Domestic Abuse: What to do in the First 24 Hours

Today, we are taking a break from our Decoding Divorce series to talk about the trauma of abuse. First, let me arm you with some information:

  • Abuse is NEVER the survivor’s fault.
  • There are several types of abuse, including:
    • emotional abuse;
    • physical abuse;
    • sexual abuse (of a child or of a spouse within a marriage);
    • financial abuse; and
    • psychological abuse.

If you are dealing with emotional abuse, psychological abuse, or financial abuse, keep a log. Write down dates, conversations, and every instance of abuse with as much detail as you can remember. Also, if your insurance allows, please see a quality therapist who focuses on the type of abuse you are experiencing. He or she will help you identify abusive behaviors that you may have come to experience as normal.

If you or your child experience physical or sexual abuse, immediate action is required. Even if you feel overwhelmed, numb, or incapable of taking action, taking the following steps will help you protect yourself or your child immeasurably in the future. Call a friend to lean on, if needed, and do the following as soon as you possibly can, in this order:

  • Call the police, Make a detailed report of what happened, Ensure that necessary details are in the report. If the police do not include important information in the report, the court may think that you did not disclose this information at the scene. You may also consider contacting the Department of Social Services.
  • Take date-stamped pictures of any physical wounds, even if police already did.
  • Go to your nearest Emergency Room to be evaluated. If the abuse was sexual, do not shower first.
  • When you are ready (this does not need to happen within the first 24 hours), call your lawyer.

You can reach out to any lawyer experienced in abuse cases. I have handled many, and over the years, have kept in touch with a handful of these special clients. One of them has started a nonprofit dedicated to helping people through this process and reassuring you that healing is possible.

Most importantly, remember: this is not your fault. People who reach out for help and disclose to those they trust report higher and faster rates of emotional recovery.