The recent headlines about domestic violence by NFL players have sparked a much-needed national conversation about this silent epidemic. If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic violence, a safe exit strategy is essential. In fact, a victim's life is in even more danger after he/she confronts the abuser. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, following these steps may improve your chances of leaving safely:
- Know the phone number to your local battered women's shelter.
- Let a trusted family member, friend, coworker or neighbors know your situation. Develop a plan for when you need help; code words you can text if in trouble, a visual signal like a porch light: on equals no danger, off equals trouble.
- If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
- Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made.
- Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.
- Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
- If you need to sneak away, be prepared. Make a plan for how and where you will escape.
- Back your car into the driveway, and keep it fueled. Keep your driver's door unlocked and other doors locked for a quick escape.
- Hide an extra set of car keys.
- Set money aside. Ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
- Pack a bag. Include an extra set of keys, IDs, car title, birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards, marriage license, clothes for yourself and your children, shoes, medications, banking information, money — anything that is important to you. Store them at a trusted friend or neighbor's house. Try to avoid using the homes of next-door neighbors, close family members and mutual friends.
- Take important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc.
- If time is available, also take: Citizenship documents (such as your passport, green card, etc.)
- Know abuser's schedule and safe times to leave.
- Be careful when reaching out for help via Internet or telephone. Erase your Internet browsing history, websites visited for resources, emails sent to friends/family asking for help. If you called for help, dial another number immediately after in case abuser hits redial.
- Create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to relocate.
Titles, deeds and other property information
Children's school and immunization records
Verification of social security numbersWelfare identification
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After Leaving the Abusive Relationship
If you get a restraining order and the offender is leaving:
- Change your locks and phone number.
- Change your work hours and route taken to work.
- Change the route taken to transport children to school.
- Keep a certified copy of your restraining order with you at all times.
- Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
- Give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools along with a picture of the offender.
- Call law enforcement to enforce the order.
- Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail. Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports. Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.
- Change your work hours, if possible.
- Alert school authorities of the situation.
- Consider changing your children's schools.
- Reschedule appointments if the offender is aware of them.
- Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
- Alert neighbors, and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
- Talk to trusted people about the violence.
- Replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors. Install security systems if possible. Install a motion sensitive lighting system.
- Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.
- Tell people who take care of your children who can pick up your children. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order.
- Call the telephone company to request caller ID. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.
For more tips on staying safe, click here.
For more information, please visit the Web site for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
For more information on where to turn for help, consult these Domestic Violence Resources.