Domestic violence is something that in the past was frequently ignored, but physical abuse of a spouse, more often of the wife, is now recognized as a social problem that is punishable by law. Wife or husband beatings are often serious assaults. Once the pattern is established, it's likely to happen repeatedly, with increasing violence each time. People who stay in abusive relationships may feel ashamed, guilty, and fearful. They may be socially isolated and unable to support themselves financially. It's often very difficult for a battered spouse to ask for help. But help is available. Police are receiving enhanced training in domestic violence issues and, in many communities, domestic violence laws have been strengthened. If you are being abused, the first step is to admit it to yourself. Then, prepare to leave the situation by hiding money, car keys, and important documents somewhere safe and handy. Arrange for a place to go, such as a trusted relative's home, a social service agency, or an emergency shelter. If you are being attacked, call the police as soon as you can. Then leave the house and get medical help if needed. Over the long term, you may need support from friends or relatives and perhaps counseling to help you feel more powerful and in control of your life. For more information on spouse abuse, contact a family counselor or mental health professional.