5 Immediate Safety Steps for Survivors of Domestic Violence
Abuse is not your fault, and you cannot make an abuser change. What you can do, however, is take back control of your own life, and take action to leave an abusive situation.
You can be the change you need.
It’s #NOMOREWeek, and the theme for this annual domestic violence prevention and survivor advocacy week is something we believe strongly in: #ChangeHappensHere.
Many people feel paralyzed when they begin to think about leaving, but we want you to know that real steps are available to you right now to protect yourself and end violence and abuse in your life.
Here are 5 powerful changes that can make all the difference for bringing safety to survivors of domestic violence.
Make a Safety Plan. [Print out our free safety plan to get started.] A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that functions as a roadmap of vital information for when you are ready to leave, including important phone numbers, plans for your kids, lists of items of items to bring with you, and much more. Although some of the things that you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that in moments of crisis your brain doesn’t function the same way as when you are calm. Also, you may not have your phone with you if the leaving needs to be sudden. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in stressful and uncertain moments
To protect yourself during the planning stage, keep your Safety Plan a secret from your abuser. Don’t use your phone or computer to make calls or do research. Ask a friend or family member if you can make calls on their phone; go to the public library to use a computer. Keep your Safety Plan somewhere safe, such as hidden at the home of one of your safe people. Have kids? You don’t want to tell your children that you’re planning to leave, but you do want to make sure they know what to do in case of an emergency. Present the information as part of basic safety training: call 911, or run to a neighbor’s house.
Collect and record evidence. Start keeping a journal to record evidence of abuse. This will help your attorney prepare your case. Write down dates of abusive incidents and take pictures of bruises and other bodily injuries. Keep this evidence log in a safe place, such as with your Safety Plan.
Contact a Domestic Violence Hotline. DV counselors are trained to help you formulate an exit plan. They’ll tell you what items you need (for instance, a “to-go” bag with clothing, medication, important papers, and an extra set of car keys in case you need to get out quickly), how to gather support, and where to go when you leave. Speaking with a counselor can help you shift from feeling overwhelmed to feeling organized and empowered. Call the 24-hour New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-572-SAFE (1-800-572-7233) or National DV Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
Consult with a family law attorney. A family law attorney can help you file a restraining order to keep you and your children safe. He or she will also help you prepare the necessary documents to request spousal support, child support, and legal fees. Look for family lawyers that offer a free consultation. In an emergency, you can go to the courts during
Get a restraining order. To get a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) for immediate safety, go to your local courthouse during open business hours and inform the clerk that you are a victim of domestic violence and need to pursue a TRO. They will help you fill out the forms and see the judge. If it is after hours, or on the weekends or a holiday, go to your local police department. The police have the ability to communicate with “on-duty judge” who can approve the order.
Leaving an abusive relationship can make you feel frightened, alone, and plagued with self-doubt. These are all things that your abuser wants you to feel to keep you trapped. Seeking support from safe people (friends, a DV counselor, a therapist, an attorney) will help you detach psychologically from your abuser and begin the journey towards empowerment.Our attorneys can help you with restraining orders, temporary spousal support and child support. You can get out. You can live well with your children and you can stay safe. Call us: (888) 888-0919.
If you are experiencing a domestic violence emergency, please contact 911 or your local police.