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In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Here is the last of a three part series dedicated to the important issue of Domestic Violence. It is extremely important to always have a plan in case of emergency. Kathleen Baty, The Safety Chick and the Dover, New Hampshire Police Department put together valuable information and tips to help Victims of Domestic Violence escape their abuser. Pass this vital information on to every woman you know...it could save a life.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of collaborating with then Police Chief, Bill Fenniman and the Dover, New Hampshire Police Department. They developed an extremely effective program on domestic violence.The Department believed that aggressive prosecution of misdemeanor domestic violence cases ultimately would reduce homicides, spousal rapes, aggravated assaults and related felonies. They came up with a highly effective safety plan that has proven to be extremely successful and something that domestic violence victims should follow.
Their safety plan is broken up into three sections:
§ What you can do prior to a violent incident.
§ What you can do during a violent incident.
§ What items you will need for a comfortable, safe escape.
WHAT YOU CAN DO PRIOR TO A VIOLENT INCIDENT:
1. Learn how to identify your spouse/partner’s levels of violence so that you can assess danger to yourself and your children. For example, most batterers have a cycle of violence: when they are stressed out at work, or if something has upset them; if they have been drinking or abusing drugs. Be aware of what sets off your abuser and steer clear of him.
2. When possible, plan to leave before violence occurs and when your partner/spouse is not around. Go to a safe place such as a domestic violence shelter or friend’s home. Make arrangements with a trusted friend, or a friend of a trusted friend whom your partner/spouse does not know to help you and your children. Ask them not to tell anyone that they are helping you.
3. Notify a neighbor to be alert to strange noises or screams and to call the police when this happens.
4. If it is safe, get rid of all weapons in your home when your partner/spouse is nearing a violent stage or is in a violent stage of the cycle.
5. Teach your eldest or most responsible child to call the police and give your name and address if a violent incident is occurring and he or she is able to safely get to a phone.
6. Know you local battered women’s shelter phone number.
7. Plan where you will go in an emergency or dangerous situation (i.e., a trusted friend’s home, a shelter, or safe family member’s home).
8. If you believe your partner/spouse may come to the workplace, ask your employer not to talk with him. Have the employer notify you if he shows up and wants to speak with you.
WHAT YOU CAN DO DURING A VIOLENT INCIDENT:
1. Leave the physical presence of the batterer, if possible.
a. Locate your escape bag (look to next section for escape bag items) and leave the home
b. Get to a room with lock on the door and/or phone.
2. Call the police “911” number, then call your local shelter for battered women.
3. Have your children call the police if you are unable to do so.
4. Scream so your neighbors can hear; they may be more likely to call the police.
5. If you have to leave your children in the home, call the police immediately.
6. If you leave by car, lock your car doors immediately and drive to a safe place.
7. Check yourself and your children for injuries and go to the hospital or your doctor’s office if necessary.
8. If you cannot get out of the violent situation, defend yourself to the best of your ability (refer to the self defense chapter of the book).
WHAT ITEMS YOU WILL NEED FOR A COMFORTABLE, SAFE ESCAPE (THE ESCAPE BAG)
1. MONEY. Always keep some money set aside, if not in your own home, in a place where you can have easy access to it day or night. Plan to have enough money for weekend motel rent, telephone calls, gas and food expense for a few days.
2. KEYS. Have two extra sets of your keys made for your car and your home; one for you to put in the bag and the other to give to a trusted friend.
3. EXTRA CLOTHING. Have a bag with extra clothing for you and your children. Consider the fact that you may have to escape in winter or summer. Choose clothing that you can wear in either season.
4. IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS OR PAPERS. Keep copies of all of the following in your bag:
§ Social Security Numbers (his, yours, your children’s)
§ Birth Certificates (yours and your children’s)
§ Pay Stubs (your husband’s and your own)
§ Bank Account Numbers/Checkbook
§ Insurance policies
§ Marriage License
§ Driver’s License (yours and a copy of his)
§ Any ownership papers for property that you jointly own with your spouse/partner (i.e., car, house)
§ Copies of your monthly bills
§ Valuable jewelry
5. IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS:
§ Local police department
§ Local shelter
§ Police victim assistance
§ Probation officer
§ Your counselor
§ Defendant’s counselor
§ Other (friends, children’s school, etc.)
6. ITEMS OF PARTICULAR IMPORTANCE TO YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN. For example; a favorite keepsake or special stuffed animal or toy.
Keep this bag in a place that is hidden from your abuser, but easy to get to-- maybe somewhere on the front porch or hidden in the garage or kitchen. Don’t leave it where he could easily find it and question what you are up to. If you have neighbors who are trustworthy, consider leaving the bag at their house. This action plan might seem a lot to cover, but take things one step at a time and you should be able to put the bag together in a few days.
Domestic violence is a complicated issue. When children are involved, it’s even more heartbreaking and difficult. Talk to your local shelter or victim assistance office to get more information on how to manage your personal situation. Remember: there is always a way to get out of an abusive relationship. Be strong, have courage and use the wisdom of the domestic violence shelters and law enforcement agencies that are there to help you. Safety Chicks everywhere are behind you.