You do not have control over your partner’s violence, but you do have a choice about how to get yourself and your children to safety.
Leaving requires courage and careful planning. Statistics show that the most dangerous time for domestic violence victims is right before they leave. Below are tips for staying safe before and during your escape.
Safety when anticipating a physical argument:
- Practice getting out safely. What doors, windows, elevators, stairwells, or fire escapes would you use?
- Avoid the bathroom, garage, kitchen, and other areas near weapons or rooms without access to an outside door.
- Keep your purse and car key where you can get to them in order to leave quickly.
- Tell neighbors about the violence and ask that they call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from your home.
- Teach your children to use the phone to contact the police and fire department.
Safety when preparing to leave:
- Keep copies of important documents, keys, extra clothes and money with a friend or family member.
- Keep the national domestic violence hotline number – 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) with you or memorize it. Saint Martha’s hotline is 314-533-1313.
- Check with friends or family members to see who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you money.
- Rehearse your escape plan and, if appropriate, practice it with your children.
- Establish a code word with trusted family or friends so you can ask them to call for help without notifying your abuser.
Plan ahead and pack one bag of essential items. Hide this bag somewhere he will not find it. The best place is at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house. Avoid hiding it at next-door neighbors, close family members, or mutual friends’ homes, where your abuser is more likely to find it.
Items to take when leaving:
- Emergency contact card with a list of safe people to contact
- Your birth certificate and identification
- Children’s birth certificates and identification documents
- Social Security cards
- Keys – house, car, office
- School and vaccination records
- Credit and debit cards
- Copies of deeds, leases, and insurance policies
- Utility bills (for proof of residence)
- Pay stubs or w-2 forms for proof of income
- Any document that proves past abuse, including photographs, police reports, or medical records.
- Children’s favorite toy/blanket
As you are leaving:
- As you’re leaving, grab your everyday necessities (purse, wallet, keys, phone) and pick up the bag you hid. If you haven’t packed a bag, quickly grab as many items listed above as you can. If you’re in an emergency and need to get out right away, don’t worry about gathering these things. While they’re helpful to have, getting out safely should come first.
- Create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies, and schools in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to go. Ask them questions that will need to be answered by them calling you back. Give them your old phone number.
- Leave when your abuser will least expects it. This will give you more time to get away before your abuser realizes you are gone.
- Call 911 if you are in danger.
After you have left:
- Go to court and file a protective order against your abuser and an order of custody for your children. Keep the restraining order with you at all times.
- Hire a lawyer if you have the resources.
- If you go to a shelter like Saint Martha’s, the staff will be able to help you find legal assistance quickly.
- Change your phone number. Make sure it’s unlisted and blocked.
- Rent a post office box or arrange to have your mail forwarded to an address your abuser wouldn’t expect.
- Change your routine frequently, and try not to be alone for long periods of time.
- Contact people you trust at your children’s school and your workplace who can alert you if they notice your abuser or anything unusual.
- If your abuser contacts you, document the details. If they violated the restraining order, call the police or court right away.
At Saint Martha’s, we are always here to help you get to a safe place. We create personalized safety plans including exit plans to help you and your children leave safely. To speak to an advocate at the drop-in center, call (314) 487-2062 or through our 24/7 hotline (314) 533-1313.