2017 River Valley Shelter for Battered Women & Children, Inc.

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Safety while living with abuser:

  • Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger to you and your children before it occurs.

  • Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.

  • Don’t run to where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.

  • If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.

  • If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest public phone is located. Know the phone number to your local shelter. If your life is in danger, call the police.

  • Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.

  • Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.

  • Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.

  • Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.

  • Plan for what you will do if your children tells your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.

  • Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.

  • Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked — for a quick escape.

  • Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used to strangle you.

  • Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.

Preparing to Leave Planning:

Because violence could escalate when someone tries to leave, here are some things to keep in mind before you leave:

  • Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures of injuries.

  • Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible. Keep your journal in a safe place.

  • Know where you can go to get help. Tell someone what is happening to you.

  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.

  • Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.

  • Contact your local shelter and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis. WomensLaw.org has state by state legal information.

  • Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college as you can.

  • Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.

 

Safety with Children:

 

If you are in an abusive relationship, a safety plan should include ways that your children can stay safe when violence is happening in your home. It’s key to remember that if the violence is escalating, you should avoid running to the children because your partner may hurt them as well

  • Teach your children when and how to call 911

  • Instruct them to leave the home if possible when things begin to escalate, and where they can go

  • Come up with a code word that you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency  — make sure that they know not to tell others what the secret word means

  • In the house: Identify a room they can go to when they’re afraid and something they can think about when they’re scared

  • Instruct them to stay out of the kitchen, bathroom and other areas where there are items that could be used as weapons

  • Teach them that although they want to protect their parent, that they should never intervene

  • Help them to make a list of people that they are comfortable talking and expressing themselves to

  • Enroll them in a counseling program (local service providers often have children’s programs)

Planning for Unsupervised Visits
If you have separated from an abusive partner and are concerned for your children’s safety when they visit your ex, developing a safety plan for while they are at their home can be beneficial.

  • Brainstorm with your children (if they are old enough) to come up with ways that they can stay safe using the same model as you would for your own home. Have them identify where they can get to a phone, how they can leave the house, and who they can go to.

  • If it’s safe to do, send a cell phone with the children to be used in emergency situations — this can be used to call 911, a neighbor or you if they need aid

Planning for Safe Custody Exchanges

  • Avoid exchanging custody at your home or your partner’s home

  • Meet in a safe, public place such as a restaurant, a bank/other area with lots of cameras, or even near a police station

  • Bring a friend or relative with you to the exchanges, or have them make the exchange

  • Perhaps plan to have your partner pick the children up from school at the end of the day after you drop them off in the morning – this eliminates the chances of seeing each other

  • Emotional safety plan as well – figure out something to do before the exchange to calm any nerves you’re feelings, and something after to focus on yourself or the kids, such as going to a park or doing a fun activity

Planning for After You Leave

  • Alert anyone you can about the situation: school authorities like the counselor, receptionist, teachers and principal, sports instructors, and other caretakers

  • Talk to these people about what’s going on, EX. If you have a protective order or restraining order, who is allowed to pick them up, etc.

How to Have These Conversations

Let your child know that what’s happening is not their fault and that they didn’t cause it. Let them know how much you love them and that you support them no matter what. Tell them that you want to protect them and that you want everyone to be safe, so you have come up with a plan to use in case of emergencies. It’s important to remember that when you’re safety planning with a child, they might tell this information to the abusive partner, which could make the situation more dangerous (ex. “Mom said to do this if you get angry.”) When talking about these plans with your child, use phrases such as “We’re practicing what to do in an emergency,” instead of “We’re planning what you can do when dad/mom becomes violent”

If you have any questions about safety planning or want an advocate’s help in developing a personalized safety plan for your child, give us a call at 479-968-3110.