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What domestic violence victims need to know before leaving an abuser

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SAN ANTONIO – While it's up to domestic violence victims to decide to leave their abuser, experts say a plan is crucial. The San Antonio Police Department tells victims they need a personal safety plan.

Here are their tips:

SAFETY DURING AN EXPLOSIVE INCIDENT

  • If there is an argument, try to be in a room or area where you have access to an exit. Try to stay away from the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom or anywhere else where weapons might be available.
  • Practice how to get out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, elevator or stairwell would be best.
  • Have a packed bag ready and keep it at a relative’s or friend’s home in order to leave quickly.
  • Identify one or more neighbors you can tell about the violence and ask that they call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home.
  • Devise a code word to use with your children, family, friends and neighbors when you need the police.
  • Decide and plan where you will go if you have to leave home (even if you don’t think you will need to).
  • Use your own instincts and judgment. If the situation is very dangerous, consider giving the abuser what he wants to calm him down. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
  • Always remember – YOU DON’T DESERVE TO BE HIT OR THREATENED!

SAFETY WHEN PREPARING TO LEAVE

  • Open a checking/savings account and/or a credit card in your own name to start to establish or increase your independence.
  • Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents, extra medicines and clothes with someone you trust so you can leave quickly.
  • Determine who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you some money.
  • Keep the shelter or hotline phone number close at hand and keep some change or a calling card on you at all times for emergency phone calls.
  • Have a safe place to leave your pets.
  • Review your safety plan as often as possible in order to plan the safest way to leave your batterer. REMEMBER – LEAVING YOUR BATTERER IS THE MOST DANGEROUS TIME.

SAFETY IN YOUR OWN HOME

  • Change the locks on your doors as soon as possible. Buy additional locks and safety devices to secure your windows.
  • Discuss a safety plan with your children for when you are not with them.
  • Inform your children’s school, daycare, etc., about who has permission to pick up your children.
  • Inform neighbors and your landlord that your partner no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see him near your home.
  • If you have left the abuser, do not call the abuser from your home. This may give the abuser the opportunity to find out where you live.
  • Request and unlisted/unpublished number from your telephone company.

SAFETY WITH A PROTECTIVE ORDER

  • Keep your protective order on you at all times.
  • Have you included your pets in you protective order?
  • Call the police if your partner breaks the protective order.
  • Think of alternate ways to keep safe if the police do not respond right away.
  • Inform family, friends, neighbors and your physician or health care provider that you have a protective order in effect.

SAFETY ON THE JOB AND IN PUBLIC

  • Decide who at work you will inform of your situation. This should include office or building security. Provide a picture of your batterer if possible.
  • Arrange to have an answering machine, caller ID or trusted friend or relative screen your telephone calls if possible.
  • Devise a safety plan for when you leave work. Have someone escort you to your car or bus and wait until you are safely en route. Vary your routes to go home. Think about what you would do if something happens while going home (i.e., in your car, on the bus, etc.).

YOUR SAFETY AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH

  • If you are thinking of returning to a potentially abusive situation, discuss an alternative plan with someone you trust.
  • If you have to communicate with your partner, determine the safest way to do so.
  • Have positive thoughts about yourself and be assertive with others about your needs. Read books, articles and poems to help you feel stronger.
  • Decide who you can call to talk freely and openly to give you the support you need. Maybe a support group would be helpful.