I'm Being Abused. What Can I Do?
About abuse, and what you can do about it.
Is it safe to use this computer?
There is no way to hide your internet search if you are not on a safe computer. If you think your internet search will put you in further danger, stop. Delete your browsing history on this computer and go to a safe computer your abuser does not have access to and contact your local domestic violence program for help. 1-800-228-7395
Abusers do a lot of different things to abuse their victims. Abuse is never ok. You have a right to be safe. There are things you can do to protect yourself. You are not alone. One out of four women will be a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Not all abuse is against the law. But all abuse is wrong. You can get help and protect yourself even if your abuser isn't doing anything against the law.
Abuse can be physical or emotional.
Here are some examples of physical abuse:
- pushing, or
- holding you down.
Here are some examples of emotional abuse:
- calling you names,
- not letting you go where you want to, or
- not letting you call or see friends or family.
Abuse is always wrong. Some abuse is also illegal. What if your abuser didn't break any laws by abusing you? You can still protect yourself. There are a lot of people and groups who help victims stay safe. We have a list of these groups a little later on this page.
Anyone can be a victim of abuse. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, what race you are, how old you are, what gender you are, or where you live.
There are many groups that can help you. There are also laws to protect victims from being abused. We list some government agencies and private groups that can help you below. Then we explain the laws that protect victims and how you can use the laws to protect yourself.
Domestic Violence Groups
There are sixteen domestic violence groups in Vermont. The Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is a statewide group that works for abuse victims. Find your local domestic violence group on the Network's website.
Domestic Violence groups can help you make a safety plan and give you emotional support. Most programs have advocates who can guide you through the Relief From Abuse process and offer emotional support at court. They may be able to give you financial help so you can stay in a motel, pay for day care, pay for transportation, or even pay for a security deposit. Each domestic violence group is different. Contact your local group to find out how they can help you.
Adult Protective Services
Are you elderly? Do you have a disability? Are you being abused? Vermont has an agency called Adult Protective Services. It's their job to protect vulnerable adults from abuse. You may qualify for help from them.
Nobody has the right to abuse you. You can call the police if someone physically hurts you or tries to hurt you. You don't have to call the police right when the person hurts you. But it's best to call as soon as you can. You can call 911 or call your local police station. Some abuse is a crime. The state may prosecute your abuser in criminal court.
Did someone scare you by what they said or did to you? You can report this to the police. The police may not be able to do anything. But it can be good to tell the police now in case the problem gets worse later.
There are many laws that protect victims from abuse. We explain a little bit about these laws later on this page. Some abuse is a crime. Is someone harming you? You can call the police for help. The state may prosecute your abuser in criminal court. But a lot of abuse isn't criminal.
There are also civil (non criminal) laws to protect you from abuse. You may qualify for a court order to protect you from more abuse. Is your abuser abusing your children? This order can also protect your children. The order is called an Relief from Abuse order or Abuse Prevention order. Sometimes people also call these Restraining Orders.
What if my abuser isn't breaking any laws? Abuse is wrong even if it doesn't break any laws. You can get help. You can call your local domestic violence group. Find your local domestic violence group on the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence's website.
Each law to protect victims has a different legal rule or "standard" for what that law counts as "abuse." Do you want legal protection from abuse? You or the State of Vermont will have to show that what your abuser did counts as "abuse" under a particular law.
Is the State prosecuting your abuser under the criminal law? The State will have to show that what your abuser did to you was criminal. This is the hardest kind of abuse or standard for abuse to prove. The State will bring the case and try to prove it.
Do you want to get a civil Relief from Abuse order to protect you from your abuser? There are two different laws that let victims get Relief from Abuse orders. You will need to make a written statement and bring paperwork to the court. The police may not be able to help you get the Relief from Abuse order.
You may be able to get a Relief from Abuse order under the first law if:
- the abuser is your family member,
- you date or ever dated your abuser,
- you and the abuser have ever had sex,
- you live with your abuser, OR
- you've ever lived with your abuser,
The other law protects certain people with disabilities and certain older people from abuse. You will have to show a Family Court judge that what your abuser did was against at least one of these laws. We will have more information soon on this website.
An relief from abuse order is a Family Court order. The order tells your abuser that he or she can't abuse you anymore. The order may also say that your abuser has to stay a certain number of feet away from you all the time. It may also have other protections and conditions. These protections and conditions may include:
- making your abuser leave your home and stay out, and
- giving you temporary custody of your children.
The order is an order of the Court. Still, your abuser might not follow the order. What can you do if your abuser does something the order says he or she can't do? You can call the police. The police can arrest your abuser for breaking the order. Did your abuser do something against the order? You can call your local domestic violence group. They may be able to help you talk to the police about what happened.
Do you want to get a relief from abuse order? You need to file a "Complaint for Relief from Abuse" and an "Affidavit in Support of Request for Emergency Relief from Abuse" in Family Court. There is no charge to ask for a Relief from Abuse order.
Learn more about filling out your Complaint and Affidavit on our I Want to Get a Relief from Abuse Order. What Do I Do? page.
Contact your local domestic violence group. You can find your local domestic violence group on the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence's website.
Your local domestic violence group may be able to help you through the process for getting a Relief from Abuse order.
Do you live in the Burlington area? There is a free legal clinic at Burlington College every other Saturday. You can get free legal help with your Family Court case at the clinic. Read more on our News page.
Are you being abused?
Do you want to get a
Relief from Abuse order?
Does your abuser have a lawyer?
Call Vermont Legal Aid at
(800) 889-2047 for free legal help.
You have a right to be safe. There are laws to protect you and groups to help you. We hope you find this information helpful.
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