If you are in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.
Call The Crisis Center at 1-800-434-8013 (Toll Free) or 830-620-4537
Search www.domesticshelters.org to find domestic violence programs in your area or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
If you are being abused by your partner, know there is nothing you have done or are doing to cause the abuse. It is solely the choice of the abuser to abuse. It may seem impossible to escape your abuser, change your circumstances, or find the help you need, but it is possible. However, you know your abuser best, so think carefully through your situation and circumstances and do what is the best for you.
While the information that follows may be helpful to you, please know it is not meant to be used as the only information you need to get and stay safe, nor is it inclusive of all the information you may need. It is critical that you connect with someone knowledgeable about domestic violence that can help you create a safety plan specifically for you, your family, and your specific needs.
PLANNING AHEAD IF YOU ARE IN THE RELATIONSHIP:
Plan ahead where you can go if the abuser shows signs of escalating. Make a list of safe people to contact (DV program, friends, relatives, attorney, and important persons/services). Have numbers for local domestic violence programs. Pack and have ready a bag or suitcase of essentials, including medications.
Obtain and secure personal documents and information for you, and if you have children, for them as well: birth certificates, driver’s license, social security cards, immunization records, passports, licenses, bank accounts, debit and credit cards, checkbooks, W-2s, paystubs, insurance cards and policies, school records, clothing, and keys. Any documentation that you might have about the abuse, pictures, recordings, medical records, and police reports are also very important to have. Include cash if you can and any other valuable that you don’t want to leave behind. Keep in mind that large items like furniture might not be possible to hide.
Find a safe place to hide these—with a friend, relative, and/or another place the abuser cannot access.
If you are in the home during an incident:
- Avoid rooms with no exits, like bathrooms and closets. Also, avoid rooms with weapons, like the kitchen.
- Get to a room with a door or a window to escape.
- If it is possible, lock the abuser outside. Call 911.
- Get medical attention if you are hurt.
- If you have contact with the police, get the name and badge number of the officer(s).
- Contact a domestic violence program, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233), or go to a safehouse.
If you have children:
- Create a safety plan appropriate for their age. If children are old enough, have them get out of the house and alert a neighbor (that you have already contacted, is safe, knows about your situation, and is willing to help), and call 911.
- Practice the safety plan with your children.
- Instruct them not to get physically involved in the incident and instead “go” to their safe place (already established).
- If going to a safe place or neighbor’s house is not possible, teach them to call 911.
- Have older children take younger children to a safer room in the house, already established.
If you have pets and are planning to stay with the abuser:
- Keep emergency provisions for your pet in case your abuser withholds money.
- Keep the phone number of the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic.
- Establish ownership of your pet by creating a paper trail (i.e., obtain a license, have veterinarian records put in your name).
If you have pets and are planning to leave the abuser:
Obtain safe emergency shelter for pet, somewhere that won’t be disclosed to your abuser (e.g. veterinarian, friend, family, or a safe haven for pets program)
Pack a bag for your pet that includes:
- Documents of ownership (receipts from adoption or purchase of pet, license to establish ownership, receipts for animal purchases)
- Health documents (veterinary and vaccination records)
- A leash
- An ID and rabies tag if you have a dog or cat (these will also help establish ownership)
- Pet carrier
If you must leave without your pet, remember to leave enough food, fresh bedding, litter, etc. for them.
If you have left the abuser:
- Keep pets indoors (if possible). Do not let the pet outside alone.
- Pick a safe route and time to walk your pet. Do not exercise/walk your pet alone.
- Change your veterinarian.
Sources: The People’s Law of Maryland, Ahimsa House
IF YOU ARE NOT IN THE RELATIONSHIP:
- Change your phone number and other contact information.
- Consider getting a restraining/protective order. Speak to an advocate and find out if that is a good option for you—every situation is different.
- Screen your calls.
- Save and document all contact, messages, injuries, or other incidents involving the abuser.
- Change your locks.
- Avoid being alone.
- Plan how to get away if confronted by the abuser.
- If you have to meet the abuser do it in a public place.
- Vary your routine.
- If you have a restraining or protective order, always have a copy with you. Leave a copy at work. If you have children, leave a copy at your children’s school and every place your children might spend time (childcare center, grandparents, friends, etc.).
- Find out if there is a domestic violence response policy at your work place and ask questions if you don’t understand how it works.
- Consider joining a support group at a local domestic violence program.
- When leaving an abusive relationship, it is important to take with you the documents that you will need to get the resources and help you will require. You will need your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to verify your identity. Other important documents you will need include: social security cards (for yourself and any children), leases and deeds (that have your name attached), credit and debit cards, pay stubs, w-2s, insurance policies, bank statements, and check books. Also, take any documentation that you might have about the abuse including pictures, recordings, medical records, and police reports. Never take the risk of being alone with the abuser when retrieving your things; ask for a police escort or bring friends with you.
CREATE YOUR PERSONALIZED SAFETY PLAN
Although you can’t control an abuser’s use of violence, you can plan how you will respond to future abusive or violent incidents, prepare for the possibility of an incident happening, and plan how get to safety. It is your decision if and when you tell others that you have being abused, or that you are still at risk. Friends, family, and coworkers can help with your safety plan if they are aware the situation and want to help.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- When I have to talk to the abuser in person, I can _____________________________.
- When I talk on the phone with the abuser, I can _______________________________.
- I will make up a “code word” for my family, coworkers, friends, and counselor so they know when to call for help for me. My code word is ________________________.
- When I feel a fight coming on, I will try to move to a place that is lowest risk for getting hurt such as __________________ (at work), ________________ (at home), or _______ (in public).
- I can tell my family, co-workers, boss, counselor, or a friend about my situation. I feel safe telling _______________.
- I can screen my calls, texts, emails, and visitors. I have the right to not receive harassing phone calls, texts, or emails. I can ask friends, family members, or coworkers to help me screen my contacts. I can ask these people for help: _________________________________.
- I can call any of the following people for assistance or support if necessary and ask them to call the police if they see the abuser harassing me.
- When leaving work I can ____________________.
- When walking, riding, or driving home, if problems occur, I can _____________________.
- I can attend a victim’s/survivor’s support group with the Domestic Violence program.
- Contact information I need to have:
Police Department: ______________________________
Domestic Violence Program: ______________________________________
Sexual Assault Program: ______________________________________________
Spiritual support/clergy: __________
Probation Officer: __________
Some useful guidelines to finding support are:
- Do not be discouraged by a rejection. If you can, try again.
- If you are not comfortable with the person you are working with, ask for another advocate or counselor or try and find another domestic violence program.
- Get a list of possible resources from different places/programs/organizations. Most states have the free phone service 2-1-1 which will connect you to advocates who can help you find additional resources in your area.
- Have essential documents available when you go to an appointment: birth certificates, identifications with pictures, driver’s license, passports, and utility bills (to show residency). Learn what documents you will need ahead of time.
- Make your calls from a place where you can engage in a conversation and take care of possible interruptions ahead of time (e.g., have little ones take a nap or call when children are playing at the neighbor’s).
- Be patient, speak clearly, and do not give your story to the person who answers the phone or the first contact person. More than likely, you will have to tell your story all over again to the person qualified to help you. Instead, give clear, specific information about what you need (e.g., “I need a pro-bono family law attorney for a child custody case and I am a victim of domestic violence”). Then let the service provider ask you for the information they need to qualify you for the services. If possible, have an advocate initiate the contact with the referred service provider.
Please contact the Crisis Center at 1-800-434-8013 or 830-620-4537.