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Domestic Violence

Should I leave?

05/19/2008

Question:

I have been in a relationship with boyfriend for three and half years. Living with him for one year. There has been verbal, emotional and physical abuse for two and a half years. He has stopped physical abuse for two months but verbal and emotional abuse has not. I am college degreed professional who is financially independent, with two sons, one four and my youngest by him, who is one. I need good advice to figure out how to best protect myself and my sons. Physical abuse has happened about 20 times in two years. before, during and after my pregnancy I have been kicked in stomach, slapped in face and head, punched in face and head and arms, slams doors in my face, ignores me, poked in my temple, pushed and shoved, spit at, and dragged down the hallway pregnant by my hair. I have been to emergency room five times. I have been called ho, bitch, slut, fake, mf, cunt, fat, evil, demon, devil, dumb ass, jerk, stupid, lazy, many many times in person, on vmail, texts and emails. I have six police records of abuse. He has put me down and criticized me unfairly about how I handle my job and the fact that most of my family and friends don’t really like him. Our house has broken doors, walls ect from him violently breaking into a room where the children and I were sleeping. He has hit his puppy with his hands so hard that I couldn’t stand it. He has begun sex with me on some occasions while I am asleep, which was strange to me. He has attempted to slap me and accidentally hit our son, as I was holding him when he was 4 weeks old, in the face. This was after he had already slapped me once. On another occasion, he began taking our son from me and held him while he’d slap me. He had a violent, abusive, dismissive mother and drug addicted abandoning father. He seems to love our sons, and plays with them and won’t do much more unless I ask him to. But I don’t bec he smokes marijuana and is forgetful, sluggish and many times irresponsible. and my two boys require a lot of energy and attention. I believe was doing more drugs than weed. He used to sweat profusely during his sleep when the house was cool..And it was winter time. Have seen him hide bags of some substance when id walk in as well. He would leave the house a lot. Hang at friends way too much to be 30 years old. He would act untrusting, erratic, abusive, mean and paranoid. He was very abusive and hard to live with then. I asked him whether he was taking something else and he’d get angry and or deny. But I didn’t believe him. For about two months he had stopped hitting me. Said he’d do counseling but made no move to do so. He expressed that he was different and was changing. He began waiting for me to order first at restaurants, holding the door all the time. He was doing much less verbal and emotional abuse and if he did it was minor and he’d apologize. Seemed to just be doing weed and not the other substance, as he wasn’t sweating at night. He was acting more rationally and helping a little more in the house. He was happier and more involved.

But last week he switched back to the old bad guy again, he began verbal, emotional abuse again and picking fights. Spitting while yelling obscenities at me with clenched fists. Getting very angry and screaming and cursing at me. calling me every name in the book when he doesn’t get his way or we have a disagreement. Accusing me of trying to hold him back in life and screaming that I am preventing him from doing things which is absolutely not true. However when he’s not angry he says im the best thing that happened to him. When I cry, from his bad treatment of me he calls me fake and cry baby and gets angrier...yelling and threatening for me to stop crying. He rarely comforts me when I cry. I have also noticed that he is sweating heavily in his sleep again at night....

I am afraid of him at times when we are alone and feel absolutely happy with him sometimes but not as much lately. And have thoughts that he’ll hurt me badly if I talk back or defend myself too much. Most importantly so, i`m afraid of the negative effect he will have on my sons. Lately I feel like I must leave him, because I am further hurting my sons if I continue to stay in this. And I do not want to do that. I feel now like he will always act this way, going back and forth from good to very bad behavior. It is frustrating, confusing, depressing, lonely and sad life half of the time. I want to leave. Should I leave? And if so how do I stay away to break this horrible cycle I am in? How do I stop believing he will change?

Answer:

My advice is for you to begin taking steps to leave this relationship. If this type of abuse has been going on for 3 plus years, it is time to make plans to exit this relationship no matter how many "benefits" you may be receiving from it. Your experience alone is enough justification for you to consider moving you, your sons AND your puppy out of the situation.

That said, research has shown that women who endure the kind of abuse you're enduring have significantly worse health than non-abused women, for many YEARS after the abuse ends. Moreover, children who grow up in homes where violence occurs against their mother suffer adverse health and adverse academic, behavioral and social consequences.

Worse case scenario -- you are putting yourself, your children and your puppy at risk of death should the violence get "really out of hand." You MUST begin taking steps to leave this relationship.

My first suggestion is that you tell a trusted friend and/or family member (or both) about what has been happening. I suggest you gather some belongings for yourself, your children and your puppy (e.g., clothes, car keys, identification, and money if you have it); stash these belongings in a private place where you can access them when you leave. I suggest you get into contact with a shelter, such as CHOICES in Columbus, Ohio; the staff there can help you assess your situation and make a safety plan for leaving.

If you would rather, you can call the police for an escort to the shelter. In addition to these things, if you have a trusted health care provider (a family doctor or nurse), I would get in contact with them immediately and let them know about your situation. You may be eligible for social work services.

If you feel like you can't leave the situation for yourself, please consider leaving it for your children and for your dog. They will be forever grateful to you. Please write back if you need additional help.

Related Resources:

National Domestic Violence Hotline - Help in Your Area
State Domestic Violence Resources

For more information:

Go to the Domestic Violence health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Amy E Bonomi, PhD, MPH Amy E Bonomi, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University