If you decide at this time to stay with your abusive partner, there are some things you can try to make your situation better and to protect yourself and your children.
- Contact the domestic violence/sexual assault program in your area. They can provide emotional support, peer counseling, safe emergency housing, information, and other services while you are in the relationship, as well as if you decide to leave.
- Build as strong support system as your partner will allow. Whenever possible, get involved with people and activities outside your home and encourage your children to do so.
- Be kind to yourself! Develop a positive way of looking at yourself and talking to yourself. Use affirmations to counter the negative comments you get from the abuser. Allow yourself time for doing this you enjoy.
- Make an escape plan. Since it is likely you will be abused again, having an escape plan can make the difference between being severely injured or killed and avoiding such a tragedy. A plan may include:
- Learn non-violent means of disciplining your children. Since children often model adult behavior, it is very important you teach your children non-violent problem solving. There are resources in your community that can support you and provide you with suggestions.
- Be honest with your children. They are probably very aware that something is not right. Help them to understand that hitting someone is wrong and that they are not responsible for the abuser’s behavior. They need to know that staying does not mean the violence is okay.
- A place to hide a set of car keys.
- A hidden emergency fund. Even if you can only manage to save one or two dollars at a time, begin building an emergency fund for the time when you may need some cash to get away.
- Pack a suitcase with a couple changes of clothes for yourself and your family and leave it with a trusted friend or hide it where your partner won’t find it. If possible, include copies of birth certificates, social security cards, and other legal papers for everyone in the family who will flee. You may need them. Also gather financial records, e.g., rent, mortgage, utility receipts, insurance cards, and checking and/or savings account books. If packing a suitcase isn’t possible, fill one drawer of your dresser with items you will need.
- Develop a plan for calling the police in an emergency. Older children might be coached to get to a phone or get to the neighbors if you cannot reach the phone. Some women even work out signals with understanding neighbors.
- Know where you can go and how you will get there in case you have to leave suddenly.
- Make arrangements for sheltering your pets.
- When you are in immediate danger, get out! You can always return the next day if you wish. Planning for your safety and recognizing your options can help you protect yourself and your children. The domestic violence/sexual assault program in your area can offer you assistance with many of these services and volunteer advocates are available 24 hours a day.
Remember that you can change your mind and decide to leave at any time. Choosing to stay may seem the best option to you now, but if that changes, do not hesitate or feel guilty. You have a right to change your mind!
– Adapted from Breaking the Silence booklet, Nebraska Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition