The Prison of Abuse

Victims of domestic violence are constantly bombarded with the question, “How do I stay safe?” Domestic violence is a prison that holds its victims behind what seem inescapable bars. Every which way a victim turns they hear, “Why don’t you just leave?” or “Well, he has been so good for over a month,” or “How can you afford to leave?” or even, “You married till death do you part.” Unless you have walked a mile in the shoes of domestic violence, it is impossible to understand how a victim’s mind works in such conditions. For me, it seemed sometimes my mind didn’t work at all. I was just a zombie, part of the walking dead.


It’s very scary to think of trying to escape the abuse. And you hear all sorts of threats, such as:

“Try to leave and I will kill you.”

“If you go, I’ll find you and you think it’s bad now? I promise you it will be worse once I hunt you down.”

“You can explain to the kids why I killed their dog, when you try to leave.”

“Who is going to want you with two kids in tow?”

“How are you going to exist? You have no money, no job…”

They go on and on and on.

So, if you are a victim of domestic violence, here’s a strong suggestion for staying safe—develop a safety code. Find the one person you trust more than anyone else in the world, the person you would depend on with your very life, who will hold your confidence and have your back. Create a code word. Make it rather innocuous, but something only the two of you will put together as a code for, “I need help NOW. This is a 911. Danger, Will Robinson, danger, danger…” I know of two friends who decided to use the term “banana pudding.” Hopefully, they never planned to carry a dish of banana pudding to the church social and needed a recipe from the other.

My point is, use due diligence in selecting the code word or phrase, but make sure you both know that if it is tossed out in conversation, it’s code red all the way. The friend then calls the law enforcement or 911 and tells them there is someone in mortal danger. If you are the one placing the call, be sure to give them the address, names, descriptions. Does the abuser own a gun? That is imperative for the officers to know before they reach the destination.

Don’t forget to go over the post on developing a safety plan, either. It’s always best to be prepared in advance, rather than living with regret afterward.

Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her website at

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