When spouses, intimate partners or dates use physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment or stalking to control the behavior of their partners, they are committing domestic violence. Victims need to understand that they are not responsible for the abuse. One does not deserve to be abused no matter what the circumstances may be.

It is important for victims to admit to themselves that they are being abused or that they are in an abusive relationship. Even if a battered person is not ready to leave the abuser, recognition and validation of the situation are important steps.

Victims of domestic abuse or domestic violence should talk to family, friends, neighbors or co-workers about the domestic violence they experience. It may be helpful to call a domestic violence hotline for information, referrals and support.

Develop a Safety Plan

When domestic violence occurs, it is helpful to have a plan to deal with an emergency or crisis. It is important for individuals to think about ways to provide a safer environment, both for themselves and their children. Victims should plan how to get out of their home quickly and safely, so they may do so if violence begins. This plan should consider very fine details such as where to keep keys, a purse and an extra set of clothes for a rapid departure.

People may want to discuss code words for children or friends so they can call the police for help. It is important that children know how to use the phone to call the police or fire department. Figuring out where to go after leaving the home and how to obtain the greatest safety at work or school is also important. Refer below for a sample safety plan.

Safety During a Violent Situation

Victims cannot always avoid violence. To increase safety, it is important to plan what action to take during a violent situation. What will you do?

  • If I have to communicate with my partner and suspect that we may have an argument, I will try to move to a space that is lowest risk, such as ________________________. (Try to avoid arguments in rooms without an access to the outside or in rooms where injury is more likely such as the bathroom, the kitchen or on the stairs.)
  • I will use __________ as my code word with my children/family/friends so they can call for help should violence ensue.
  • I will tell the following people about my situation and request they call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my home.
    1. _____________
    2. _____________
    3. _____________
    4. _____________
  • In a situation where I need to exit quickly, I will leave by using ______________ (the back door, stair well, elevator or window).
  • I will keep my purse and car keys ready and put them________________ so that I can leave quickly.
  • When I leave my home, I will go______________________________________.

Safety When Preparing to Leave

Safety is extremely important when preparing to leave the abuser. Leaving home must be done with a careful plan to increase safety. What will you do if you decide to leave home?

  • I will leave copies of important documents, an extra set of keys, money and extra clothes with ____________________, so that I can leave quickly.
  • I will have the following important phone numbers accessible to myself and children:
  • Contact Number __________________ ____________ __________________ ____________ __________________ ____________ __________________ ____________
  • I will check with ____________________ and____________________ to see if I could stay with them in an emergency situation.
  • I will seek shelter by calling my local domestic violence program at (___)____________.
  • When I leave, I will need to take: — identification (driver’s license) — Social Security cards for all family members — birth certificates for all family members — school and vaccination records for children — medication — medical records — divorce/custody papers — work permits/green cards/passports — money/check book/ATM card — house and/or car keys — lease/rental agreement — other items: ____________________ ____________________

Safety in My Home

Safety is important even if the abuser does not live with you. What will you do to ensure your own safety and your children’s safety?

  • I will change the locks on the following doors as soon as possible:_______________, _______________ _______________.
  • I will install a security system.
  • I will install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my home.
  • I will change my phone number to an unlisted number.
  • I will teach my children to _____________________________ when I am not home.
  • I will inform ____________________ and ____________________ that my partner no longer resides with me and they should call the police if he/she is observed near my home.

Call for Help

It may be necessary for victims as well as friends, relatives or neighbors of victims to call the police for help. People should not be afraid to ask for immediate help; domestic violence is a crime. Sometimes calling the police may be enough to make the abuser think twice before using violence in the future. When someone calls the police, they are asking for immediate protection to stop the abuse. The police will investigate the call and may arrest the batterer, make a written report of the abuse and provide the victim with referral information for domestic violence services in the area.

Seek Medical Treatment

Many injuries require medical treatment. Victims who have been physically or sexually abused should see a physician for complete medical evaluation. A detailed medical report that documents the victim’s injuries may be helpful in a legal situation. If possible, the physician should take color photographs of the injuries and place them in a sealed envelope.

Seek Community Help

There are many services available to help families struggling with domestic violence. There are various domestic violence hotlines and programs in the community. Such resources offer counseling, emergency shelter and referrals. Victims may seek support through their church, local police department or domestic violence agencies. The phone book provides the numbers of the state or local domestic violence agencies. For hotline numbers, one may refer to the “Organizations and Resources” section.