If you’re stuck in an abusive domestic situation and have your personal reasons for refraining to report the incidents to the police, there are things you can do to keep yourself safe while you’re still living under the same roof as the perpetrator. Domestic abuse and violence is all linked to control – your abuser wants to exert control over you in every way possible and the physical violence is only one part of it. Emotional abuse can take on many different forms but they all stem from the abuser’s need to control every aspect of your life including but not limited to, your clothing, your social circles (real and online), your whereabouts and any correspondence you might be having with others.
If you are currently unable to leave or report the situation, there are several things you can do to keep safe in your home and prevent another violent incident from happening. It is extremely sad that survivors have to resort to this type of thought-pattern, but it is a way find comfort in knowing that, should worse come to worse, you and your kids are prepared for a quick getaway, and that you have done everything you possibly can to prevent another attack. Just know, that the Scottish Women’s Aid can form a part of your safety plan – you can call them at any hour of the day to seek out legal advice and guidance on what to do in case of an emergency.
Your safety plan should start in your own home. You know your abuser and their patterns better than anyone else and can probably anticipate when things might escalate based on their behaviours or findings. For example, if your partner strictly controls who you go out with, when and where, and has a tendency to check your phone, leaving a message from a new contact open could set them off. Leave no traces around the home of anything that might set your abuser off. Follow this helpful checklist to ensure you have covered the traces that are most triggering to your abuser:
- If you have been looking into legal information or articles on domestic violence online, be sure to delete your browser history by clicking Ctrl and the letter “h” at the same time. Click here to follow the steps on how to delete your browser history.
- Keep a hidden “burner” phone – i.e. a pre-paid phone that does not require a contract – for private messages to your friends and family and moments of emergency.
- If your abuser is known to use weapons, hide knifes, guns and anything else that could be used as a dangerous weapon to the best of your ability.
- Inform trusted neighbours, friends and family of the situation and agree on a secret codeword you can scream or use if you are able to make a phone call. It will alert them to call the police.
If violence is imminent and there is no escaping it, protect yourself as good as you can by shielding your most vulnerable body parts – especially your head – with your hands and arms and make yourself as small as humanly possible. Always make sure to park in an area you can quickly back out of and make sure your tank is full; it is even suggested to keep one or several doors unlocked for quick entry. Learn the Scottish Women’s Aid helpline by heart so you can contact them immediately after driving off, they will be able to advise you on your next step and can arrange a temporary shelter for you. Though your instincts might tell you to drive straight to your family or friend’s home, it is wiser to stay somewhere completely unknown to your abuser to stop them from tracking you down. Inform your friends and family of your situation and let them know you are safe and will be in touch with them shortly; tell them to alert the police immediately, should the perpetrator show up on their doorstep.
You can spread your belongings out in different, inconspicuous backpacks and handbags such as the ones you might use daily, like your children’s school bags or maxi purses you use regularly and wouldn’t raise suspicion. You don’t need much, just the essentials – some money, a change of clothes and some toys or books to keep the children calm during this time of emotional turmoil. Spreading things out over several bags will be less obvious than trying to hide a big suitcase somewhere and can be easier to grab on your way out when positioned correctly.
Once you have arrived at the help crisis center or a temporary shelter, experienced volunteers and trained professionals will sort you out with the essentials and help you get settled.