I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with a lady for a while now about her living and possibly leaving an abusive relationship. But while she doesn’t want the abuse to stop, she’s struggling with the notion or idea that in order for it to stop, she may have to end the relationship. Like most people, she wants the abuse to end but not the marriage hence why it can take so many tries before someone feels able to finally make the break for good.
In a relationship that is struggling but is not abusive, the ending part of when things aren’t going well can go on for some time. I’ve heard so many people say that in hindsight, they should have ended it sooner. That’s not a surprise, ending a relationship is tough. There is a lot of grieving and letting go and untangling very complicated emotional ties.
When the relationship is abusive however, the luxury of time to grieve and pull apart is risky.
That means, learning how to be as safe as you can be whether you’re still in the relationship or you’re out of it becomes very important.
Below are some suggestions around trying to keep yourself safe in your home.
Creating A Safer Environment
There are many things a person can do to increase his/her safety. It may not be possible to do everything at once, but safety measures can be added step by step. Here are a few suggestions.
If you are living with your abusive partner or spouse:
Get your emergency escape plan in order and review it often.
Tell someone you trust about the abuse.
Create a telephone list with numbers of local police, the nearest shelter(s), assaulted women’s help line, crisis help line, family members, counselors and children’s friends.
Know where you’re going. Make arrangements with friends or family so that you can stay with them if necessary; or go to the nearest women’s shelter, hospital emergency department, or police station.
Try to predict the next likely violent episode and make plans for the children to be sent to friends or family.
Teach the children to let you know when someone is at the door, before answering it.
Teach your children how to use the telephone (including your cellular phone if you have one) to contact the police and the fire department. Talk to them about 911, and when it is appropriate to call 911.
Ensure your house number (“911 Number”) is clearly visible for emergency responders.
Teach your children how to make a collect call to you and to a special friend if your partner takes the children.
Plan your emergency exits. Teach your children, and know them well yourself.
Teach your children their own safety plan(s).
Make sure all weapons and ammunition are hidden or removed from your home.
If you are not living with your abusive partner:
Change the locks on the doors, windows and mailbox.
Install a peep-hole in the door.
Either disconnect the automatic garage door opener, or change the code or frequency.
Teach your children not to answer the door by themselves, and to tell you when someone is at the door.
Keep your restraining order and any other court orders with you at all times. Ensure you have the most current orders. Consider adding your workplace/school to your restraining order and supplying a copy to your employer.
Make sure the school, daycare and police have a copy of all court orders, including restraining orders, custody and access orders, as well as a picture of the abusive (ex)partner.
If you have call display on your phone, be careful about who can get access to the stored numbers (eg., the last number dialed). Be careful who you call as well, or block your number so that your new number does not appear on someone else’s call display if you do not want the abuser to obtain your new phone number.
Have your telephone number unlisted, as it is harder to track when it is unlisted. Again, block your number when calling out.
Consider getting a cell phone and pre-programming numbers of people to call. Keep your cell phone charged at all times.
Consider rearranging your furniture, as this is something your (ex)partner may not anticipate, and cause him/her to bump into it and give you warning that he/she is in the house. Also, put your kitchen utensils and knife block in the cupboards so that they are not as accessible.
If you live in an apartment, check the floor clearly when getting off the elevator. Look in mirrors and be aware of doorways in hallways. Always be aware of your surroundings.
If you arrive home and something looks out of the ordinary, do not enter your residence; call the police for assistance.
Consider purchasing rope ladders to be used for escape from upper floors.
If you have a balcony, consider putting wire around it.
Replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors if possible, and keep doors and windows locked.
Consider the advantages of getting a guard dog.
Install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to your house, and ensure it is high enough so that it would be difficult to disable it. Consider installing security systems, including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors and old hockey sticks in windows/doors that are sliders.
Document all contact, or attempted contacts from your (ex)partner. Keep all e-mails, voice mail messages, Facebook messages, etc. in case the police need them for evidence.
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