If you are in immediate danger, call 911 to reach the police.
CASA's Office & 24-hour hotline:
727-895-4912 (TTY 727-828-1269)
Outside Pinellas County:
Florida Coalition of Domestic Violence:
(800) 500-1119, TDD: (800) 621-4202
At CASA, anyone who has lived through an abusive relationship is called a “survivor.” It takes tremendous courage to live another day. It takes heroic courage to reach out and ask for help.
SPEAK WITH AN ADVOCATE
When you call CASA, an advocate will help you evaluate the degree of danger that exists in the relationship and help you prepare a safety plan to address your immediate need. Sometimes it’s difficult to realize the danger because you’ve coped so well for so long. However, it is vital that you call as soon as you suspect abuse so that you can come up with a safety plan to reduce the abuser’s opportunity to hurt you and your family. (Note: If you are calling CASA on behalf of a friend who may be a survivor, we encourage you to call early when you first suspect danger. The sooner a safety plan can be put in place the better!)
Your safety plan will change as soon as your abuser makes changes in behavior. CASA has been working in the community since 1977 and has years of experience, empowering thousands of survivors to increase their safety. The actions you take can greatly increase your safety.
CASA's Auxiliary Aids and Service Plan for Persons with Disabilities and Limited English Proficiency: CASA_Auxiliary_Aid_Plan_Oct_2013.doc
Following is a listing of questions a CASA advocate is likely to ask to assess the degree of danger that exists in the relationship. It is not a perfect “test,” but your responses to the questions can be used along with the advocate’s experience and intuition to determine the likelihood of an attack. Once a danger assessment is made, you can work with a CASA advocate to develop an appropriate safety plan.
1. What is the current mood of the abuser? Angry? Hostile? Depressed? Enraged?
2. Is the abuser ever known to have unpredictable, violent mood changes?
3. Does the abuser currently have weapons or quick access to them?
4. Is there a history of violence against people, besides the intimate partner and children (especially past relationships)?
5. Does the abuser ever brag about having killed or mutilated someone in the past?
6. Does the abuser ever "act out" in front of others?
7. Does the abuser ever attack children?
8. What are the current expectations of the abuser (is the victim expected to pick them up from work, be at home when the abuser calls, etc.)?
9. Does the abuser ever do the "unexpected" (leave work early, call at odd times)?
10. List any current stalking behavior: (phone harassment, following the survivor, Internet stalking, searching everywhere for the victim).
11. Has the survivor recently left your shared dwelling?
12. If you’re not living together, was there a recent break-up?
13. Does the abuser currently believe the children are being "hidden" or taken away from them?
14. Does the abuser currently have the children and is the abuser known to have suicidal thoughts or behaviors?
15. Does the abuser display current violent behavior to other people's or the survivor's property?
16. Is the abuser currently holding belongings "hostage" to get the victim or survivor out of hiding or return? (e.g. children's toys, money, clothing, valued possessions.)
17. Is there currently unusual credit card or bank account activity?
18. Is the abuser currently trying to locate the survivor by saying there is death in family, claiming that children are hurt, or threatening suicide?
19. Have you recently initiated any protective actions like applying for an Injunction for Protection, or filing divorce papers?
Survivors need lots of help, especially from family, friends, coworkers and medical professionals. If you know someone whom you suspect is being abused, here are some things you can do.
10 THINGS FAMILIES & FRIENDS CAN DO:
From: To Be an Anchor in the Storm, A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women by Susan Brewster.
- Believe her. Most battered women don’t lie or exaggerate their abuse.
- Recognize that emotional abuse is truly abuse.
- Open ears; shut mouth. You can’t be listening when you are talking.
- Respect her decisions; don’t judge her. Don’t give advice; giving advice tends to take away her power.
- Ask open-ended questions. Ask her to clarify what you don’t understand. Try to understand not just the words she speaks, but what she is attempting to convey to you – the meaning between the lines.
- Be a mirror. Reflect her statements back to her. This lets her know you are really listening and trying to understand her.
- Speak only for yourself, not for her. Express only your feelings and observations, not your beliefs.
- Support without over-controlling. Control yourself, not her.
- Be patient. The establishment of trust can’t be forced.
- If she lives in south Pinellas County, give her CASA’s phone number, 727-895-4912. Anywhere else in Florida call 800-500-1119. Outside Florida, call 800-799-SAFE (7233).
Note: In this book, female gender is used because domestic abuse is predominately waged against women. CASA recognizes and provides services to all people regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, culture or religious beliefs.
How Co-Workers Can Help
- Be alert to possible signs of domestic abuse: changes in behavior and work performance, lack of concentration, increased or unexplained absences, placing or receiving harassing phone calls, unexplained bruises or injuries or explanations of injuries that just don't add up.
- Believe the survivor if she or he discloses the abuse.
- Listen without judging. Survivors believe her or his abuser's negative messages and feel responsible, ashamed, and afraid they he or she will be judged.
- Tell the survivor that she or he does not deserve to be abused and that help is available. Give the survivor CASA’s 24-hour access line, 727-895-4912
- Call someone from your Employee Assistance Program for confidential advice and resources.
How Medical Professionals Can Help
When screening patients for domestic violence, the goal is to validate and empower the survivor while attending to the immediate health concerns. It is vital that the medical professional create an atmosphere sensitive to a survivor’s need to be respected and taken seriously.
- Screen patients in a confidential setting, separate from the abuser
- Phrase questions in a non-judgmental way.
- Tell survivors they do not deserve to be abused. Offer support and safety. Encourage survivors to make their own choices and decisions.
- Medical personnel should assess their own attitudes and perceptions regarding domestic violence to ensure objectivity.
During medical screening of all patients, medical personnel should look for the following warning signs of domestic abuse:
- Fearful, ashamed, evasive or embarrassed behaviors
- Low self-esteem
- Reluctant to speak or disagree in front of the abuser
- Fails to make direct eye contact
- Patient or abuser minimizes extent of injuries
- Abuser insists on accompanying patient, answers all questions, and refuses to leave the treatment area
- Abuser displays jealousy, obsession, or possessiveness
- Contusions, abrasions, lacerations, fractures and sprains
- Injuries to the head, neck, chest, breasts, and abdomen
- Injuries during pregnancy
- Multiple site injuries
- Repeated or chronic injuries
- Injuries inconsistent with explanation of cause
Other medical findings may present themselves:
- Chronic pain, psychogenic pains, or pain due to diffused trauma without visible evidence
- Physical symptoms related to stress, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorder, or depression, including threats of suicide or past attempts
- Chronic headaches
- Abdominal and gastrointestinal complaints
- Palpitations, dizziness, and atypical chest pain
- Gynecological problems, frequent vaginal and urinary tract infections, and pelvic pain
- Frequent use of prescribed minor tranquilizers, or pain medication
- Frequent visits with vague complaints or symptoms without evidence of physiologic abnormality
- Injuries or unexplained pain to the breast, abdomen, and genital area
- Substance abuse, poor nutrition, depression, and late or sporadic access to prenatal care
- "Spontaneous" abortions, miscarriages, and premature labor
- Fetal risks, including low birth weight, stillbirth, pre-term infant, fetal fractures
Other signs of abuse:
- Abuser limits victim access to routine or emergency medical care
- Noncompliance with prescribed treatment regiments
- Inability to obtain or take medication
- Missed appointments
- Lack of independent transportation, access to finances, or telephone
- Failure to use condoms or other contraceptive methods
- Difficulty completing paperwork, not having identification, or medical insurance cards