One very common problem that happens in many families is domestic violence. A friend came to my home this evening and this is exactly the situation she is facing. The situation, as it often does, didn't suddenly happen this evening, it had been growing and developing over quite a period of time. Was she prepared to take action when it got to be too much? No.
Everyone should be prepared for domestic violence--it can happen to men or women or teenagers, it can develop in a long term relationship or a relationship that only began a few weeks ago, it can be a short burst of intimidation or a full-fledged physical/emotional/psychological attack. Here's how to be prepared for this type of situation:
- Know if you are being subjected to domestic violence. In our happy world, people often overlook or explain away clear signs of domestic violence. Here's a check list.
- EVERYONE should have a secret emergency fund stashed away. Many people stay in bad situations because they simply don't have the cash to fund a get away.
- Develop a support system. Friends, relatives, and advocates you can depend on are very helpful, especially in an emergency situation.
- Have an escape plan: where will you go, what will you take with you (BOB, valuables, passport, medical/financial/other records, prescriptions, etc), how will you get there, etc.
- Be as self supporting as possible. Get a part time job, sell things on EBay, continue your education...all of these things will help you get on your feet more quickly once you leave the situation.
- Leave a paper trail. Police reports, hospital records, and restraining orders all create a trail of the events that are happening to you. Keeping a journal and documenting everything pertaining to your case can also be beneficial.
- Keep a low profile if needed. The perpetrator showed bad behaviour in the first place which is what got you into this situation so imagine how they will react when you take action to stop the abuse. You may need to switch towns, switch jobs, get a different car, change your cell number, and take other precautions to ensure your safety. Check out www.howtobeinvisible.com for some excellent advice on low profile living.
- Realize that cell phone records, a GPS device attached to your car, credit card records, and information provided via the grapevine can lead your abuser right to you. Take steps such as having your car inspected for a GPS device, using a pre-paid cell phone, and using cash instead of credit to cover your tracks.
- If you stay in the home and the perpetrator leaves, take steps to make the home as secure as possible (change the locks, install steel doors, put in a security system, have a cell phone to call for help if the phone line gets cut, etc).
- Take steps to protect yourself: learn karate, carry Mace, learn how to use and carry a firearm, inform your boss and the kid's school about your situation (they should institute a domestic violence protection plan for you and your kids), etc.
- Use the law to the fullest extent. File for divorce, file for a restraining order (it won't protect you per se however it shows your intent), cancel all joint credit cards, call the police if necessary, file charges...basically bring the wrath of the legal system down on the perpetrators head.
- Deal with the psychological impact of the situation (ie: rebuild your self esteem and confidence, get counseling if needed, find a support group either in person or online, etc).
As you can see, many of the preparedness tips for domestic violence are the same for any bad situation. Knowing how to protect yourself and having the means to do so will pay off in the long run no matter the type/severity of the situation.