Domestic violence is not a situation to be taken lightly. The fact is that 1 in 4 women, will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, and 1% of domestic violence victims die yearly. When you are faced with a violent situation it is important to keep your safety and the safety of any children involved at the forefront of your mind.
Every domestic violence victim needs to make a safety plan. A safety plan can be put in motion at any time. Your safety plan and it's secrecy is of utmost importance. If you are caught in the planning stages violence will escalate. Remember, domestic violence is about control. It is very important that you do not change your demeanor at any time during the planning stage. If your spouse feels you are slipping away he will put more pressure on you which will stop any route you have to escape.
You need to pack a bag, one that can be carried easily, for each member escaping. This will other wise be known as your bug-out-bag. Many people assemble these bags for different types of situations. A BOB for domestic violence should contain cash/bank cards, and 2 changes of clothes for each person. All important documents, court orders, pictures of the abuse, hospital reports, social security cards, birth records,and shot records should be in the bag. A change of shoes should be included for each person in-case you have to leave without them. Including a small toy for each child will help them with the stress of the situation.
If you will be on foot when you leave pack a bottled water and a snack into each bag. If the car you own together is in both names try to get an extra key to store in your bag. Pack a first aid kit if you can make it fit. A prepaid cellphone should also be stored in your belongings. Do not leave anything behind that cannot be replaced. It is likely that once your abuser knows your gone everything will be destroyed. Do not stay in a domestic violence situation because you cannot move your belongings. Nothing, is worth the cost of your life.
Your BOB must not be stored at your home. You need to leave these bags at the home of a neighbor, friend, or family member. Think strategically. You know the best possible route of escape. Do not tell your abuser that you are going to leave. Do not tell the children you are going to leave. Everything needs to be done in complete secrecy. Do not use your home computer to make an escape plan, don't talk about it in emails, don't use your home phone where calls can be traced.
You need to plan the situation from every angle and understand that you are fighting for your lives. You need to know an escape route for you and the children for every room of your house. Your first and most important job is to get everyone away from the house and to the BOB. Once you have reached your bug-out-bag do not waste any time. You need to quickly move to a location where your abuser will not find you. If your only choice is to stay in the town where you are being abused go straight to the police station.
Once you have reached the location where you will stay the planning doesn't stop. Do NOT send your children to school unless you have a court order that keeps your abuser from taking them. Most states will allow a parent to pick a child up from school unless a court order prohibits it. If your spouse gets the children and you are married it is very likely that the children will be with him until the court date.
You need to know the dangers of a protective order. A restraining order in most cases escalates violence. It also (in most cases) gives your abuser, the very thing you are trying to keep from him, your physical address. If you must get a restraining order then you need to be under the protection of a battered woman's shelter. If you are not entering a battered woman's shelter, and you feel you need a restraining order, ask the court to strike the new address from the record. Instead list your work address and the address of the school for any child.
Be aware of the danger. A restraining order will not stop a bullet. Even in cities with the best response times, help can be slow. Stalking often starts after you leave an abuser. Unless it is absolutely necessary do not give your address to anyone, including family and friends. Your abuser can easily follow someone you know to your new location. Make sure you are not being followed to the battered woman's shelter. Never let the kids play outside alone. Teach them that they should NOT get in the car with the abuser.
Do not under estimate your ex. It does not matter what you think he may or may not be capable of. It is better to plan for the worst and hope for the best in these situations. Your odds of being stalked after a physically violent situation are 50%. If you have children the odds raise to 75%. 81% of women stalked by their abuser are physically abused as a result of the stalking. 31% of women stalked by their former spouse are sexually assaulted. 76% of female homicide victims are stalked by the person that killed them. The odds are not in your favor that your abuser will suddenly begin playing nice.
Appear at all court proceedings pertaining to your case. If you do not have a lawyer a battered woman's shelter can help you get one. If your abuser has cut you off from finances you need to make the judge aware of the situation. Many times an abuser controls the money. He will try to strong-arm his way through the court system. Often he will appear in court with a lawyer and try to discredit you. Stay calm. Answer all the questions asked by the court in a clear and concise manner.
You need to join a support group. A good group will show you the cycles of abuse and how they related to the violence you suffered. Any children involved need to have this counseling also. Many times an advocate in the group will support you during your court cases. Be careful with anxiety medication prescribed to you by a doctor. This is a stressful situation, however, your medical records can be released to the court with a subpoena. Many times an abuser will use these to try and mar your record in court. It is very important that you understand that the judge does not know you. He can only base his decision on what he believes to be true.
Know that you made the right decision by leaving. Don't be swayed by excuses you hear from your abuser in the courtroom. By leaving you made the right choice for yourself and your children. Present your case and don't look back.