A word cloud about domestic violence, including words like physical abuse, relationship, spousal, viosence, anger, behavior, fear, partner, and criminal.

Intimate Partner Abuse is a widespread problem in this country and across the globe. Nearly one in four women and one in nine men in the United States reported experiencing violence by a current or former partner at some point in her life according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2012.

Emotional, mental and physical health is impacted by abuse. Intimate partner abuse is linked to depression, arthritis, chronic neck and back pain, sexually transmitted infections and migraines. The CDC also reports that women who have experienced intimate partner abuse are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease and 60 percent more likely to have asthma than women who have not experienced intimate partner abuse.

The information in this section provides an opportunity to explore different aspects of abuse in relationships. No checklist will give you an answer about whether your relationship is abusive or not, it’s simply a starting point for considering what might be happening. We encourage you to look through what is on here and contact us with questions, concerns or thoughts.

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What is intimate partner abuse?

Intimate Partner Abuse (or domestic violence) is characterized by a pattern of coercive control exercised by one partner over the other. Abusive behaviors include sexual and physical assault, social isolation, economic, emotional and psychological abuse, threats and harassment to establish and maintain control.

Intimate Partner Abuse:

  • Occurs in heterosexual as well as same-sex relationships
  • Impacts women at high rates. Men can also be victims
  • Can occur at any time in the life cycle, beginning in the dating years through the end of life
Are you being abused?

How do you know if you are being abused in your relationship? All relationships have ups and downs. The information on this page is meant to help you explore what might be happening in your relationship. If you have any questions about what is said on this website, you can always contact a HAVEN Advocate who will be happy to talk with you further.

Does my partner…

  • Put me down and make me feel bad about myself?
  • Intimidate me or make me afraid?
  • Call me names that I don’t like?
  • Pressure me to have sex?
  • Blame me when things go wrong?
  • Tell me what to do, what to wear, who I can and cannot see?
  • Make me feel like I can’t do anything right?
  • Control my access to money and/or keep me from getting or keeping a job?
  • Control me or pressure me to do things I don’t want to do?
  • Push, hit, hurt or threaten me?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be in an unhealthy or unsafe relationship. Help is available HAVEN services

Is your relationship affecting your health?

Beside the visible injuries from physical abuse, the ongoing stress of having a controlling and/or violent partner can affect other areas of your physical and emotional health.

  • Do I have frequent headaches, back or abdominal pain?
  • Am I depressed and/or anxious?
  • Am I over-eating and gaining weight? Under-eating and losing weight?
  • Do I drink, smoke, or use drugs to cope?
  • Do I ever feel forced into unhealthy or unwanted sexual activities?
  • Have I been pressured about whether or when to have children?
  • Does my partner make it harder for me to deal with my illness or disability?

People experiencing partner abuse are two times more likely to be in poor health. You can take steps to improve your own health and the health of your children through HAVEN services

Learn more on the IPV Health website about the impacts of abuse on health and how the health care setting is an important resource for intimate partner abuse survivors.

Caring for Yourself During Cancer Treatment (PDF) is a booklet for anyone experiencing both cancer and abuse. It describes what abuse is and how it might affect your health. It also explains how to get support. (Published by Massachusetts General Hospital)

Safety planning

Safety tips

A safety plan is a personalized plan to assist survivors in assessing their safety and creating a plan to deal with stressful moments. Every survivor is an expert of their own situation. This is not an inclusive list, but is a helpful place to begin thinking about safety planning.

  • Choose a trusted person to tell about your situation and plan.
  • Vary your routine whenever possible.
  • Put aside clothes for yourself and your children.
  • Hide money whenever you can.
  • Open a post office box in your name. To avoid creating a trail, choose a post office in a town other than your present one, or the one you plan to go to.
  • Get a protective order. If the order is violated, call the police. You can obtain a protective order from your area district or probate court. If at all possible, have an advocate, friend, or family member accompany you to court. Keep a copy of the order with you at all times. Give copies of the order to your school/workplace, children's schools, neighbors, and other important people. Encourage them to report a violation.
  • Prepare your children for emergencies. Make sure they know how to dial 911 and are not afraid to do so.
  • Find a safe place to go, if needed.  Choose a place where your partner won't be able to find you. This could be a friend or family member’s home, or a confidential shelter.
  • Keep your doors locked day and night. Do not open your door to strangers. Screen all calls with an answering machine/caller ID and change your phone number if possible.
  • Change all locks, whether or not you are still living at home.
  • Take threats seriously and report them. Threats are not only violations of a protective order, but also possible indicators of imminent danger. With this in mind, keep a log of dates and incidents. You may need this information later to prove your case in court.

