down the other person’s self worth and making them start second guessing themselves.  

Somehow, abusers know how to find the individual weaknesses of people, she said.

There isn’t a simple answer for why people stay in abusive relationships, Tietjen said, adding that domestic violence doesn’t just take place in long-term committed relationships, but in dating and other relationships, as well. 

“A lot of people stay because it’s the safest thing to do,” Tietjen said, adding that many murders occur after someone’s left the relationship.

Sometimes the person actually loves the spouse who is violent or the person feels as if they are at fault for what is happening because that’s what the abuser is saying, according to Tietjen.

Freedom House asks those seeking help to talk about it and have a checklist.

Sometimes people think they are the only one with that problem, she said.

They work with the individual to create a safety plan unique to their situation, she said.

Freedom House never tells individuals what to do, allowing them to decide for themselves, Tietjen said.

However, if they need a safe place to stay, they can offer that. 

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