Say NO to Domestic Violence! Don’t be a VICTIM – Don’t be a BYSTANDER!
Part 2: Developing An Action Plan For Safety
Domestic abuse and violence is an insidious part of our society prevalent at all socio-economic levels. In any type of abuse, a woman is marginalized and damaged as a human being. In most cases the abuser is her husband, partner, or male relative. It’s not something that anyone talks about because of the shame and fear that the woman feels – for herself and her children. This series brings out some aspects of how to deal with abuse. Don’t be a VICTIM! The sad fact is that often many of us are BYSTANDERS to the abuse we know or suspect is happening close to us. Don’t be a bystander!
Part 1 of this series helps one understand some aspects of domestic violence and Part 2 helps one build an action plan for safety.
In The Short Term
Get Medical Attention: If you or your child is hurt then get medical attention immediately. Some times the injuries may be internal and not visible on the surface. Make sure that you keep all the medical records safe. In certain states, health care providers are required to take pictures of the physical results of the abuse and keep them on file, and also to speak to you in private about how the injuries were sustained.
File a Police Report: As a victim of abuse, you have the right to file a police complaint. Ask them to take pictures of the damage done to you or your property. If there are reasonable grounds to suspect domestic violence, then they can proceed against the abuser with criminal charges.
Work with Witnesses: If there are any witnesses to the abuse – those who directly saw or heard the incident – collect their contact information and get their acceptance to testify to the authorities. Ask them to write down what they saw and heard, sign and date their statement. If police come on the scene, direct them to the witnesses for questioning and taking their statement.
Develop an Evacuation/Safety Plan: Have an evacuation or safety plan thought through in advance and make the necessary preparations for it. This includes: decide on a safe place that you and your children can go to; how you can make a quick exit from the scene of abuse; what will you need to carry with you (car keys, money, credit cards, clothes, documents and so on); whom can you call on for immediate assistance, how you can access them, are they likely to be in town; what they need to do to support you and so on. Aspects of the safety plan include: knowing how to diffuse the abuser’s risk of violence; teaching children what they need to do to reach safety; and, informing neighbors and your support network of signs they need to watch out for to alert the police.
Guard Your Computer or Smartphone: It is important that you password protect your computer or smartphone so that the abuser does not have access to the calls that you make or know the resources that you might be accessing through your computer. This might include the record of abuse that you might be documenting. Try and use a secure computer from another location and password protect your data. Store such information on the cloud so that you can access it from any remote system, and ensure that the passwords that you use are not common ones that your abuser might know or can guess – for example, the name of your dog or child.
In the Medium Term
Develop a Network of Support and Help: Many victims keep the abuse a secret at least in the initial stages. However, those around you will often have a sense of what is going on. The first thing one needs to do is to reduce the amount of isolation that you find yourself in and start developing a network of support and help by sharing what is going on. Select those who will understand what you are going through. Develop your strength and a protective cover by talking with others moving away from being isolated.
Developing other Interests: This may not be easy because the abuser will not want to lose his control over you. However, if possible getting out and taking a class, joining a health club, or doing volunteer work might help you start feeling better about yourself and developing a supportive network. You need to decide if these options are possible for you with respect to your safety.
Join a Support Group: If there is a support group in your area, then being part of it will help you develop resilience, and give you access to information and resources that you may not have on your own. An abuse hotline can help you identify a group close to you.
Document the Abuse: Documenting the abuse is essential to create a trail that will assist you in getting legal protection for you and your children. A personal log must include the date, time, location, and duration of the incident. It must detail the damage caused including pictures, medical reports, witnesses, emotional trauma caused and its impact, and what was said and done to you. Document every incident starting with the most recent one, and record as much information that you can remember. This can be a difficult experience and process but it is essential for your safety and that of your children especially if you will need protection from the police and the legal system. This log must be kept in a safe and secure place where the abuser will not find them. This is your personal property and the abuser has no right to it. While this is difficult, it’s important to take pictures of visible injuries or damage done to property during the abuse. Keep a photographic trail of this over time and keep it in a safe space so that your abuser cannot access or destroy them.
In the Long Term
Leaving the Relationship: Leaving an abusive relationship can be hard because of cultural or religious reasons. Religious teachings are often thwarted to hold the woman in an abusive relationship. It’s also harder for women in some cultures to disturb the cultural boat by thinking of leaving. Perhaps, the most difficult reason for not leaving is the victim’s hope that the abuser will change – and because she loves him. Thinking about children’s well being is another limiting factor. Other reasons include: guilt, fear of being blamed by family, financial insecurity, no place to go and so on. Be aware that the moment you take the decision to leave the risk of violence increases as the abuser senses his loss of control. This is the time to have your evacuation/safety plan in place.
Don’t be a Victim! And, Don’t be a bystander! There are steps that YOU can take, or encourage a victim to take to stop domestic violence. Working with a counselor is one such step. If you would like to talk to someone who can support you in this difficult situation, then please reach out in complete confidence to us on http://talkitover.in/support
Bressert, S. (2016). How to deal with domestic violence. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/lib/steps-to-address-domestic-violence/
California Attorney General’s Office. (2002). Domestic violence handbook: A survivor’s guide Retrieved from https://learners.calsouthern.edu/common/file.aspx?form=syllabus_resource&id=77236
Erie County Ohio. (2016). Domestic Violence: Developing your support system. Retrieved from http://www.eriecounty.oh.gov/departments-and-agencies/social-resources/victim-assistance/domestic-violence/education-about-domestic-violence/strategies-for-dealing-with-domestic-violence/developing-your-support-system/
Lifeline Information Service. (2016). Domestic violence tooklit. Retrieved from https://www.lifeline.org.au/…/Domestic Violence Tool Kit%2…