When you’re a victim of domestic violence, there are many ways to get help. Unfortunately most people don’t seek help until it’s already too late. Knowing your options is important. You should never feel that you are powerless, even though somebody may have worked very hard to instill that mindset in you.

What actions you take will depend on the exact circumstances. If you’re at immediate risk to life and limb, the best thing you can do is get away from your attacker in any way that you can, as long as there is a clear line of escape. If you can get out from behind closed doors and into a public area, your chances of being harmed by your attacker will be significantly reduced. In some neighborhoods, that is maybe jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, so think strategically.

Calling the police can be a good tactic, but if your attacker knows that you’re attempting to do that, or if you inform them that you have done so, this could serve to enrage them further. Their behavior could become unpredictable and consequently more dangerous. That is especially the case if they adopt a “nothing to lose” mindset. It’s usually best to conceal attempts to contact police, and to put as much distance between you and the attacker as possible.

Once you’re away from the threat of immediate harm, the next step is to seek medical attention for any injuries that may have been infliceted on you. According to prominent Carlsbad domestic violence attorneys Fischer & Van Thiel, the important thing at that stage, apart from making sure you’re appropriately treated, is to gather any documentation of your injuries that you possibly can. This may include photographs of the injuries, written reports or testimony from the people providing treatment to you, and so on. It is really vital that you inform the medical personnel that your injuries are the result of a domestic violence incident. This will help them to give you the best assistance.

Your next step should be to get yourself a lawyer. While the police can deal with the immediate threat and can help get you to safety, they’re not going to be of much help beyond that immediate situation. In fact, police actually make things worse sometimes by arresting the perpetrator. You’re thinking right now that this doesn’t make sense, aren’t you? Having the perpetrator arrested and removed from the scene seems like the ideal outcome, until they make bail and return to the house and inflict further punishment on you.

The problem is that victims are given a false sense of security by the removal of their attacker from the scene. Immediately after the attacker is removed, you should relocate yourself anyway. Go stay with a friend or relative, preferably one that the attacker doesn’t know where to reach. Otherwise get yourself a hotel room. Staying at home could cost you your life, as it has done for many other victims in the past.

Once your attorney has secured a restraining order against your attacker, only then is there any safety in returning to your normal residence. From then on, your attacker is prohibited from approaching you or your home too closely, prohibited from legally owning a firearm (in California), and is required to relinquish any firearms already in their legal possession.