It may become so unsafe or impossible at home that you need to leave or have your abuser removed, or you may have decided to end the relationship. This can be a dangerous time for abused women, so advance planning may be helpful. Sometimes you may just need to get out in a hurry to avoid getting hurt. Here are some options you have if you find yourself in that situation.
Removing the Abuser:
You may have your abuser legally removed from the home rather than leave yourself. The courts have the power to do this when you can show it is necessary for the safety of yourself or your children. Contact your local domestic violence hotline or shelter for more information regarding this option.
You have the right to live in a home that is free of violence and abuse. Therefore, you have the right to leave home if your safety is threatened. When children are at risk of emotional or physical harm or of being taken from you, it is important to take them with you if possible. When no court order has been made giving someone else custody, you have the legal right to take your children with you (even if you are traveling out of state).
Although you may not yet be sure that you want to leave, it is a good idea to prepare in case you should decide in the future that you do want to go. Leaving is a process, and it can be temporary or permanent. The first thing you can do is prepare yourself to leave quickly should that become necessary. Have the following items hidden in a centralized location (if possible):
- Any money you can gather (try collecting coins for pay phones and bus fare)
- Extra keys for the car, house, or apartment
- A small bag with extra clothing for you and your children
- Sentimental valuables (photographs, jewelry, child's favorite toy...)
- These important documents:
- Copy of protection order (if you have one)
- Bankbooks, checkbooks
- Insurance policies
- Marriage license
- Divorce & Custody papers
- Abuser's date of birth
- Social Security numbers (abuser's, yours & children's)
- Passport or green card
- Other picture ID (driver's license, welfare ID card)
- List of important phone numbers (family, friends, local DV shelter)
Next, plan for where you would go if you leave. It is important to consider where you believe you will be most safe. Children may have a difficult time in a new environment, but they tend to adjust quickly. Do you have friends or family members who are supportive and whom you trust? If you choose to go to family/friends, be sure to tell them it is crucial that they do not tell anyone you are staying with them, especially your abusive partner. If possible, park your car in their garage. If this does not seem like a safe option, consider going to a hotel or a domestic violence shelter. If you go to a hotel, you may want to register under another name and park your car in an alternate location.
While you are planning to leave, you may be making many phone calls to domestic violence hotlines, shelters, or other places you do not want your abuser to know about. It is important to take the following steps to increase telephone safety when you are preparing to leave:
- To protect yourself if your abuser uses automatic redial, call time and temperature (or other safe number) immediately after dialing a domestic violence shelter or hotline (or another number which may be unsafe).
- To prevent your abuser from learning who called you by using *69 (if you received a potentially unsafe call -- from a shelter or hotline, for example), immediately call a friend or family member, and ask that person to call you back right away.
It is important to know that leaving is a dangerous time for women in abusive relationships. Domestic violence is about abusers wanting power and control over their partners, and if they feel that power and control is threatened, they may become violent. For this reason, it is generally not a good idea to announce to your abuser your plans to leave. It is best to leave at a time when your abuser is either gone from the house or sleeping. Only tell a very few trustworthy and supportive individuals where you have gone. Let them know they are not to share your whereabouts with anyone.
If you or someone you know is being affected by domestic violence, it is important to know that there are places where you can get help. There are currently 74 domestic violence programs in the state of Ohio that offer a wide range of services from general information on abuse to shelter and legal advocacy. Most of the programs have a 24-hour hotline where you can access information, get support, and find out more about local programs so you may begin to get the help you need and deserve.
What to Expect from a Shelter
Because we know that leaving is a dangerous time for abused women and their children, domestic violence shelters exist to protect women and provide safe refuge. Usually, the location of the shelter is confidential, and no one except shelter staff and residents knows the building's location. Not only do shelters provide safety to survivors, but they usually offer a place where women can begin to regain control over their lives.
Shelters are usually in houses with a living and dining room, a kitchen, and a number of bedrooms. Depending on the size of your family, you may have to share a room with others. The residents usually share the cooking and cleaning.
Normally, there will be an advocate who will help you and your children develop a safety plan and work towards meeting your basic needs. All programs have a set of rules to which residents must adhere (e.g. shared living responsibilities, maintaining secrecy of shelter location, curfew, etc.). Check with your local shelter for individual guidelines.
The amount of time you may stay in a shelter varies from program to program. Generally, a 4-6 week stay is optimum in most shelters. Shelters may be full due to overwhelming demand. If this is the case, hotline workers can help you find alternative options (possibly shelters in neighboring communities).
For a shelter program near you, please click here for the listing. For any shelter information not listed here, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
When Shelter is Not an Option
Though shelter is the most well known aspect of domestic violence programs, it is not the only one. Sometimes women do find a safe alternative to shelter, or they simply do not wish to utilize shelter for a number of reasons. Although you may not want to use a shelter, you can still call a shelter hotline for information on non-residential services offered by that shelter as well as other community resources. Some of these services include:
- Legal Advocacy is often available, providing you with an advocate to give legal information, help you navigate legal systems, and guide you through the court process.
- Support Groups are an excellent way to access support and get information from other women who are faced with similar situations.
- Individual Counseling for survivors of domestic violence is offered by many programs and allows you to meet one-on-one with a trained/licensed therapist. Some programs offer this service to children who have been affected by domestic violence as well. It is important to note that these programs generally do not offer couples counseling because domestic violence is not a couple's problem -- it is the abuser's problem. Couples counseling can be a very dangerous situation for victims of domestic violence.
- Batterer Intervention Programs are usually set up in a group format and involve abusers working to identify the dynamics of domestic violence and learn anger management. While longer programs have a better chance of being effective, batterer intervention programs in general have very low success rates.