Checklist of Important Items to take with you

Make sure to put these items in a safe and easily attainable location.

  • Identification
  • Birth certificates for me and my children
  • Social Security cards
  • School and medical records
  • Money, bankbooks, credit cards
  • Keys - house/car/office
  • Driver's license and registration
  • Medications
  • Change of clothes
  • Welfare identification
  • Passport(s), Green Card(s), work permits
  • Divorce papers
  • Copy of restraining order
  • Lease/rental agreement, house deed
  • Mortgage payment book, current unpaid bills
  • Insurance papers
  • Address book
  • Pictures, jewelry, items of sentimental value
  • Children's favorite toys and/or blankets

Devising a safety plan

Your Personal Safety Plan
Download this Domestic Violence Personalized Safety Plan (PDF) for a printable page of important questions to answer and information to collect when putting together your safety plan.  Keep this plan in a safe place that is easy to access should you need it. (Provided by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence).

Technology Safety

Technology is a powerful tool that can jeopardize your safety or can be used as a means to keep you safe. To learn more about technology safety, please visit Techsafety.org.

Technology Safety Tips

    • As you surf the internet on your computer, the places you visit are stored on the computer you use. Bills you pay and purchases you make are tracked. Instant messages and emails can be retrieved. Keep in mind that as you use a computer, it might be monitored. Safe computers can be found at the local library, internet café, shelter, work or computer technology center. Always use safe computers when researching things such as travel plans, housing options, legal issues and safety plans.
    • How to clear your internet browser
    • Your abusive partner could have access to your email account. To be safe, open an email account your partner does not know about on a safe computer and use that account for safety planning and sensitive communications. It is a good idea to keep your monitored account active with non-critical emails in order to maintain appearances.
    • Cell phones can be a beacon, tracking your exact location in real time. Consider purchasing a pay as you go phone that you keep in a safe place to allow you to make calls. Call and text history can also be retrieved by an abusive partner.
  • GPS
    • A location tracking device (GPS) can be placed on your car or in your purse.
    • Only post things you want the public to see or know. Once it’s online, it’s no longer under your control. Be protective of your personal information. Your phone numbers and addresses enable people to contact you directly, and things like your birth date, the schools you attended, your employer and photos with landmarks may make it easier for someone to find where you live, hang out or go to school. Set boundaries and limits. Tell people not to post personal information, negative comments or check-ins about you on social media. Ask people not to post or tag pictures if you’re not comfortable with it. 

      Keep your passwords private – there is no need to share passwords to social media accounts with anyone. If you have a friend in an abusive relationship DO NOT post information about them without getting their permission. You could jeopardize their safety.

-Source: the National Domestic Violence Hotline

Are you being abusive?

The following list contains some examples of abusive, harmful, controlling or violent behaviors, as well as the impacts they may have caused. If you have done anything on the list below, it is important you seek help with changing your behavior.

  • Is your partner afraid of you?
  • Are your children afraid of you?
  • Have you broken promises to change your behavior?
  • Have you ever grabbed your partner during a disagreement or prevented him/her from leaving or restrained your partner in any way?
  • Do you pressure your partner to do things your way even when you know he/she doesn’t want to?
  • Has your partner ever said “you are always trying to control me?”
  • Do you blame your partner for things that are your responsibility?
  • Are you concerned that your children are being emotionally harmed by the way you treat your partner?
  • Has your partner complained about your jealousy?
  • Do you make it difficult for your partner to see family, friends or other supports by using guilt or threats?
  • Have you ever pushed, hit, punched, kicked or choked your partner?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be causing an unhealthy or unsafe relationship. Please contact Emerge at 617-547-9879 or www.emergedv.com for more information about how to make changes for yourself in your relationship.  

Find other resources in your area (PDF)

Help a friend

If you have a friend who is in need of support and resources, see our services page. If you are looking for some tips about how to respond to a friend who has told you they are in an abusive relationship, see the information below. You can also call HAVEN for additional suggestions on how to support your friend.

Is your friend in an abusive relationship?

