The first step in ending domestic violence is acknowledging you are living in abuse. The second step is getting out of the relationship. Statistics show that leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim. Most domestic violence deaths happen while the victim is trying or planning to leave. In order to get out safely, you must have a safety plan. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you need it to be, and any abuse hotline, therapist or shelter can help you put one together.
My sister, Lily, did not believe she was in danger. Although I encouraged her to make a safety plan, she did not recognize the abuse she was living with and did not take any precautions.
When it came time to leave my marriage, I did not have much time to prepare a safety plan, but I knew I could not be alone with him. I asked a friend to come to my house and stay while I told him to leave and to wait until he was gone. It wasn’t the safest safety plan, but fortunately, it was enough. I was very grateful for her presence, her time and her friendship. She gave me a huge gift that day.
Another friend had to plan very carefully to make sure she had all the paperwork, packed as much as she could and had what she needed to drive across the country to escape her abuser.
The plan varies for every situation, and sometimes only a part of the plan is necessary, sometimes all of the plan becomes redundant.
Always, in an emergency, call 9-1-1 and get out. Things are replaceable, lives aren’t. If your life is threatened, get away!
Too often victims protect the abuser, afraid that we will not be believed, that we will not be helped. Call a distress line if you recognize you are in an abusive relationship, they will help even if you stay in the relationship! They are not there to judge you, but to help you. They will talk to you, they can help set up counseling. When I was beginning to recognize the abuse, the counselor met me at a nearby coffee shop so I could stay close to home.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You deserve it.
I’ve included a sample draft of a safety plan below. Be safe. Keep it hidden. Use it wisely.
From the webpage: Gift From Within
*DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SAFETY PLAN
Sometimes there are warning signs before the escalation of violence. This safety plan was written to help you recognize and prevent other incidents of violence. This form should be filled out and copied with a trained professional.
I might recognize an increase in jealousy, controlling or possessive behavior, irritation or yelling. Based upon the past, I will be aware when I observe: (list some examples)
I am responsible for my own reactions, responses and safety. The following behaviors might calm or escalate the situation. Which would work best for me to calm things down (based on what has worked or not worked in the past)?
1. Going to another room________
2. Getting busy with____________
5. Remaining quiet_____________
There are times when no matter what is done, a violent incident will erupt. Steps to stay safe are:
Leave the house and go_______________________________________________________
Call the police and__________________________________________________________
Alert a neighbor in advance to call the police when___________________________________
Things to be aware of and keep in a safe place:
1. Location of all phones and exits in the house.
2. Phone number of the police or domestic violence advocate_______________
3. Domestic violence Hotline 800-537-2238.
5. Safety and care of children.
6. Duplicate set of keys to the car.
7. Hidden emergency money.
8. Copies of important documents and papers like birth certificates, passports and visas.
9. Possible alternate living arrangements.
10. Packed suitcase.
11. Check books, bank books, credit cards, or at least their account numbers.
12. Social security number for yourself, partner and children. Knowing your partner’s SS# is vital to the collection of child support and monies.
A temporary Restraining Order or Protective Order is an option that will offer protection under the law. Ask the police to help you file a Domestic Violence Complaint. You can ask for:
1. The abuser to be removed from your home and prohibited from returning.
2. No phone contact or harassment by the abuser.
3. Custody of the children.
4. Temporary Support.
5. Possession of the residence.
6. Professional counseling at domestic violence center for yourself and abuser.
7. Alcohol/drug rehabilitation for yourself or the abuser.
8. Monetary compensation for out-of-pocket expenses.
***READ THE PROTECTIVE OR RESTRAINING ORDER CAREFULLY TO UNDERSTAND YOUR RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS***
***INFORM POLICE OF ANY VIOLATION OF A PROTECTIVE OR RESTRAINING ORDER***