I recently spoke with a woman that told me she was concerned about the rage and unpredictability of her husband. He had recently been laid off from work and turned to alcohol on a nightly basis to cope with his stress. Their arguments have become more heated and he recently punched a hole in a wall in front of their children. She described several red flags that lead me to ask, “do you have an escape plan?”
An escape plan is just that–a way to flee the area safely and get help. There are many predictors of violence that can put this plan in motion before you become a victim. You know your partner best, so follow your instincts. The above situation presented a few red flags that I have seen countless times in domestic violence cases:
- Heated arguments (outside the norm)
- Destructive behavior, punching walls, throwing and breaking objects, etc. (anger displacement)
- Arguing, swearing, and damaging property in front of children
- Alcohol or substance abuse
Here are some tips to help you or a loved form an escape plan…
Know your abuser’s red flags. Be on alert for signs and clues that your abuser is getting upset and may explode in anger or violence. Come up with several believable reasons you can use to leave the house (both during the day and at night) if you sense trouble brewing.
Identify safe areas of the house. Know where to go if your abuser attacks or an argument starts. Avoid small, enclosed spaces without exits (such as closets or bathrooms) or rooms with weapons (such as the kitchen). If possible, head for a room with a phone and an outside door or window.
Come up with a code word. Establish a word, phrase, or signal you can use to let your children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers know that you’re in danger and the police should be called.
Make an escape plan
Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Keep the car fueled up and facing the driveway exit, with the driver’s door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get it quickly. Have emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents stashed in a safe place (at a friend’s house, for example).
Practice escaping quickly and safely. Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser. If you have children, have them practice the escape plan also.
Make and memorize a list of emergency contacts. Ask several trusted individuals if you can contact them if you need a ride, a place to stay, or help contacting the police. Memorize the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline.
Extra cellphone. A charged cellphone, even without service has the ability to call 911. It is not uncommon for an abuser to damage phone lines in the home or to take primary cellphones.
Call the police. As soon as practical, call the police and report the incident.
If You Stay
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 a 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 things you enjoy.
As always, if there is an emergency, call 911. Crime Survivors is also available to answer questions and provide guidance. If anyone reading this blog has additional tips, please respond so other readers can benefit from your experience.
About the Author- Cameron Knauerhaze is the former CSI Board President and current member of the CSI Council. He is a Orange County, CA Police Sergeant with 16 years experience in patrol, investigations, and community policing. He has a Master’s Degree in Communications from Gonzaga University.