Things that can help

  • Let your friend know you care.
  • Try to stay calm.  Remember that your friend will be aware of your reactions.
  • Don't judge your friend.
  • Just listen. Understand that your friend may have good and bad days.
  • Give your friend time to heal.  Don't expect your friend to "snap out of it" quickly.
  • Help find other people who can help - other friends, teachers, coaches, and family who can support your friend.
  • Don't confront the person who hurt your friend.  Though you might want to fix the situation or get back at them, this could make things worse, for you and your friend.

Good things to say

  • I believe you.
  • I'm glad you told me.
  • Nothing you did (or didn't do) makes you deserve this.
  • How can I help you feel safer?
  • This happens to other people.  Would it help to talk to someone who specializes in abusive relationships?

Things not to say

  • This wouldn't have happened if you hadn't (had)....
  • I told you not to: go to that party, date that person, hang out with those people.
  • Just forget it ever happened.
  • Get over it.
  • This is private.  Don't tell anyone what happened.
  • Try not to think about it.
  • I want to hurt the person who hurt you. 


HAVEN materials and community resources

HAVEN Materials

Is Your Relationship Affecting Your Health? (PDF) 
¿Su relación de pareja está afectando su salud? (PDF)

Journeys Booklet
In the Journeys booklet read stories and poems written by women who have received counseling from HAVEN. You will also find tips on self care, reducing isolation, increasing self esteem and more.

Intimate Partner Abuse Resources


Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC)
BARCC’s vision is to end sexual violence through healing and social change. All of BARCC’s services are free and confidential for all people ages 12 and older. BARCC serves survivors, their family and friends, and professionals. More information: see website or call 800-841-8371.

The Network La Red
The Network/La Red was formed to address battering in lesbian, bisexual women's, and transgender communities. The Network/La Red hotline provides confidential support, information, and referrals to LBT partner abuse survivors. For more information see the website or call 617-742-4911

The Elder Abuse Hotline
Elder abuse reports may be made to the appropriate designated Protective Services agency or the statewide Elder Abuse Hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Typically, elder abuse reports are made to Protective Services agencies during normal business hours and to the Hotline during after-hours periods, on weekends and holidays. Hotline: 800-922-2275 or general information on the website.

Disabled Persons Protection Commission  
DPPC is an independent state agency whose role is to investigate and remediate cases of abuse in the Commonwealth. DPPC’s mission is to protect adults with disabilities from the abusive acts or omissions of their caregivers through investigation, oversight, public awareness and prevention. Hotline: 800-426-9009 or general information on the website.

Massachusetts SAFELINK Hotline
Safelink is Massachusetts’ statewide, toll-free domestic violence hotline. Safelink is accessible 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and is available to assist survivors in need of emergency shelter across the state. Learn more at the website or by calling 877-785-2020.

Jane Doe, Inc.
Jane Doe, Inc. is the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. Jane Doe’s membership is currently comprised of nearly 60 community-based sexual assault and domestic violence service and advocacy programs in Massachusetts. Find a program in your area and statewide information on this website. Learn more at the website or by calling 617-248-0922.

Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA)
MOVA is an independent state agency that provides innovative victim advocacy through outreach and education, policy and program development, direct service, legislative advocacy, and grants management. More information at the website or 617-727-5200.

Victim’s Compensation
The Victim Compensation Division of the Attorney General’s Office provides financial assistance to eligible victims of violent crime for uninsured medical and dental care, mental health counseling, funeral and burial costs, and loss of income or financial support as a result of crime-related injury. Learn more at the website or by calling 617-727-2200.

Housing Rights (MA)
New Housing Rights in Massachusetts for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking


National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
Loveisrespect.org provides resources for teens, parents, friends and family, Peer Advocates, service providers, and the general public. All communication is confidential and anonymous. More information: see the website or call 866-331-9474.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
NDVH is a nonprofit organization that provides crisis intervention, information and referrals to victims of domestic violence, perpetrators, friends, and families. The hotline number is 800-799-7233 (SAFE).

Futures without Violence
Futures without Violence works to prevent violence within the home, and in the community, to help those whose lives are devastated by violence because everyone has the right to live free of violence. See the website or call 617-262-5900 to learn more.

National Centers for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center
The Stalking Resource Center is a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime. The Resource Center provides a variety of services including Training, Technical Assistance, a Web site, and an Information Clearinghouse. To learn more see the website or call 800-FYI-CALL.