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Please, if you're the victim of domestic violence, seek medical care.

Nationally, only about 34 percent of those injured by their abusers actually obtain medical treatment -- but failing to do so puts you at a significant disadvantage when it finally comes time to seek long-term legal protection.

While domestic violence advocates abound, you ultimately have to take steps to help yourself -- and that means gathering the documentation you need to take your case to court. Follow these tips:

1. Understand that there are no little injuries when they are the result of domestic violence. You may not need medical care to recover when an ice bag and some Advil will do, but you do need the documentation provided by the hospital report for court someday.

2. Request photos. Ask for closeups of significant injuries and make use of common tools, like a tongue depressor, to give a sense of scale to the injury. Take additional photos over the next few days as swelling increases or bruises continue to develop.

3. Start keeping a log. If stalking is part of your abuser's tactics -- which occurs to men about 43 percent of the time and women about 60 percent of the time -- document every instance of stalking, including any witnesses that were present.

4. Use your voicemail and save your texts. Abusers often call over and over again and send repeated texts, especially if they sense they are losing control. Don't answer the phone and save the recordings. Send one text message asking your abuser to stop contacting you, then save all of his or her responses.

5. Learn how to take a screenshot of Facebook pages if your abuser lashes out on social media against you. Consider all threats serious enough to copy.

6. Keep your documentation where it cannot be obtained or destroyed by your abuser. In other words, make use of Cloud technology and email copies of your evidence to a trusted friend or relative. Have backups. It isn't uncommon for an abuser to destroy a victim's personal items -- if your evidence happens to be on your computer, that could spell disaster for your case.

An attorney can provide more information on how to build evidence that will help in a domestic violence case.

Source: National Institute of Justice, "Documenting Domestic Violence: How Health Care Providers Can Help Victims," Nancy E. Issac and V. Pualani Enos, accessed June 21, 2017

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