Dorchen A. Leidholdt
One of the most important steps that a victim of domestic abuse must do is to create a “safety plan” in case an emergency arises. A safety plan is a “plan of action” that is developed in response to certain situations and needs, which require immediate action on the part of the abused and her/his family. Safety plans can be made for a variety of different situations, for dealing with an emergency, such as when physical assault occurs, or if you are continuing to live with a spouse who has been abusive, or for protecting yourself and your family after you are no longer in the relationship. You can make a plan yourself or contact a domestic violence program, social worker or attorney and ask them to assist you to develop a plan. If you decide to put the plan on paper and write out the plan, be sure to keep it in a place where your partner cannot find it, but that is accessible to you in an emergency.
Whether you are living with your spouse or you are no longer in the relationship, whether you have used the court system (or intend to use it in the future) or have called the police, the following suggestions can guide you in planning for your future safety before making “life” decisions.
Please use the following suggestions only as a guide in planning your future safety:
Keep a written record and diary of all instances of abuse writing down dates and times if possible.
Try to document, using photos or doctor/medical records, any instance of physical or psychological abuse/trauma. (Keep a small memo book handy to jot down occurrences of abuse, violations of custody or visitation agreements).
Plan ahead. Think about ways to make you and your children safer. Develop a range of options and strategies for the time your spouse is violent. If you need assistance in doing that, call a hotline,
Call a hotline for support and resources; memorize the phone number. Hotlines, as well as shelters, are confidential and guarantee your anonymity. Please see list in Manual of helpful numbers.
Keep originals or copies of important papers; (see following pages for suggested items to keep in your “safety package”) such as birth certificates, children’s’ school records and medical records (including immunization records), medical prescriptions, bank records, immigration papers, etc. in a safe, accessible place.
Keep some money, important phone numbers (your doctor, a lawyer, a friend you could stay with) and an extra set of house and car keys in a place that is accessible, only to you, 24 hours a day.
Try to develop a support network of friends who can be available when you need help.
Tell a friend or relative, for example, of the situation you are facing. Tell your Rav, but get assurances that he will keep your conversation and information confidential. Enlist the help of your physician, a social worker, or a local Jewish family agency.
- Keep important phone numbers for you and your children readily available (e.g., police, hotline, friends, shelter).
- Decide who you would like to ask someone else to call the police for you if he/she hears suspicious noises coming from your home.
- Teach your children to call the police in case of emergency.
- Identify a code word that you can use with your friends, family and/or children to alert them to call for help.
- Keep your Order of Protection near you at all times. Consider providing a copy of the Order of Protection to the local police, neighbor, friend, employer, religious advisor, children’s school and childcare provider.
- Try to save money separately for an emergency and consider developing a plan for your future financial needs.
- When you think your partner is about to become abusive, try to go to a room where there are fewer things that can be used as weapons. Stay out of the kitchen, bathroom, garage or basement, as these places tend to be places for greater danger and/or entrapment.
- Use the various technologies to protect your telephone and Internet privacy. Some district attorney’s offices provide a cellphone if you cannot afford one.
- Consider where you can go if you need a place to stay for a while (e.g., family, friends, a local shelter).
- Have a plan for getting out of your home in a hurry (e.g., door, window, elevator, or stairwell that you will be able to use in order to get out safely).
- Keep your purse, cell phone, extra set of car keys, cash, credit cards, checkbooks, or ATM card, and some spare change to make a telephone call in a place where you can grab them quickly.
- Always keep your cell phone charged.
- Keep some money, several changes of clothes and important documents hidden in a place that your partner won’t find them (e.g., by a neighbor, in the trunk of your car if he doesn’t have access to it, a safe deposit box).
- Take increased measures to secure your home (change alarm code, change locks [with Rabbinical permission], get a dog).
- Consider whether you need to change your daily routine to decrease the possibility of being followed or stalked.
The following suggestions will help you after violence erupts:
- If you have been physically assaulted, call the police. Also call Hatzalah or Shomrim. They may be able to help you obtain a cell phone if you do not already have one. This is the best way to protect yourself and your children while encouraging the batterer to seek help. Keep a record of the police domestic violence incident report.
- Get and preserve Medical Records.
- Call the police to report physical abuse and inform them that you have physical evidence of the abuse. Have someone take photos of your injuries and make sure there is a date on the photo. In addition, call your Rav and inform him of the physical abuse.
- If you wish to receive an Order of Protection, please consult with your Rav before going to court to avoid halachic issues that may arise at a later time or being classified as a “moredet” (a rebellious wife). However, in cases where the police have been summoned to the home, and the police observe evidence of abuse, an Order of Protection will be issued against the abuser by the police regardless.
- Call a hotline or shelter. A number of agencies serve Orthodox women. The first step is making the call.
- Make arrangements ahead of time to stay with family or friends the next time your spouse becomes violent.
- If you leave, hide or destroy anything that might give the abuser a clue as to where you are (i.e., appointment books, calendars, phone and address books, doodles, scraps of paper, notebook). Do not tell people where you are going.
- Enlist the help of neighbors. Let them know they can call the police if they hear fearful noises or see your spouse hanging around your home.
- Do something for yourself outside of your home (e.g., take a class, volunteer at a hospital, nursing home, etc.). Engaging in a safe activity will make you feel better.
- Join a support group for battered women. To find out about support groups for abused Orthodox women, please call (718) 435-5700.
Disclaimer: Please be advised that devising a safety plan is an important undertaking that may help abused women achieve greater safety. But it is important to remember that no plan can ever guarantee a person’s safety. Incidents of domestic violence are very difficult to predict and to prevent.
DISCLAIMER FOR WRITERS/BLOGGERS:
The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of Kol-Isha.org. The articles have been reprinted without editorial input or comment.