If You Are Being Abused
First and foremost, know that you are not alone and that the abuse is not your fault.
If you are experiencing abuse, harassment, or harm from your partner, or think that you might be, help is available.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, it is important to get connected with an advocate who can provide support, referrals, and provide you with available services. Abusive partners are usually very good at isolating their partner from family and friends. As a result, victims may feel ashamed and alone and believe that no one would understand. Many survivors have described feeling as if they didn’t know who they were anymore. This makes it even more difficult to survive the abuse, to sort through feelings, and to make decisions that will be best for you and your children.
Consider calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline, StrongHearts Native Helpline, or a domestic violence program in your area (contact information below). Hotline advocates are specifically trained in domestic violence and are available to provide resources, help with options to stay safe, or just listen.
Local domestic violence programs offer a variety services to provide support to survivors of domestic violence. Check your local program, as services vary and may include emergency shelter, transitional housing, legal advocacy, childcare, counseling, support groups, and more. Support groups offer a safe place to talk about your feelings and experiences in an atmosphere free of judgment. It’s also an opportunity to meet and talk with other people who have had similar experiences.
Planning for Safety
If you think you might be experiencing abuse, harassment, or harm, it is important to make a plan to keep yourself and your children as safe as possible. Here are some things to consider:
If you are currently experiencing domestic violence:
- Plan how you could get out of the house quickly if your partner becomes violent. Try to position yourself near a door where you can escape quickly.
- Put together a suitcase and keep it at somewhere safe, easily accessible, and hidden from your partner. Pack it with clothes for you and your children, medication refills and information, important papers, car keys, photographs, money, and emergency phone numbers. Add anything else you might need if you have to leave suddenly (see list below).
- Have the phone numbers for local shelters and resources saved in a secure place so that you can access them quickly.
- Tell neighbors about the abuse and ask them to take action if they hear noises coming from your home, such as calling your house, stopping by, or calling a trusted third party, which could be a friend, family member, or, if it is safe to do so, the police.
- Talk to your children about how they can keep themselves safe as well.
If you are thinking about leaving an abusive partner:
- Identify things that have worked in the past to keep you safe.
- Think about what has happened in the past and how the abuser has acted. Identify clues that indicate when the abuser might become violent (e.g., behavioral: body language, drug/alcohol use, etc.; and event driven: paydays, holidays, etc.).
- Identify what you will do if the violence starts again. Is it safe to call the police? Is there a phone in the house? Can you work out a signal with the children or neighbors to get help?
- Explore ways to have dangerous weapons (e.g., guns, hunting knives, etc.) removed from the house.
- Plan an escape route and practice it. Know where you can go and who you can call for help. Keep a list of addresses and phone numbers where you can go in crisis and keep them in a safe place.
- If possible, open a bank account or hide money to establish or increase independence.
- Gather the following items (for yourself and your children) and hide them with a trusted individual or somewhere accessible outside the home:
- Money/cab fare
- Check book
- Credit card/ATM card
- Order of Protection
- Immigration documents
- Work permit
- Public Assistance ID
- Driver’s license and registration
- Social Security card
- Your partner’s Social Security number
- Medical records
- Insurance policies
- Police records
- Record of violence
- Children’s school and immunization records
- Birth certificates
- Baby’s things (e.g., diapers, formula, medication)
- Family pictures
- Address book
- Important telephone numbers
- Mobile phone and charger (see Cell Phone & Location Safety Strategies on TechSafety.org for important information about cell phone monitoring)
- Change the locks on doors and windows (if the abuser has a key or access to a key).
- Make it easier for someone to locate your house by having a large visible street address outside the house.
- Obtain a P.O. Box and forward all your mail to it.
- Ensure that utility companies will not give out your information to your abuser.
- Determine the safest way to communicate with the abuser if they must have contact. If you agree to meet, always do it in a public place (this may be a place with a security guard or police officer), and it’s best to bring someone else. Make sure you are not followed home.
If your partner follows you in the car, drive to a hospital or fire station and keep honking the horn.
- Create a safety plan for leaving work. Talk with your supervisor and building security at work and provide a picture of the abuser, if possible. If you have an Order of Protection, give the security guard or receptionist a copy.
- Teach your children a safety plan, including calling family, friends, or neighbors if they are taken, and where to go during an emergency. If it is safe, teach your children to call 911. Otherwise, have the phone numbers of trusted individuals saved on a cell phone or in a safe place and teach children how to call them.
- Talk to your children’s schools and childcare provider about who has permission to pick up the children and develop other special provisions to protect the children.
- Keep a journal of harassing calls, texts or social media posts and times you may see your abuser around the work place or neighborhood. Save and/or print any threatening emails. Keep a journal of anything that happens between you, the abuser, and the children regarding visitation.
Additional Information and Resources:
- For help and assistance call the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
- The StrongHearts Native Helpline 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) is a domestic violence and dating violence helpline for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- The WomensLaw Email Hotline offers legal information and support in English or Spanish.
- Learn more about the resources in your area from your state or U.S. territory coalition against domestic violence
- Learn more from other national service providers
- Learn more about internet and computer safety
- Learn more about the red flags of abuse
- Learn more about the forms of abuse