Domestic violence affects 1 in 3 women; here's how to get help

ORLANDO, Fla. – Most likely, someone you know has experienced dating or domestic violence. One in three women and one in four men have experienced abuse by a partner, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, News 6 helped to highlight some ways people can get help and get out of abusive situations.

Central Florida organizations, including Harbor House, Orange County's only state-certified domestic violence organization, offer resources and guidance for women and men. Last year, more than 36,200 survivors in Orange County were helped through Harbor House assistance programs. Almost 11,000 women, men and children were sheltered at the organizations domestic violence housing facilities last year.

At News 6 we report on cases of domestic abuse almost daily, and every story is different. Domestic violence can occur at any age and in any stage of a relationship.

Every minute, 20 people are physically abused by a partner, according to Harbor House.

Abuse comes in many forms, including psychological. Almost half of all U.S. women and men have experienced mental aggression from a partner.

Make a plan to leave

Harbor House CEO Michelle Sperzel told News 6 that the most dangerous time for victims is when they leave their abusers.

One in three women who are killed by their abusive partners are killed after they leave the relationship, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Sperzel recommends domestic violence victims avoid being places alone and make sure someone always knows their whereabouts.

Obtaining a restraining order is often not enough, Sperzel said.

"An injunction is still just a piece of paper; it allows them to start the legal process to hold someone accountable," Sperzel said.

Organizations such as Harbor House of Central Florida offer safety-planning resources if someone is planning to leave an abusive relationship.

The first step is making a phone call at any time of day to get help beginning that process.

Victims of domestic violence can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24 hours a day, at 1-800-799-7233, or in Central Florida, the Harbor House 24-hour confidential crisis hotline at 407-886-2856.

Victims of sexual assault and abuse can also call RAINN, 24-hours a day, at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). 

Look for 'red flags'

One of the best ways to avoid abuse is to know the signs of an unhealthy relationship.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence, or NNED, said there are “red flags” or warning signs of controlling behaviors that could led to an abusive relationship, including if a partner is excessively jealous, wants to know where you are at all times and insists that you stop seeing friends and family.
Read the full list here. Anyone experiencing these red flags or knows someone who might be can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and speak to a domestic violence advocate.