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Certified Domestic Violence Professional Valerie Pastwa explains signs of an abusive relationship and how to get out of one if you think you're a victim.

"Domestic violence commonly takes the form of a cyclical pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against the other," said Valerie Pastwa, Illinois Certified Domestic Violence Professional (ICDVP) and Marketing & Communications Specialist at Guardian Angel Community Services. According to ncadv.org, "nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States."

"Many women who seek help at local domestic violence programs are unaware that they are even in an abusive relationship," Pastwa added.

Pastwa noted signs of an abusive relationship may include, but are not limited to:

  • Criticism
  • Name calling
  • Humiliation
  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation
  • Jealously
  • Attempts to control the victim
  • Attempts to convince the victim that the abuse is his/her fault
  • Blaming the victim for causing or provoking the abuse
  • Abuser does not take responsibility for his/her behavior and/or blames others for their behavior

"Many of the above tactics used by an abuser can result in the victim experiencing a loss of self-esteem, believing that they are the cause of the abuse and believing that if they changed their behavior that the abuse will stop," Pastwa said. "These contribute to the many reasons victims stay in abusive relationships."

If you or a friend think you’re in an abusive relationship, Pastwa assured there are ways to safely get out of them.

She said it’s most important to consider the safety of the victim. "A safety plan is always recommended for those considering ending an abusive relationship."

Victims can always call The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). 

"The hotline is open to anyone seeking information and support on ending an abusive relationship and can connect victims and their loved ones with a domestic violence program in their area," Pastwa said.

The Guardian Angel Community Services, for example, in Joliet, Illinois, provides comprehensive services for individuals and families impacted by domestic violence through their Groundwork Program, all of which are 100% free and confidential. 

In the 2013 fiscal year, the Groundwork Program served 3,240 individuals impacted by domestic violence.  The program operates 24-hour hotline, 815-729-1228 in addition to offering counseling, advocacy, emergency shelter, and other services.

If you or a loved one needs help, go to shelters.welfareinfo.org to find a domestic violence shelter in your area.

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