Every situation is different. There are times when leaving a relationship is not the safest option for you or your children. 70% of domestic violence homicides happen after the victim has gotten out. Until it is safe to leave, there are steps you can take to mitigate danger and once you do leave, there are precautions that you can take. Scroll down to read about these topics:
Call our 24-hour, toll-free crisis line for advice and safety planning assistance: 1.888.215.555 and read more tips and strategies from Women's Law.
Start planning now:
- When a fight breaks out, move away from the kitchen, bathroom, or any place where there are dangerous sharp objects.
- Know the easiest escape ahead of time. Decide on a door or window that you can exit quickly and safely through if you are in danger.
- Identify a neighbor, friend, or family member who you trust to help you and your children or to call the police for you.
Start saving money. Even if you only save a little bit every week, you need to have some money of your own.
Put together your emergency pack. Make copies of keys and important papers and leave them with a friend, neighbor, or church.
Dealing with children:
Although your children have also been affected by the tension and violence at home, leaving will not necessarily be a relief. As bad as things may be at home, children are often more frightened by change. You are the only one who can make it easier for them. Experts offer these guidelines:
- Don’t tell smaller children about your plan until you’re on your way. Even then, just tell them that you’re going to stay somewhere else for a while.
- Include one or two cherished belongings for your child -- toys, blankets, books, etc.
- Assure your children repeatedly that you are going to be with them and will care for them no matter what.
- If your children see you frightened or crying, admit your feelings but assure them that you (and the people helping you) can handle everything that needs to be done.
- Remind your child (and yourself) of problems you’ve both dealt with before. Emphasize the fact that you made it then, and you will again.
- Avoid nasty comments about your partner, and don’t say you’ll never see him or her again even if that’s how you feel.
- Accept the services that shelters may offer your children; don’t assume “they'll be okay.” Children who’ve experienced violence are scared by it, and there are people who know how to help them sort it all out. Besides dealing with your children directly, they can help you help your children deal with what’s happened.
Tips to teach children:
- Do not be alone with anyone who hurts you.
- Listen to the little voice inside when it says that what is being done to you isn't right.
- Find an adult you trust and tell them what is happening. If they don't believe you, keep telling until someone does believe you.
- The adult you talk to about your abuse (perhaps a teacher or a neighbor) may want to tell the police or child protective services about the person who is hurting you.
- Know the safe ways out of your house.
- Call a friend, neighbor, or family member you can trust or go to their house.
- Know your important telephone number -- your telephone number, the police, and your trusted adult.
Abusive partners can use technology to closely monitor and control their partners. However, technology is also an important tool for survivors to access resources and gain independence. Since technology is ever-changing, it is vital that survivors be cognizant of their online and social media activity. Across all devices and online accounts, survivors should remember that their abusers can access search and activity history and that they should change passwords often. Be aware of how you utilize these tools:
Safe computers can be found at a local library or computer lab. The websites you visit and purchases you make are stored on the computer you use and anyone can view your browsing history. Using a safe computer outside of your home for help-related searches is a better option than clearing browsing history from your home computer, which might look suspicious.
Your partner could have access to your email account with or without your knowledge.
- Keep your monitored account active with non-critical emails in order to maintain appearances. To discuss your relationship, safety plan, and receive other sensitive communications, open a separate email account on a safe computer that your partner does not know about.
- Do not use an email system, such as Outlook, that will pop up automatically on your home computer.
Cell Phones & Tablets
Cell phones, even on silent mode, can be used to track your exact location at any time. Call and text message history can also be retrieved by your abusive partner. Additionally, a location tracking device (GPS) can be placed on your car or in your purse. Many times abusers will give their partners or children smartphones, tablets, etc. as gifts so that abusers know the passwords and can track their partners' locations and activities.
- Consider purchasing a pay as you go phone that you keep in a safe place or use a safe phone that your abuser can't access.
- Lock your phone and tablet home screens and change your passwords often.
- Make sure that apps do not automatically tag your location.
Only post things you want the public, including your abuser, to see or know. Once it’s online, it’s no longer under your control even when you adjust privacy settings or delete the post.
- Conduct a 3-step privacy check up on Facebook
- Be protective of your personal information. Your phone numbers and addresses enable people to contact you directly, and things like your birth date, the schools you attended, your employer, and photos with landmarks make it easier for someone to find you.
- Set boundaries and limits. Tell people not to post your personal information, negative comments about you, check-ins that tag you, or photos of you on social media.
- If you have a friend in an abusive relationship, do not post information about them without getting their permission first. You could jeopardize their safety.
After leaving an abusive relationship:
Change the locks on your doors.
Learn about your legal rights. If you have legal papers to protect you, keep them with you at all times.
Tell neighbors, friends, landlords, and coworkers about your situation. Show them a photo and share his/her vehicle information. Ask them to call 911 if he/she comes around.
Keep a safety plan for coming and going, and share it with people you trust. Teach your children about the safety plan.
Have a safe place to go to in an emergency such as a police station, public area or the home of a friend of family member that is unknown to your former partner. If you feel like someone is following you, it’s not a good idea to go home.
Keep any evidence of stalking, such as voicemails, texts or emails for future court cases.
Report all incidents and threats to the police as soon as they occur. Keep a log of everything that’s happening including the name of the officer in charge of the case and the crime reference number, if there is one. This can all be useful for future court dates.
Sources: National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Women's Law