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Domestic violence: How to recognize it and how to get help

If you believe you are in a domestic violence situation, you are not alone, and you can get help.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “When things started off small or you know like the first type of red flags, I was literally confused. You know asking myself like ‘Is this abuse?’” 

Kristin Pierce’s story is just like millions of others across the United States (you can read it here). According to the National Institutes of Health, domestic and family violence is estimated to affect 10 million people every year. As many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men are victims of domestic violence.

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, you are not alone and you do not have to fight this battle alone. There are dozens of local and national resources that you can access if you need help. We have compiled a list here. 

If you need help right now, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at any time. That number is 1-800-799-SAFE. 

Am I a victim of abuse?

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what qualifies as domestic abuse. The legal definition covers many types of acts committed by current or former intimate partners against another or within a family, according to the Office of the Attorney General for Kentucky. The National Center for Biotechnology Information breaks violence abuse down into 8 types: 

  1. Stalking 
  2. Economic 
  3. Emotional 
  4. Psychological 
  5. Sexual 
  6. Neglect 
  7. Munchausen by proxy 
  8. Physical 

Domestic violence can also include threats, such as threatening to commit suicide or take children away from you. 

What can I do?

If you believe that you are a victim of domestic violence, there are two routes you can take. You can file a criminal complaint or a civil complaint. 

According to the NCFBI, 40% domestic violence victims never contact police. Without treatment, that violence usually recurs and escalates. Of those injured by domestic violence, it’s estimated that over 75% continue to experience abuse after that first incident. 

Kentucky has a mandatory information and referral provision, meaning that a professional can contact law enforcement if you ask them to. You can also contact law enforcement if you believe that you are in a dangerous situation. 

Kentucky law states that if law enforcement receives a report of a domestic violence situation, that officer shall use “all reasonable means” to provide assistance to the victim. That includes staying with the victim at the location the officer is called to, helping the victim obtain medical treatment, and advising the victim of his or her rights. The officer also must document any information or injuries relating to domestic violence. (KRS 403.785

Kentucky law does not have a mandatory arrest law for an act of domestic violence, but the state does have a mandatory arrest law upoprobable cause of a protective order. (KRS 403.715) Once the complaint has been filed, it is up to prosecution as to whether or not a case goes to trial. 

If you need legal assistance, you can find local resources here. 

If you do not want to file a criminal complaint, you can request a temporary or long-term protective order from the Office of Circuit Court Clerk in your county of residence. Temporary Protective Orders include emergency protective orders (EPO, for domestic violence cases) and temporary interpersonal protective orders (TIPO, for dating violence and sexual assault cases). These short-term orders place restrictions on the respondent until a hearing can be held, usually within two weeks. 

Long-term protective orders, which include domestic violence orders (DVO) and interpersonal protective orders (IPO)can last up to three years. Long-term orders place restrictions on a respondent after a court hearing. 

You can get a protective order at any time, as long as you qualify, and there are no fees or costs for filing a petition. For more information on protective orders, visit the Kentucky Courts website. 

Where can I go?

If you need immediate help with a domestic violence situation, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE) at any time or call police. In Kentucky and Indiana, there are plenty of places where you can receive help. 

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence summary, 1,188 domestic violence victims in Kentucky and 2,071 victims in Indiana were served by local resources in a 24-hour period through 62 participating locations. 

The Center for Women and Families has four regional locations in Jefferson County, Shelby County, Bullitt County, and Floyd County in Indiana. These locations also serve Oldham, Henry, Spencer, and Trimble County in Kentucky and Clark County in Indiana. CWF offers a wide variety of resources including emergency shelter, legal resources, and sexual assault services. 

Other resources in Indiana include Crisis Connection in Jasper, Turning Point in Columbus, YWCA of Evansville, and the Jennings County Council on Domestic Violence. 

If you cannot immediately leave a domestic violence situation, it is recommended that you form a safety plan for you and anyone who may depend on you. This plan could include escape routes and habits you can form to protect yourself. For more information on creating a safety plan, click here. 

What's next?

There are dozens of websites and other resources that may help you if you find yourself in a domestic violence situation. We have a full list of those resources, including phone numbers and website addresses, at this link. 

If you want to support local organizations that help victims of domestic violence, you can donate to or volunteer at the Center for Women and Families locations throughout Kentuckiana. For more information on getting involved, you can visit the CWF website. 

No matter the underlying circumstances, nothing justifies domestic and family violence. You have the power to take the first step toward ending it. You are not alone. 

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