What Do I Do Now?
Only you can decide whether it would be best for you to stay or leave your domestic violence situation. We encourage you to consider your safety first and foremost when choosing whether to remain in your home or seek shelter elsewhere. Although you can’t control your partner’s violence, you do have a choice about planning for safety. You can decide for yourself if and when you will tell others that you have been abused or that you are still at risk. Friends, family and co-workers can help protect you, if they know what is happening, and what they can do to help.
Create your own: Personalized Safety Plan
Step by Step for Safety – Safety Options and Planning
Consider the following situations for your safety:
Safety During a Violent Incident
- When an argument begins, try to move to a room or area that has access to an exit, avoid a bathroom, kitchen or anywhere near weapons.
- Practice how to get out of your home. Identify which doors, windows, elevator or stairway would be best.
- Devise a signal or code word to use with your family, friends and neighbors when you need the police.
- Identify a neighbor you can tell about the violence. Ask that neighbor to call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home or a pre-arranged signal.
- Decide and plan where you will go if you have to leave home (even if you don’t think you will need to). This should be a safe place from which you can call for further assistance.
- Use your own instincts and judgment. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
- Always remember – you don’t deserve to be hit or threatened!
Safety When Preparing to Leave
- Open a savings account in your own name and start to establish or increase your independence.
- Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret place that is easy to reach.
- Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents and extra clothes with someone you trust.
- Determine who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you some money.
- Keep the shelter phone number close at hand, or better yet, memorize it and keep some change or a calling card on you at all times for emergency phone calls.
- Review your safety plan as often as possible in order to plan the safest way to leave your batterer. Remember – leaving your batterer can be very dangerous!
- Ask a client advocate at your local domestic violence program about obtaining a Personal Protection Order (PPO).
Safety in Your Own Home
- Change the locks on your doors as soon as possible. Buy additional lock and safety devices to secure your windows.
- Discuss a safety plan with your children for when you are not with them.
- Inform your children’s school, day care, etc. about who has permission to pick up your children.
- Inform neighbors and landlord that your partner no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see your partner near your home.
- If possible, obtain a P.O. Box and get an unlisted phone number.
Safety With a Personal Protection Order
- Keep your Personal Protection Order with you at all times. (If you change your purse or wallet, that should be the first thing that goes in it or else get multiple copies.)
- Call the police if your partner breaks the Personal Protection Order.
- Think of alternative ways to keep safe if the police do not respond right away.
- Inform family, friends and neighbors that you have a Personal Protection Order in effect.
- Document calls to the police, their responses, dates, times, etc.
Safety on The Job and In Public
- Decide whom at work you will inform of your situation. This should include office or building security. (Provide a picture of your batterer if possible.)
- Arrange to have someone screen your telephone calls if possible.
- Devise a safety plan for when you leave work. Have someone escort you to your car, bus or train. Use a variety of routes to go home if possible. Think about what you would do if something happened while going home. (i.e., in your car, on the bus, etc.)
Your Safety and Emotional Health
- If you are thinking of returning to a potentially abusive situation, discuss an alternative plan with someone you trust.
- If you have to communicate with your partner, determine the safest way to do so.
- Have positive thoughts about yourself and be assertive with others about your needs.
- Read books, articles and poems to help you feel stronger.
- Decide whom you can talk freely and openly with to give you the support you need.
- Consider attending a domestic violence support group to gain support from others and learn more about you and the relationship.
What to take if you leave
If you decide to leave your situation, you will want to take certain items with you. Remember, your safety is top priority – if you need to leave without these items in order to be safe, do so. Some people give an extra copy of papers and an extra set of clothing to a friend just in case they have to leave quickly.
- Children’s birth certificates
- Your birth certificate
- Social Security cards
- School and vaccination records
- Checkbook, ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) card
- Credit cards
- Keys – house/car/office
- Driver’s license and registration
- DHS Bridge Card / Paperwork
- Work permits
- Green card
- Divorce papers
- Medical records – for all family members
- Lease/rental agreement, house deed, mortgage payment book
- Bank books
- Insurance papers
- Address book
- Children’s favorite toys and/or blankets
- Items of special sentimental value
- Important telephone numbers
What happens when you come to Shelterhouse?
Shelterhouse can be a place of refuge for you. Trained, compassionate staff provides confidential services for survivors of domestic, dating and sexual violence, including:
- Counseling and advocacy
- Support in obtaining housing, employment and other community resources
- Educational and support groups focused on healing from trauma
- Services for friends and family of victims
- Court accompaniment and legal assistance
When you call or come to Shelterhouse, our staff will listen to whatever you want to share of your story. The healing process begins with one-on-one talks or small group discussions with a trained client advocate or therapist. We share expertise gained from working with thousands of survivors over thirty years of service to our community. You will be encouraged to set your own goals for the direction you want your future to unfold; our job is to support you using our empowerment philosophy. No matter what time of day or night, our crisis line is staffed to assist you in beginning your journey to safety.