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Speak with an advocate

When you call CASA, an advocate will help you evaluate the degree of danger that exists in the relationship and help you prepare a safety plan to address your immediate need. Sometimes it’s difficult to realize the danger because you’ve coped so well for so long. However, it is vital that you call as soon as you suspect abuse so that you can come up with a safety plan to reduce the abuser’s opportunity to hurt you and your family. (Note: If you are calling CASA on behalf of a friend who may be a survivor, we encourage you to call early when you first suspect danger. The sooner a safety plan can be put in place the better!).

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 to reach the police.

CASA’s Family Justice Center

1011 1st Avenue North St. Petersburg, FL 33705

M-F, 9am-5pm (walk-in or by appointment)

CASA’s Office & 24-hour hotline


Outside Pinellas County

Florida Coalition of Domestic Violence:
(800) 500-1119, TDD: (800) 621-4202

Navigating the Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system can be daunting, even for those well-versed in its process. But for victims of domestic violence, navigating the criminal justice system can be traumatic in itself. At CASA, our Criminal Justice Advocates are committed to helping you through criminal and civil court proceedings as well as providing additional free & confidential services.

Survivors Guide to Navigating the Criminal Justice System

Making a Safety Plan

A safety plan identifies the steps you can take to increase your safety and helps prepare you, minor children, and any other affected family members to act quickly to protect yourselves in the event of future violence.

Use the guide below to create your own safety plan or call our 24-hour helpline to speak with an advocate trained to help: (727) 895-4912.

Download Planning Guide

Danger Assessment

A Self Check-In

Following is a listing of questions a CASA advocate is likely to ask to assess the degree of danger that exists in the relationship. It is not a perfect “test,” but your responses to the questions can be used along with the advocate’s experience and intuition to determine the likelihood of an attack. Once a danger assessment is made, you can work with a CASA advocate to develop an appropriate safety plan.

Become a Safety Network

Survivors need lots of help, especially from family, friends, co-workers and medical professionals. If you know someone whom you suspect is being abused, here are some things you can do.

  • Believe them. Most victims don’t lie or exaggerate their abuse.
  • Recognize that emotional abuse is truly abuse.
  • Open ears; shut mouth. You can’t be listening when you are talking.
  • Respect the victims decisions; don’t pass judgement. Don’t give advice; giving advice tends to take away the victim’s power.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Ask to clarify what you don’t understand. Try to understand not just the words they speak, but what they’re attempting to convey to you – the meaning between the lines.
  • Be a mirror. Reflect the victim’s statement back to them. This lets them know you are really listening and trying to understand them.
  • Speak only for yourself, not for the victim. Express only your feelings and observations, not your beliefs.
  • Support without over-controlling. Control yourself, not the victim.
  • Be patient. The establishment of trust can’t be forced.
  • If the victim lives in Pinellas County, give them CASA’s phone number, 727-895-4912. Anywhere else in Florida call 800-500-1119. Outside Florida, call 800-799-SAFE (7233).

Reference: To Be an Anchor in the Storm, A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women by Susan Brewster.

Note: In this book, female gender is used because domestic abuse is predominately waged against women. CASA recognizes and provides services to all people regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, culture or religious beliefs. 

  • Be alert to possible signs of domestic abuse: changes in behavior and work performance, lack of concentration, increased or unexplained absences, placing or receiving harassing phone calls, unexplained bruises or injuries or explanations of injuries that just don’t add up.
  • Believe the survivor if she or he discloses the abuse.
  • Listen without judging. Survivors believe her or his abuser’s negative messages and feel responsible, ashamed, and afraid they he or she will be judged.
  • Tell the survivor that she or he does not deserve to be abused and that help is available. Give the survivor CASA’s 24-hour access line, 727-895-4912
  • Call someone from your Employee Assistance Program for confidential advice and resources.

When screening patients for domestic violence, the goal is to validate and empower the survivor while attending to the immediate health concerns. It is vital that the medical professional create an atmosphere sensitive to a survivor’s need to be respected and taken seriously.

  • Screen patients in a confidential setting, separate from the abuser.
  • Phrase questions in a non-judgmental way.
  • Tell survivors they do not deserve to be abused. Offer support and safety. Encourage survivors to make their own choices and decisions.
  • Medical personnel should assess their own attitudes and perceptions regarding domestic violence to ensure objectivity.

During medical screening of all patients, medical personnel should look for the following warning signs of domestic abuse:

  • Fearful, ashamed, evasive or embarrassed behaviors
  • Low self-esteem
  • Reluctant to speak or disagree in front of the abuser
  • Fails to make direct eye contact
  • Patient or abuser minimizes extent of injuries
  • Abuser insists on accompanying patient, answers all questions, and refuses to leave the treatment area
  • Abuser displays jealousy, obsession, or possessiveness


  • Contusions, abrasions, lacerations, fractures and sprains
  • Injuries to the head, neck, chest, breasts, and abdomen
  • Injuries during pregnancy
  • Multiple site injuries
  • Repeated or chronic injuries
  • Injuries inconsistent with explanation of cause

Other medical findings may present themselves:

  • Chronic pain, psychogenic pains, or pain due to diffused trauma without visible evidence
  • Physical symptoms related to stress, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorder, or depression, including threats of suicide or past attempts
  • Chronic headaches
  • Abdominal and gastrointestinal complaints
  • Palpitations, dizziness, and atypical chest pain
  • Gynecological problems, frequent vaginal and urinary tract infections, and pelvic pain
  • Frequent use of prescribed minor tranquilizers, or pain medication
  • Frequent visits with vague complaints or symptoms without evidence of physiologic abnormality

During Pregnancy:

  • Injuries or unexplained pain to the breast, abdomen, and genital area
  • Substance abuse, poor nutrition, depression, and late or sporadic access to prenatal care
  • “Spontaneous” abortions, miscarriages, and premature labor
  • Fetal risks, including low birth weight, stillbirth, pre-term infant, fetal fractures

Other signs of abuse:

  • Abuser limits victim access to routine or emergency medical care
  • Noncompliance with prescribed treatment regiments
  • Inability to obtain or take medication
  • Missed appointments
  • Lack of independent transportation, access to finances, or telephone
  • Failure to use condoms or other contraceptive methods
  • Difficulty completing paperwork, not having identification, or medical insurance cards

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