Planning and Anticipation: Surviving Domestic Abuse and Violence

Leaving an abusive relationship is an emotionally jarring experience. Women often put off making such a wrenching decision in the belief that their partner will change or out of fear of a violent response if they leave. The decision becomes even more difficult if there are children involved.

Doing nothing often seems like the easier option, but it can be dangerous to remain if the abuse escalates to potentially lethal violence. If your partner is violent and unpredictable, having an escape plan can prevent a tragedy and make it easier to get away safely. Once you do leave, there are safety considerations that must factor into where you decide to live. If you find yourself in this situation, take advantage of the many resources that can help you stay safe and begin a happy, healthy new life.

If you’re a victim of violence, Passaic County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (PCDSVS) can give you the support you need to safely leave your abuser so you can start a new chapter in your life. Call our 24-hour hotline at (973) 881-1450 or by submitting our online contact form. All of our services are free and available to everyone.

Get away quickly

If you’re the victim of serial mental or physical abuse, take any threats against your life seriously and get away as quickly as you can. If an abuser believes they can harm you without resistance or fear of punishment, they may feel empowered to harm you seriously enough to cause lasting physical damage or death.

Being prepared for the worst means knowing how to identify the danger signs that they’re angry enough to use physical violence. Plan ahead for such an eventuality by preparing plausible excuses for leaving the house. If for some reason you can’t get away at that moment, find a safe part of your home you can retreat to and separate yourself from the situation. Make sure it’s a space with some means of escape, either a window or a door, and avoid the bathroom or kitchen, where an abuser could find a potential weapon like a knife.

Always make sure your car has gas and that it’s facing the street if parked in the driveway. If you have children, come up with a signal, either a word or phrase that tells them it’s time to leave right away and that will alert family or friends that you’re in danger. If possible, practice your escape plan to avoid confusion or a mistake.

What next?

Call 911 right away if you’re afraid your abuser may try to follow or find you. If you don’t have a safe location to go to (if possible, it should be a place your abuser doesn’t know about), contact your local domestic violence or sexual assault victim advocacy program. PCDSVS has a free hotline where you can speak to an advocate 24 hours a day by calling (973) 881-1450. Advocacy programs can provide a variety of services, including safe emergency housing, emotional support, advice guidance as to your next steps, and other valuable resources to help you find your way.

Once you’ve escaped, do NOT try to return to the scene. Even if you’re sure your abuser won’t be there, it’s not worth the risk to go back.

Finding a new home

When you’re ready to find a new home, remember that your privacy and anonymity are absolutely essential. Restraining orders are valuable and carry the weight of law, but they’re no guarantee that a dangerously violent individual won’t violate one if they are enraged or believes they can get away with it. They may have no concerns about violating a court’s order and may have no fear of the police.

Never list your phone number and be careful when texting or emailing because an abuser may be able to access your account. Don’t list a physical street address; use a post office box instead. Cancel bank accounts and credit cards as soon as possible, particularly if you and your abuser had joint accounts. Always keep a charged cell phone with you. If you see your abuser, call 911 immediately.

When looking for a new home, seek out the best prices and safest neighborhoods in your area. Online tools can simplify the home search process by showing a virtual map of homes for sale in the Paterson market as well as nearby schools and transportation options for any properties that catch your eye.

Seek counselling

Many abuse victims feel guilty or degraded after surviving a serious domestic abuse or violence situation. It’s important to talk with someone who can help you work through those feelings. Understanding how to overcome them is important for helping you move on confidently with your life. Remember, you’re the victim and have no reason to feel culpable for what’s happened to you.

Remember, the key to surviving a dangerous domestic abuse situation is to plan ahead. If you’re unwilling or unable to leave, establish an emergency plan and coordinate carefully if you have children. Perhaps most importantly, always err on the side of caution.