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ADVICE TO SPOUSE ABUSE VICTIMS

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Maybe some good can come out of the O.J. Simpson case.

That's because, as investigation into this shocking episode unfolds, attendance is up at support groups for victims of domestic violence. So are hot-line phone calls to centers dealing with spouse abuse, particularly in Southern California.Though a few of the victims are men, by far the greatest number are women. Counseling is available for both. Meanwhile, here's some helpful advice for those who find themselves in an abusive relationship:

- First, recognize the early signs: jealousy, rage, demeaning insults, pushing and shoving. Make it clear early on that such behavior is not acceptable.

- Then, the first time violence occurs, call 911. Make certain a police report is made out, and follow through on prosecution. Rarely is violence an isolated event. It will only get more severe, experts say.

- Get a restraining order. It will not, of course, stop a bullet or a knife. But, says Women In Distress President Bonnie Flynn, it is empowering. It's acknowledgment that this is a crime, and that the law is on your side.

- Call your crisis or shelter hotline. Even if you are not yet ready to leave, it can put you in touch with people who can help you sort out your options.

- Have a safety plan: Remove any weapons from the home. Keep an extra set of car and house keys. If possible, have a phone in the bathroom in case you have to seek shelter there. Set aside money in case you have to suddenly live on your own. Keep an emergency suitcase packed. Store important papers with a friend. Let a friend know of the abuse in your life.

- Escape as quickly as possible when violence starts. Seek refuge in a shelter.

Know that you don't deserve this, that you did not provoke it, and that your first priority is the protection of your children and yourself.