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How Can I Keep the Abuse from Escalating?

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Most abusive situations do not escalate…but sometimes they do. Be wise and take these steps to keep the situation from getting out of control:

  • Get individual and/or couples counseling. If substance abuse is in the picture, get treatment for alcohol or drug abuse. Try to resolve partner conflicts through counseling or mediation outside the legal system.
  • If your partner engages in one-time minor aggression (for example, shoves you or throws a pillow):
    • The first time, firmly tell your partner to not repeat the action: “I’m asking you to not do that again.”
    • The second time, firmly state the consequences of the action: “I already told you to not slap me. If you do that again, I’m going to end the relationship.”
    • If your partner continues the minor aggression, stick with your promise: “I told you if you slapped me again, I would end our relationship. You just slapped me, so I’m not going to see you anymore. Good-bye.” Then walk away.
    • If your partner engages in major aggression (for example, tries to punch, kick, or attack you with a weapon), immediately leave and call the police. Take your children with you.
  • Be aware of your partner trying to provoke you to violence, such as calling you names, making fun of you, or keeping you from seeing your children. Keep your cool. De-escalate. Do not allow yourself to be baited. Do not retaliate. Use the camera or audio recorder in your cell phone to document your partner’s actions.
  • For the bigger, stronger partner: Unless your physical safety is threatened, do not try to restrain the attack. The bruises you may leave on your partner will be taken as evidence of your aggression. There have been cases where the bigger, stronger partner who was the victim called the police for help, but the police ended up arresting the victim. So be sure you can show the police evidence of your partner’s abuse.

Adapted from Elgin SH. The 12 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Verbal Abuse and Verbal Self-Defense.

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