How do I know if I’m in a domestic violence situation?
Domestic violence takes many forms – physical, psychological, economic, sexual and emotional. The abuser may engage in violent and controlling behaviors such as physical assault, sexual abuse, rape, threats, intimidation, harassment or humiliation. Abusers may repeatedly belittle their partners or voice constant unreasonable criticism. Some abusers exert economic control over their victims by withholding money and access to financial resources. Victims often experience feelings of deprivation and isolation. If you feel like any of these things are happening to you, you are in a domestic violence relationship.
What should I do if I feel like I’m in danger?
Reach out for help. Call the 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 847-221-5680. Learn more about domestic violence by exploring resources available through the police department or the local library.
What should I do if someone I know is experiencing domestic violence?
Victims of domestic violence are often embarrassed by what is happening or are in denial about their situation. If you have reason to believe that a friend, family member or neighbor is experiencing domestic violence, there are many ways you can try to help. Start the conversation – Talk to the person and try to help her or him to open up. You may have to try several times before the person will confide in you. Be direct. Start by saying something like, “I’m worried about you because …” or “I’m concerned about your safety …”
Be a good listener and offer support – Listen. And believe what you hear. Too often, people don’t believe a victim when she or he first discloses the abuse that is occurring. Reassure the person that the abuse is not their fault. Let the person know that you are there for them. Do not judge. Focus on providing support and building self-confidence.
Connect the victim to local resources – Encourage the person to seek the help of a local domestic violence agency. Agencies can provide support, advice, services and referrals. They can help a victim with safety planning.
Be patient and stay involved – It can take a long time for a victim to recognize that she or he is experiencing domestic violence. It can take even longer before the victim is able to make safe decisions about how to get out of a domestic violence situation. Don’t tell the person to leave. Don’t criticize her or him for staying. An abused woman faces the greatest risk at the point when she is separating from her abuser and immediately after leaving the abusive partner. Provide reassurance. Remind the victim that the abuse is not their fault. Acknowledge their strengths and remind the person frequently that she or he is coping well with a challenging and stressful situation.
What does the law say about domestic violence?
Criminal and civil law offers important protections for individuals who are experiencing domestic violence. If an assault has taken place and is reported, the police will investigate the crime. Where they have power of arrest, they will normally arrest the suspect. Where there is enough evidence, and if prosecution is in the public interest, the person who committed the assault will be prosecuted.
Under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986, a petition for an order of protection may be filed by a person who has been abused by a family or household member or by any person on behalf of a minor child or an adult who has been abused by a family or household member, and who, because of age, health, disability, or inaccessibility, cannot file the petition, or by any person on behalf of a high-risk adult with disabilities who has been abused, neglected or exploited by a family or household member. However, any petition properly filed under this Act may seek protection for any additional persons protected by this Act.
Is it safe to go to a neighbor or relative’s house when deciding what to do?
The safest place for someone escaping domestic violence is one that’s not familiar to the abuser. If you make the decision to leave, it’s best to go to a location that the abuser doesn’t know about, such as a WINGS Safe House.
What if I’m NOT ready to leave my home and/or my partner? If you are experiencing domestic violence, but are not ready to leave your abuser, focus on making a safety plan. This is especially important if you are concerned that the abuse may escalate. Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger. Try to have a phone accessible at all times – and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest public phone is located. If you believe your life is in danger, call 911 for police assistance.
Let trusted friends and neighbors know about your situation. Create a plan and a visual signal to let them know when you need help. Plan for your safety by making a list of what items you want to bring with you when you are ready to leave. (See below for more information about items you may want to collect before leaving a domestic violence situation.)
What help is available through WINGS if I’m ready to leave my abuser?
WINGS created two Safe Houses, which provide emergency safe haven from domestic violence for victims. A stay at a WINGS Safe House is often the first step towards a new life for those who are fleeing an abuser. In addition to providing emergency shelter, WINGS works to empower victims of domestic violence. We provide them with the tools they need to escape a dangerous situation and to move towards safety and self-sufficiency. WINGS provides a wide range of services to help our clients accomplish this. We provide crisis and mental health counseling, life skills and career training, and referrals to free community resources. WINGS also runs transitional and permanent housing programs that help victims and their children continue to move forward with rebuilding their lives after escaping a violent situation. Learn about your journey with WINGS.
Can I bring my children with me to the WINGS Safe House?
Yes! At WINGS, we know that many victims will not leave their abusers until they know that they can protect their children. Our Safe Houses provide emergency shelter for adults and children. In fact, WINGS serve three times as many children as adults.
What about my children? What can I say and/or do when violence occurs?
Too often, children are witnesses to domestic violence in the home. If you are a victim of domestic violence, explain to your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is violent. Emphasize the importance of staying safe. Let children know that neither you, nor them, are at fault for the violence. Instruct children not to get involved if there is violence between you and your partner. Teach them how to get help when it’s needed. Plan a code word to signal to your children that they should summon help or get out of the house. If you are planning to leave your abuser, practice ways to get out of the home safely. Practice with your children.
I’m planning to leave my abusive partner. How do I prepare to get out?
Make a point to identify safe areas of your home that offer a means of escape. If arguments begin, try to move to those areas. Safe areas are generally areas of the home where there are no weapons. WINGS can help victims devise a safety plan and take many steps to ensure that they are able to escape safely when they are ready to leave.
What are the most important documents and items I should bring with me?
If your life is in danger, you may need to escape with nothing at all. However, if you have the opportunity to plan ahead, use the following lists to locate documents and items that can be helpful to victims who are leaving an abuser and starting a new life:
- Driver’s license or state-issued ID card
- Birth certificates (for you and your children, if any)
- Social security card(s)
- Financial information
- Money and/or credit cards that are in your name
- Checking, savings and other banking/financial account records
- Orders of protection, if any exist
- Copies of housing records (e.g., leases, rental agreements, deed to your home)
- Vehicle registration/vehicle insurance information
- Insurance cards and records (e.g., health, life, homeowners)
- Medical records (for you and your children, if any)
- School records
- Work permits/green card/visas
- Marriage license
- Divorce and child custody papers
Emergency telephone numbers for:
- Your local police and/or sheriff’s department
- Your local domestic violence program or shelter
- Friends, family members, neighbors
- Your doctor’s office and local hospital
- County and/or district attorney’s office
- Personal cell phone and/or pay-as-you-go phone
- Extra set of house and car keys
- Address book
- Valuable jewelry
- Photos and sentimental items
- Several changes of clothes for you and your children
- Emergency money