If you encounter someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, be prepared to do five things:
- Listen actively (remain focused, stay engaged, don’t judge and don’t interrupt). Really ‘hear’ what they have to say.
- Show and express compassion.
- Be patient/remain supportive. It could take a while…
- Be prepared to offer help (when possible) and discreetly give resources such as numbers and links to community and national organizations.
- Suggest they create a safety plan.
A safety plan is an individualized guide that helps victims of violence and assault lower the risk of being harmed by a partner during and after an attempt to escape.
Victims may create the plans on their own or may get help from “safe” and trusted family, friends or neighbors. They may also get help through crisis hotlines, from domestic violence/sexual assault shelter advocates, from hospital staff/social workers, etc.
For excellent examples visit:
- Path to Safety (thehotline.org)
- Safety Planning for Teens (loveisrespect.org)
- Technology Safety Planning (nnedv.org)
When it’s time for an abused or battered family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor to leave, they may choose or feel the need to escape immediately without taking anything with them. (That may work for some, but not for others.)
But – if given time to plan, certain items to consider ‘hiding’ or storing outside of the home or reach of an abusive partner may include:
⦁ extra doses of life-saving medications and items (e.g. EpiPens, inhalers, etc.)
⦁ driver’s license, state or school photo ID
⦁ birth certificates for the victim/survivor and the children
⦁ social security cards for the victim/survivor and the children
⦁ work permit, green card
⦁ money, bankbook, checkbook
⦁ bankcards, credit or debit cards
⦁ state assistance cards (EBT cards)
⦁ pictures of herself/himself, the children, and the abusive partner
⦁ telephone/address book/list of critical personal, account or other numbers
⦁ medical (shot records) and dental records
⦁ health and life insurance documents
⦁ orders of protection (ex-parte, restraining, etc.) if one was obtained
⦁ court documents related to custody, divorce, division of property, etc.
⦁ car registration, car insurance information
⦁ lease, rental, or deed to property
⦁ clothes, shoes, etc.
While many of these items can be replaced, the period to transition from one house (home or shelter) to another can take time. Having items and/or documents hidden or stored may also minimize some future medical and legal headaches, time, and replacement costs or other fees.
Further, having important items and/or documents secured in a safe location or with someone trusted prior to leaving may prevent a victim/survivor from feeling the need to go back to retrieve them from the abusive partner or a hostile environment.
Worse case scenario? Going back could make matters worse or lead to death (prevalence).