This entry is written to the person who recognizes and admits to living in a violent home. I’m assuming that if you’ve read through the first 3 parts, you have broken through your denials and justifications by now.

Are you ready for a better life? Are you tired of living in fear, waiting for the next explosion of violence to happen? If so, there are some things you can do ahead of time to increase your safety.

* (This is the final installment in my series on domestic violence. If you missed the first 3 parts, please click here.)

To protect yourself and your children, please contact your local domestic violence program to find out about the resources in your community. (You can call 1-800-799-SAFE [7233] for the National Domestic Violence Hot-line, which is available 24/7/365. They can give you the name and number of the program closest to you.) You will probably need shelter, counseling, and legal guidance once you make the decision to leave your abuser. Don’t wait until there is an emergency! Your local program can help you devise an individual safety plan ahead of time, so that you will know just where to go and what to do when the need is there.

While you are still living in an abusive relationship, it is important to document what’s happening for possible use later. If you have visible injuries, such as bruises, burns, cuts, black eyes, etc., it is important to have close-up photographs of the specific injury. Have a trusted friend or health care provider do this for you. Be sure the photographs are stored in a safe location. Take the time to write down the dates of each abuse, a full description of what happened, and the extent of the individual injuries sustained. This written information should be stored with the photographs — away from the home. These can be very useful if you need to press charges, get a restraining order, or file for custody of underage children.

Have an emergency bag packed for you and your children, stored away from home in the care of a trusted person. In the bag, you will need to put a change of clothes for you and each child, any necessary medications (with doctors’ contact information and the prescription numbers of the individual medications), personal care items, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, extra eyeglasses, etc. Besides the emergency bag, you will need to be prepared to handle legal and financial needs. If possible, have some emergency money set aside in a safe location. You will, also, need originals or copies of legal papers, such as: birth certificates, health insurance papers, health records, and social security cards for you and your kids. Have extra sets of keys for the car and home, where they’re readily available, but not in the house. Do not involve your children in these preparations. You do not want to burden them with this information, or risk having them slip and say something ahead of time.

While you are still in your home, there is always the threat of escalating abuse. If you are in danger or need immediate assistance, call 911. Do not try to handle violence on your own! It is a good idea to arrange a signal ahead of time, with a trusted neighbor who is willing to call 911 for you, in case you’re unable to make the call.

If you do make the decision to leave, be sure that you take your driver’s license or photo ID, checkbook, and credit cards. Have a safe place to go arranged ahead of time. For parents of young children, it’s a good idea to take favorite blankets or stuffed toys to comfort them away from home.

Preparation is the key to being able to leave an abusive situation safely. Get professional guidance and plan carefully for different scenarios. Remember that your safety and the safety of your children are of utmost importance. Things can always be replaced. You may have a situation where you have to leave without anything but the clothes on your backs. Don’t hesitate if you feel your lives are in danger!

There is nothing that you have done to bring about this abuse, and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. Don’t fall into that trap! No one deserves to be treated with violence! Love should never bring pain!

Until next time,

Linda

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