Well, let’s get ready, it’s time to use your safety plan you’ve been working on.
You have finally decided it is time to leave. You want out of the abuse, the verbal and emotional abuse, being roughed up, or God forbid, the black eyes, bruised arms and heart-racing fear. Where do you start? What do you do? Who do you call? You are ready to put that safety plan together and go. Here’s your information:
Establish communication with a trustworthy person or source. A friend, family member or hotline counselor may be able to help you decide when and where you may go with the children, and especially remaining safe in the process. Think about the places you can go where the abuser cannot get to you. Don’t rule out ignoring their calls or texts. Most abusers will take one of two paths: They will promise you the world if you will just come back home. “I will never do it again. I swear.” Yep, heard that one quite a few times. Each time I returned home, things were better for a short period of time, then they escalated and became worse than ever. Or, they’ll threaten horrific violence, such as killing you, themselves, the children, the pet, they’ll find you wherever you try to hide, and make you pay for leaving.
How will you and the children leave? First, ask yourself if you have already taken the necessary preliminary steps that are so vital for a successful safety plan. Do the kids know how to dial 911? And do they know what to say, do they know their address, or the location where they are (in the event you are not at home and the abuser starts trouble). What about the pet(s)? Do you have a plan for them? Leaving them behind makes you afraid for their safety or wellbeing, right? Yeah, well, threats of harm against the family pet are usually one of the first red flags raised by an abuser who is near their breaking point. If you leave by car, don’t make the same mistake I made. Get in and LOCK THE DOORS IMMEDIATELY. Know the safest rooms in your home if you need to hold up in one while making a call. Do NOT go into a bathroom where you can get cornered and have no way out. Do NOT go into the kitchen where knives and other potential weapons are easily accessible to the abuser. Be sure your children know which room is the safest, or if they should crawl out a window and run to a neighbor for help. The children are part of the safety plan. Don’t ever forget that. If you are uncertain how much to share with them, contact a counselor and get professional advice, then use it.
KEEP A SAFETY BAG. It’s usually a good idea to keep a bag packed with essentials, like a copy of any restraining order or injunction for protection. Changes of clothes, spare set of keys, favorite toy for each of the children, cab fare, names and phone numbers of those you will need to contact. Many victims of domestic violence will pack a safety bag and keep it at a friend’s home or at work, without the abuser knowing they are planning to leave – safely.
GET THAT SAFETY PLAN WORKING. It is never, never, never, not ever (Did I make my point?) wise to attempt to leave without having a safety plan in place and ready to be worked. Remember, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. You can get tons of valuable information from the Domestic Violence HOTLINE in your State (get it, know it, use it). The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 (TTY: 1-800-787-3224). In the meantime, gather these articles and have them handy. Most victims, when it is time to leave, will make a set of copies. Get a jump ahead. Make a set of copies and ask a trusted friend (you know, the one with the safety code word) to hold them for you. I personally suggest that you scan them all in and save them to a flash drive. In this day and age, you can also save them to the cloud. Apple has developed iCloud. I like Dropbox, but there are many programs out there, and most of them offer their services for free up to a certain amount of memory being used.
So, is it time to leave? Then what goes into that safety plan? What are the things you really need to have with you when you finally make that move to leave?
Injunction, restraining order, order of protection
Checkbooks and/or credit and debit cards
Passport (or green card or visa)
Picture ID (drivers license, public assistance ID, etc.)
Cell phone, coins for pay phones
If you are driving, have your license, registration and insurance card
Social security card (It is suggested you have SS numbers for your partner and children)
Medical records, including immunization records for the children
Names, addresses and numbers of those you might need to contact
Insurance policies (health, life, auto, homeowners, etc.)
Important legal documents, i.e. powers-of-attorney, will, living will, birth certificates, leases
Your medical records and medications
Any prior police records or reports
Non-perishable snacks for the children
Changes of clothes (diapers for infants, formula, etc.)
And finally, it’s always helpful to have a photograph of the abuser with you. Law enforcement will be assisted by knowing what the person looks like, in the event there is a search taking place for them. Do they carry a firearm? Any tattoos or piercings? Write these particulars on the back of the photograph. This will not only help the officers find your abuser, but it will also help to keep them safe while they serve and protect you and your children.
So, are you a victim of domestic violence? Is it time to leave? Are you ready to go, and to go safely? Unless you are in imminent danger (if so, call 911!), take the time to develop a safety plan, pack a safety bag, develop a safety code word or phrase. Get things in order. A safety plan ready to go on Wednesday may prevent a black eye or gunshot on Friday.