If you are in a dangerous relationship right now, there are things you can do that may help you to be safer, ensure the safety of your children, and work toward ending the relationship, if that is what you want to do.
No one answer is right for everyone. Assess the suggestions below in light of your own situation. In some cases, it may be important to be extra cautious about leaving a trail (on the computer, for example, or in notes kept in an insecure place), as you may be exposed to further risk if your partner learns what you are doing. Overall, your safety can increase as you become more aware, inform others, find support, and implement a safety plan.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE). Hotline advocates are available 24/7 to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, and information on and referrals to local domestic violence agencies in all fifty states and U.S. jurisdictions. Translators are available for many languages.
Build a support network. Get connected with your local women’s service for abused women, join a support group, and develop a network of friends who understand domestic violence.
Teach your children how to call 911 for emergency assistance. It’s important that they know what to do in case of emergency, especially if you cannot call yourself.
Look online for additional resources. The following websites offer information and assistance:
- DomesticShelters.org — find a shelter near you.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Legal Momentum, 202-326-0040 (also helps immigrant women)
- National Center on Elder Abuse, 1-800-677-1116.
Learn computer safety. It is quite easy for others to track websites you have visited, so consider using a trusted friend’s computer or one at your local library. Email and instant messaging are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. The National Network to End Domestic Violence offers additional tips on internet and computer safety.
Prepare a safety plan. Carry important numbers in a place the abuser cannot find. Find someone to tell about the abuse. Think of one or two places where you can go and not be tracked down. If possible, open a bank account in your name only. Pack a bag with essentials, including money, bank cards and account numbers, social security and health insurance cards, passport or immigration cards and papers, and any information on past abuse. Volunteers at the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) can help you make a safety plan. Scarleteen also offers safety planning advice, with plans tailored for when you live with or do not live with the person abusing you.
Study the abuser’s patterns. Are there times when the abuser is calmer and less volatile? For example, after an incident of violent abuse, there may be a brief period of “making up” or apology. Although you may most want to leave when the abuser is explosively angry and violent, it may be safer to leave during a time of relative calm.
Making a safety plan while you are dealing with a violent partner can give you hope in what so often feels like a hopeless situation. It can also bring you closer to leaving a dangerous situation in a safer and more organized way.
There are alternatives to enduring domestic violence. More and more women are leaving violent partners and making new lives free of violence. Women everywhere have been organizing to help battered women leave abusive situations, provide shelter, and demand a more responsive legal system.