Safety planning for victims of abuse

Leaving an abuser does not always mean you are safe. Seventy-five percent of domestic violence homicides occurred when victims were leaving or attempting to leave abuse. Information, resources and tips on how to get or stay safe when leaving an abuser.

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  • Important: If you are an abuse victim, your abuser may have keystroke software or some other method to track your online or computer activity, what you read and what phone calls you make. Do not read this article on a home computer or family cell phone. Your cell phone can be programed to be a listening devise and your computer can be used to track your every keystroke.

  • Leaving a domestic abuse situation is dangerous. I once sat with a woman and begged her not to go home. I told her I was afraid if she did, she would die. She went home and she was murdered.

  • From 1987 to 2011 I worked as an advocate assisting women and children caught in abuse. The average woman leaves her abuser more than seven times before she makes it permanent according to domesticabuseshelter.org. Even when she leaves, it doesn’t mean she is safe. Statistics show that 75 percent of intimate partner or domestic violence homicides happened when a partner is leaving or has left abuse. In short, leaving abuse is a very dangerous and yet necessary action to take. For more detailed information about this, see the International Domestic Violence Statistics/Research: World Health Organization.

  • If you are a victim, or you have a family member or friend who is a victim, know that no one knows her abuser better than the victim. Unless you are ready to take a victim home and pay all her bills and keep her safe (and you are bullet proof) you probably shouldn’t tell her what to do. Victims have to live with the consequences of their actions.

  • Here are some online resources for safety planning

  • The following are safety planning tips for abuse victims

  • Safety during an altercation

  • If you get into an argument in the house with your abuser, make every effort to stay out of rooms with only one exit. If you are able, try to move the fight outside. If that's not possible, move to a room like a living room or bedroom, where their aren't tools or other items (hard bathtubs or furniture) that can seriously injure you if you are pushed or shoved. Know your exits and get out as soon as possible.

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  • Code word

  • Teach your children a code word. It can be anything. For example, “dumplings” can be your code word. Practice fire drills with your children using the code word and meeting outside at a designated location. This way if you get into an argument with your abuser and use the code word, your children are trained to go outside to a safe location — away from the violence.

  • Telephone code word

  • Choose a code word that can be used without alarming an abuser during a phone call. Let family, friends and children know that if you use the word they should dial 911 for you, and that it is not safe to talk.

  • Sign for 911

  • Choose an item that you can place in the front window without tipping off your abuser. If your child returns home, or a neighbor or friend you trust sees the item in the window it means to stay out and dial 911 or “get help please.” Don’t come in.

  • Doctor’s appointments

  • Victims who are being controlled may not have a safe time to ask for help. On several occasions I was called by doctors who had victims in their office and needed them taken out the back door and to a shelter.

  • Cell phones

  • . Abusers will often prevent victims from having phones, cars and other resources. Any cell phone that is charged, in the United States can call out for help on 911, but will not provide your location in a small town. Know your country's emergency services and how to dial them.

  • Know your local resources

  • . Every country has different laws about leaving abusive marriages. They also have various resources. Local hotline and shelter resources can be found at this website HotPeachpages.com.

  • Remember you are not bullet proof

  • If you are helping a friend that is abused or if you are the victim and the abuser threatens homicide or suicide, take the threat seriously.

  • Workplace violence

  • If an abuser is showing up at his victim’s work, or calling, let supervisors know. Work with leadership to create a staff safety plan.

  • Go bag

  • If possible assist a victim in gathering items they feel they must have if they decide to leave. Often victims are not ready to leave, but are willing to put together a, “Go Bag,” full of difficult to replace items like passports, cash, keys and other items that a victim might be tempted to return home for. A Go Bag should be put at a location other than the victim’s home.

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  • Do not go back after “stuff.”

  • In Seaside, Oregon, Amber Luna Romero was murdered by her abuser. She left, but then returned home to get “stuff” that she thought she needed. Please, if you are a victim and you leave your abuser, do not return to any location like your residence for “stuff.” Your things may not be replaceable, but neither are you, and if you ask your family, you are more important than your “stuff.”

  • Finally, victims of abuse are often isolated making it difficult for them to reach out. If someone you know or love is asking for your help, call the international, national or local hot-lines and get assistance. Learn your local resources, shelters and find local advocates that can assist victims. Domestic violence homicide is preventable with the right local and family support systems.

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Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh

Website: http://www.shannonsymonds.com/

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