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Break the Cycle
National & Los Angeles Office
5200 W. Century Blvd. Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Break the Cycle
Washington D.C. Office
P.O. Box 21034
Washington, D.C. 20009

About Abuse

Frequently Asked Questions about Domestic Violence

What do I do if I am worried about someone?

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911. If you are worried because you think someone you know may be a victim of dating or domestic violence, don't be afraid to let them know you are concerned for them. Educating yourself about dating and domestic violence, and what you can do to help, is a good first step.

Here are a few specific suggestions for helping a friend in need:

I know someone who is abusive. How can I help?

Talk to your friend about the dynamics of domestic violence. Tell them that you are worried about the way they treat the person they are with. Offer to help them find anger management classes, counseling or other resources that can help them if they want to change.

How can I get information and/or statistics about domestic and dating violence?

This website has a wealth of information about dating and domestic violence. Check out some of our resources:

Will the abuse ever stop?

Abuse can be stopped. However, as the cycle of violence shows, the abuser is likely to abuse again unless s/he gets help or someone intervenes (for example, abuser takes responsibility for the abuse and goes to anger management classes; the victim leaves the abuser; or law enforcement gets involved or the victim gets a restraining order).

It is important to realize that when violence has occurred in a relationship, there is a good chance it will happen again. Although the victim may think the first hit, kick, push, etc. is an isolated incident, it is more likely that it is the first violent act in a series of violent episodes. We call this behavior the cycle of violence.

What is the difference between an abusive relationship and saying something hurtful to someone once in a while?

Calling someone names in order to humiliate them, put them down, or lower their self-esteem is abusive behavior. Often people in relationships will say hurtful things to each other. There are many things to think about to figure out whether you are in an abusive relationship:

But, even if the abusive behavior does not rise to the level of an abusive relationship, it is still not ok to purposefully hurt someone you are in a relationship with.

What if the victim likes the abuse?

Remember that when we talk about domestic violence, we are talking about unwanted behavior. No one likes being abused, whether it is physical, sexual, verbal or emotional. If it seems like a victim is provoking the abuse or even that she likes it, she may have very low self-esteem, but she doesn't like being abused.

If I want to get help, do my parents have to know?

No. Many services for victims of domestic violence are confidential. In some states you can go to court and get a restraining order and you can get counseling without your parent's permission. You can contact Break the Cycle for confidential advice and information.

Can my relationship be abusive even if the person I am dating has never hit me?

Yes. Abusive relationships can involve physical, sexual, verbal and/or emotional abuse. You don't have to be physically hurt by the abuser to be in an abusive relationship. In fact, even many physically abusive behaviors (like pushing, grabbing, pulling hair, and shaking) will not leave a bruise or a mark. In addition, verbal and emotional abuse (including extreme jealousy, threats, controlling behavior, put-downs and insults) can be just as frightening and can leave long-lasting and painful effects. Learn more about the types of abuse.

What do I do if I have a child with the abuser?

If you have a child, it is especially important to keep yourself and your child safe. Your child may be in danger from the abuser. In addition, it is not good for your child to grow up witnessing domestic violence in the home. An important part of protecting yourself and your child is figuring out where your child will live and who will make the decisions about your child in a way that will keep you both safe. In addition, you should make sure that you and your child will be safe during any visitation exchanges. In some states, you may be able to get custody and visitation orders for your child as part of a restraining order.

I'm in an abusive relationship with someone at school/work. What should I do?

Once you have decided what you are going to do about the relationship (break up with the abuser, get a restraining order, call the police, etc.), let people at your work/school know what is going on. Especially if there is a restraining order, they have a responsibility to help make sure you are safe. If you have a restraining order, or police report, show school officials or your supervisor at work. Things they may be able to do to help keep you safe include: changing your work/school schedule so you don't work with or near the abuser or so that you don't have classes with the abuser; transferring the abuser to another school or work location; and arranging for an escort to your ride/car.