The victims of domestic violence face a lot of obstacles when it comes to breaking free from their abusers — not the least of which is a very justifiable fear of what will happen if they do try to leave.
Three-fourths of the homicides related to domestic violence happen because the victim was trying to leave the abuser. In addition, victims often have to put up with stalking behavior and threats of more violence for several years once they do leave.
That’s why safety planning is so important for any victim of domestic violence. Safety plans are designed to help victims stay safe — because leaving the abuser isn’t always enough to make that happen. While every plan has to be adapted to the situation, here’s how you can help someone you love start to build a safety plan:
1. Assume that the abuser has the potential for violence
Even if the abuse has been mostly psychological or verbal, assume that the abuser could escalate his or her attacks the moment that he or she realizes the victim is leaving. Domestic abuse is about power and control — so abusers can be expected to react badly to the loss of that power and control.
2. Gather a “go bag” that can be quickly grabbed
When the victim finally has a chance to leave, there may be no time to pack. Encourage the victim to quietly gather the bare essentials in anticipation of leaving. It should include:
- Important documents, including birth certificates, driver’s license, insurance information, shot records, passports and immigration papers
- Financial information, including bank account numbers
- Some money (if possible)
- Clothing and comfort items
- Phone numbers of trusted friends and relatives
Hide the bag in a place where it can be gotten to as quickly as possible.
3. Contact a domestic violence attorney
An attorney can help a victim obtain a temporary restraining order, eviction, support orders and permanent protective orders. Try to arrange a meeting with the attorney prior to the point where the victim plans to leave so that the prep work can begin on the case.
Domestic violence is never acceptable. Anyone who is being victimized by an abuser is encouraged to seek help as quickly as possible.