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UPDATED May 7, 2012

Safety with an Abuser

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No one deserves to be abused.  Our hope is that if you are being abused, you will be able to find a way to safely get out of the abusive relationship.  However, the reality is that for many different reasons, some victims are not able to leave an abusive relationship once the abuse begins.  If you're in a physically abusive relationship, please consider the following tips to help try to keep you and your children safe until the time comes when you are able to leave.

Following these suggestions (often known as a safety plan) can't guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer.  However, it is important that you create a safety plan that it right for you.  Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger.  You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your children safe.

back to topDuring the violence

  • The abuser may have patterns to his/her abuse.  Try to be aware of any signs that show s/he's about to become violent so that you can assess how dangerous the situation may be for you and your children.
  • If it looks like violence may happen, try to remove yourself and your children from the situation before the violence begins if you can.
  • Be aware of anything the abuser can use as a weapon.  If you can, try and keep any sharp or heavy objects that s/he may use to hurt you, like a hammer or an ice pick, out of the way.
  • Know where guns, knives, and other weapons are.  If you can, lock them up or make them as hard to get to as you can.
  • Figure out where the "safe places" are in your home – the places where there aren't weapons.  If it looks like the abuser is about to hurt you, try to get to a safe place.  Stay out of the kitchen, garage, or workshop.  Try to avoid rooms with tile or hardwood floors.
  • If the abuser does start to harm you, don't run to where the children are; the abuser may hurt them too.
  • If there's no way to escape the violence at that moment, make yourself a small target.  Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball.  Protect your face and put your arms around each side of your head, wrapping your fingers together.
  • Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry.  The abuser could use these things to strangle you.

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back to topWhat to tell your children

  • Create a plan with your children for when violence happens.  Tell them not to get involved if the abuser is hurting you since that may get them hurt.  Decide on a code word to let them know that they should leave the house and get help.  If the abuser won’t let them leave the house safely, figure out with them where would be a safe place for them to go within the house where they can call for help (such as a room with a lock and a phone).  Make sure they know that their first priority is to stay safe, not to physically protect you.
  • Practice different ways to get out of your house safely.  Practice with your children as well.
  • Plan for what you will do if your children tell your partner about your plan or if your partner finds out about your plan some other way.
  • Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent.  Tell them that the violence isn't their fault or your fault.  Tell them that when anyone is being violent, it is important to keep safe.

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back to topWays to get help

  • If you need help in a public place, yell "FIRE!"  People respond more quickly to someone yelling "fire" than to any other cry for help.
  • If you can, always have a phone where you know you can get to it.  Know the numbers to call for help such as 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Know where the nearest pay phone is in case you have to run out of the home without your cell phone.  Know your local battered women's shelter number.
  • Let friends and neighbors who you trust know what is going on in your home.  Make a plan with them so that they know when you need help and so they know what to do (such as calling the police or banging on your door).  Make up a signal with your neighbors, like flashing the lights on and off or hanging something out the window, which will alert them that you need help.
  • Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway (so you can quickly pull out) and having a full tank of gas.  Keep your car keys in the same place so you can easily grab them.  If you would be leaving by yourself (if you don’t have children), you might want to even keep the driver's door unlocked (and the other car doors locked) so that you are prepared to make a quick escape if you have to.
  • Keep a copy of important papers with you or in your car, such as your and your children’s birth certificates, passports, immigration papers, and Social Security cards, in case you have to leave in a hurry.
  • If you can, call a domestic violence hotline from time to time to discuss your options and to talk to someone who understands you, even if you feel that you are not ready to leave.  One number you can call is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.  For a list of domestic violence organizations and shelters, go to our State and Local Programs page.
  • Think of several reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night that the abuser will believe, in case you feel that the violence is about to erupt and you need an excuse to get out.

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