Nearly every relationship has at some time experienced an episode in which one party or the other may feel that they have been emotionally abused or verbally abused. If emotional or verbal abuse persists, some form of intervention is necessary, and, if an episode of domestic violence occurs, there is no legitimate reason to remain in the home. No legitimate reason! Any excuse used by the victim from that point on is destructive and potentially dangerous. A single incident of violence should be confronted by the victim and the level of violence should determine the consequences to the abuser.
Remember, domestic violence does not have to be an act in which one party is physically injured. However, if one party feels threatened physically; is in fear of physical harm, then that is domestic violence even though a blow has not been struck and no tell-tale bruises will follow. No one victimized by domestic violence should remain in a domestic relationship while they as a couple are sorting out how they are going to deal with the abuser’s actions and whether or not the abuser is going to seek treatment or face more serious consequences.
Personally, I’m of the opinion that the victim should take immediate and forceful actions at the first instance of behavior by the domestic partner that could meet the legal sufficiency for domestic violence. There is no good reason to remain in a physically threatening environment. The victim may want to explore saving the relationship, but it is better accomplished from a position of power and that means the victim must be physically removed from a position of vulnerability.
If a partner to a relationship believes that they or others in the home are in potential danger, it is negligent not to seek emergency assistance at the first opportunity! If at all possible, this should be done in a way that will not lead to an escalation of the violence, but the luxury of secrecy is not always possible. When in doubt do not hesitate to punch 9-11 into the phone and call for help…immediately!
If you are currently in an abusive relationship and reading this, make immediate plans for your safety. If you have children, you must plan for their safety as well. Many abused parties are willing to risk continued violence in an effort to keep their children from facing a similar threat. That willingness is simply without logical merit. No one should remain in a threatening environment and no one should subject their children to a similar environment. There are no circumstances – even the uncertainty of the future – which justify remaining in a physically abusive and dangerous relationship. Countless thousands of abused people have broken out and become free! Certainly they faced fear and uncertainty, but ultimately the decision to leave was proven to be the right one.
One should break away and leave at the FIRST incidence of violence with a partner or spouse. I know; however, not everyone will do this. Sad as it may seem, many victims are not emotionally prepared to do so at the first incidence, convincing themselves perhaps that other factors such as financial support for such a drastic move are lacking. What a shame. Emotionally, physically and financially, the easiest moment to make the break is the first moment one realizes they’ve made a mistake!
So, you’ve decided to make the break. Certain things must be gathered to help make a clean escape. It’s vital that some if not all of the following items are gathered and retained in a safe place, preferably outside the home. A good location for storage is with a friend or relative, but we should not call them on our home phone or cell phone to arrange it, because a record of the call will appear on our phone bill.
The following are some of the items we would find important:
Compile an emergency stash of money. If checking and credit accounts are shared, adequate cash resources should be arranged in the event the abusive partner has the accounts frozen or suspended. Have extra sets of car, house, and safety deposit box keys made in advance.
Purchase calling cards to be used at pay phones, or consider buying a pre-paid cell phone available nearly everywhere. This prevents a trail of frequently called numbers showing up on a home phone bill.
Previously compiled evidence of domestic abuse, such as photographs of injuries, police reports, witness statements etc., is valuable. A journal documenting the history of abuse and injuries can help facilitate legal action and orders of protection.
Driver’s licenses, passports, green cards, military identification if applicable and birth certificates should be gathered and kept for immediate retrieval. Other important documents such as insurance policies, titles to vehicles or property, marriage licenses and court documents including orders of protection, divorce or custody agreements, mortgage papers and educational records are desirable
If there is an address book with important phone numbers at home, it should be taken as well. There’s no sense in leaving something behind that will assist the abuser in tracking the victim. In any case, remove and retain the telephone numbers and addresses of any family and friends that have been contacted in preparation for the escape.
Extra clothing and personal comfort items and child’s toys if applicable can be prearranged for. Know what prescription medications are needed and the appropriate dosages.When the decision to make the break has been made, I’m going to assume you have made up your mind the relationship is irretrievable. If you are even considering the possibility that this is not a permanent break, stop reading now! You don’t need advice, you need a psychiatrist. For all others, please continue.
Now it’s time to begin a seemingly innocent pattern of behavior that will not upset your partner or cause undue suspicion; activities such as grocery shopping, walking or jogging; anything that will afford you the luxury of a certain amount of time to make your escape. Establish this pattern in advance of your break to allow for the possibility that the abuser will attempt to follow and observe the first few times you do it.
Alert a trusted friend or family member to be ready to assist you, but you should not stay with them as your presence places them in increased danger and makes you much easier to find. Contact a local abused women’s shelter. Any hospital or clinic or Planned Parenthood center or police department should have a number for such a shelter where you can be protected. You should also consider prearranging the assistance of a domestic law consultant.
Immediately prior to your break, make some phone calls on your home phone or cell phone to hotels, hospitals and police departments away from your local area, preferably a hundred miles or more distant. This will serve to divert any search your partner may make based on cell phone records and telephone bills.
If you are leaving because you have been injured, go immediately to a hospital or emergency room or police station for help. Make certain your visit is documented.
If you have children in school, notify the school of the circumstances surrounding their domestic situation and try to enlist their assistance in either changing schools if possible, or arranging for their safety while in school. If changing schools is not possible, be mindful of attempts by the abuser to conduct surveillance to and from school and if you suspect you are being followed, drive directly to a police or fire station immediately. Do not lead anyone to your safe location.
Now you have to go on with your life. It serves no purpose to meet with the abusing former partner to “talk” about the situation. This will be counter-productive and potentially dangerous. Have the strength to accept that the relationship is over! All communication back and forth should go through legal channels. If you are single, it’s much easier to make the break. However, if children are involved, until the courts have established the abusing partner’s rights to visitation, you are under no obligation to make them available for visitation, pending a decision by the courts. You cannot legally continue to avoid such a determination however. Termination of a relationship does not terminate the parental or visitation rights of either party to the relationship, unless the courts have so decided. If you continue to hide out and not seek legal remedies, you might be liable to the charge of kidnapping!
Assuming you’ve done everything right and the relationship has been legally dissolved and you’ve gone on with your life, you may still have to have some contact with your former partner. This is always problematic. For safety sake, never meet them alone! Never open the door to them at any time! Never agree to meet them at night, particularly in or around your home or in unfamiliar locations; never agree to meet them in isolated parking garages or lots. Never meet at bars or places where alcohol is served; never agree to meet them if they’ve been drinking.
I can’t touch on everything one would need to consider or to do. I can only offer guidelines. The object is to make it extremely difficult to be victimized again. Once the machine has been set in motion, firm, unyielding resolve will often work in the victim’s favor. Many abusive personalities do have a point where they eventually give up. Some; however, are pathological in their obsession and all too often these people require the efforts of the criminal justice system before they can be stopped. Sometimes, the victim simply decides to survive by fighting back. The issue of self defense will be covered in another chapter. What is stated there will be applicable here as well. One must decide on a personal level, to what lengths they will go within the confines of the law, to mediate whatever threat they may face. This may mean a big dog or it may mean a big gun or any of a number of things in between. Regardless, it is incumbent on the threatened party to know what the law allows and what responsibilities they bear with regards to it.