Safety planning a must for victims of domestic violence

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005

Special to the Journal

Statistics indicate that victims of domestic violence go back to their abusers a number of times before they finally muster the courage and develop the resources they need to stay away.

“That fact alone makes safety planning one of the most important things a victims of domestic violence can do,” says Karen Sellers, executive director of the Family Sunshine Center.

“As long as people keep calling our crisis line, entering and leaving our shelter, and continue making front page news as victims of domestic violence or child abuse, then

our job is far from complete.

We must never let down our guard in our efforts to protect victims of family violence, and we must also help them understand the importance of taking measures to protect themselves and their families.

Developing a safety plan—identifying those measures and provisions they will need to successfully flee in an emergency situation—is a must for individuals being battered and abused,” Sellers says.

A safety plan while a person remains in an abusive situation is one necessity.

A plan for safety after a person has left an abusive relationship is another.

Both plans are outlined by Community and Senior Services of Los Angeles County in its publication, It Shouldn’t Hurt to Go Home:

The Domestic Violence Handbook.

According to the handbook, “If you are living with the person who is battering you, here are some things you can do to ensure your and your children’s safety.”

n Have important phone numbers memorized.

n Keep change for pay phones with you at all times.

n If you can, open your own bank account.

n Stay in touch with friends.

n Rehearse your escape plan until you know it by heart.

n Leave a set of car keys, extra money, a change of clothes and a copy of

important documents (the family’s birth certificates, children’s school and medical records, bank books, welfare identification, passports or green cards, social security cards, lease agreements or mortgage payment books, insurance papers, important addresses and telephone numbers, etc.) with a trusted friend or relative.

The handbook lists the following safety measures for victims of domestic violence no longer living with the abuser.

n Change the locks on the doors.

n Install as many security devices as possible in your home.

n Inform neighbors that your former partner is not welcome on the premises.

n Make sure the people who care for your children are very clear about who does and who does not have permission to pick up your children.

n Obtain a restraining order.

n Let your co-workers know about the situation.

n Avoid the stores, banks, and businesses you once used when you were living with the batterer.

n Seek counseling.

“Our agency, and other domestic violence shelters around the state, is here for victims of domestic violence when they fear for their lives, and are tired of being victimized.

“We first provide them with a safe place to live, and then begin helping them establish a plan for independent living and personal healing through counseling and other supports,” said Marjorie Baker, Family Sunshine Center program director.

For further information about domestic violence, to schedule a speaker for your church group or civic club or to receive services, call the Family Sunshine Center at 334.206.2100 or call toll-free 1.800.650.6522.