Whether you stay with a controlling partner or leave, it’s important that you plan for your safety (as well as your children’s safety).
If you are like I was, you’ve run the gamut of “fixes” and nothing has worked. Feeling helpless, in an effort to cope, we try to ignore, deny or minimize what is happening. The danger of going numb is that we may not be aware that the severity of the abuse continues to escalate. If your partner hasn’t physically attacked you yet, there’s a good change he or she will.
I’ve added a page: “Safety Planning” (see tab above). Adults, or teens will find some detailed advice whether they plan to leave or continue in the controlling relationship.
Below are some general suggestions.
If You Chose to Stay
You know the indicators that your partner is heading toward a violent tirade or battering episode. Some of my warning signals were: the sound of his firm and determined footsteps coming across the wooden porch, the way he postured himself to look large and menacing, his voice became low and measured, and his eyes darkened.
As victims, we are more adept at reading our partners’ body language than we are at recognizing our own feelings. Yet, our bodies react to the impending verbal or physical attack with a number of signals: a knot in our chests or stomachs, trembling, relentless chatter in our mind and stark terror—throwing us into fight or flight mode.
We may become paralyzed with fear, unable to run away. We didn’t fight back because past history showed us that whenever we tried to our partners met our attempts with harsher, more deadly violence. If you have a safety plan, you are prepared to react. You move into self-protection mode.
Consider these questions as you develop your plan:
- When things begin to escalate, how can you safely remove yourself from the location?
- Do you have a cellphone so you can call 911 if necessary?
- Have you downloaded a DV app to notify friends and 911 if you are in danger? (https://www.whengeorgiasmiled.org/the-aspire-news-app/)
- Do you have a neighbor who is willing to call the police if there is any indication that you are in trouble?
- Where can you go? Do you have family or friends to stay with?
- Do you know the location of your local shelter?
- What do you need to take with you—i.e. Clothing, personal items, copies of important documents, money, car keys? Have them packed and stored safely with a friend or family member.
- Document all abuse, noting the date and what occurred. Take photos of any injuries, print them and write the date and details on the back. Keep this information in a safety deposit box or at a friend’s house. Your documentation is admissible in court to show ongoing abuse.
If You Have Children
If you have children, plan for their safety, too. I was privileged to hear Olga Trujillo, a survivor of abuse, speak about growing up in a violent home. Her saving grace was a neighbor lady who welcomed Olga into her home to sit and talk. The neighbor heard the chaos from next door and was aware of Olga’s situation. The woman never trashed Olga’s father, but talked to her about self-protection. She asked Olga where she could hide from her raging father until it was safe. Together they sang songs that Olga could sing softly while she hid. The songs distracted her from listening to the carnage.
Developing a plan with your children gives them permission to protect themselves and not feel they have to try to stop daddy from hurting mommy. A plan gives them some control over the situation.
- Help them find a safe place to hide until the danger has passed. It can be at neighbor’s house or a hidden spot within the house. Have a code word that tells them when it is safe to come out. Let them practice moving to their “safe place” quickly.
- Plan something to distract them from the tirade while they hide in the house: songs to sing, earphones, paper and crayons, books— items stashed there.
- Teach them how and when to get help. Teach them how to dial 911 and give their address. Have a code word that tells them when to make that call.
If You Plan to Leave
It is especially important for victims to have help when planning to leave. The risk of death increases by 70% at that time. Partners who have never been physical can become physical batterers when their victims attempt to leave.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800- 799-7233) can assist you as you plan your exit. Your local shelter can provide you with an advocate to help you plan, leave safely and prepare to move through the court system for a No-Contact order or other legal issues. If you are in need of a place to live, the women’s shelter can house you or help you find housing. If finances are a concern, the shelter can often help you find needed resources.
Consider what safety measures are needed for protection:
- If your partner has been removed from your home change your locks. Install an alarm system.
- Download a DV app to notify your friends or 911 should you need help: https://www.whengeorgiasmiled.org/the-aspire-news-app/
- Keep a trusted friend aware of your daily activities, where you are going, when you will return.
- Keep a log of any unwanted contact with your ex.
- Take photographs of any injuries, print them and write the date and other details on the back. Keep these in a safe place. Your documentation is admissible in court to prove ongoing abuse.
- Notify teachers or any activity leader that your children are not to leave with your former partner.
See the Safety Planning tab above for more details.
If You are a Teen or Tween
Know that you deserve a relationship that makes your heart sing. If you are spending time crying over your partner and giving up who you are to please him or her, you are not in a healthy relationship. Someone who loves you will not call you names, embarrass you in front of others and insist on having his or her own way all the time. You can do better. I promise this is not the only person you will ever love, and he or she is definitely not the only one who will ever love you.
- Tell your parents, a friend, a counselor, a clergyman or someone else whom you trust and who can help. The more isolated you are from friends and family, the more control the abuser has over you.
- Download a DV app to notify your parents, friends or 911 should you need help: https://www.whengeorgiasmiled.org/the-aspire-news-app/
- Alert the school counselor or security. They can watch out for you.
- Plan and rehearse what you would do if your partner became abusive.
- Keep a daily log of the abuse. Include date, time, what happened and photos of any injuries.
- Break up with him or her in the safest way—by text message.
- Do not meet your partner alone. Do not let him or her into your home or car when you are alone.
- Avoid being alone at school, your job, or on the way to and from places.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Report stalking to the police.