The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence officially states that an average of 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 4 men experience severe domestic physical violence. They have also concluded that 90% of children exposed to domestic abuse become eyewitnesses to this violence.
The mandatory lockdowns to avoid the spread of COVID-19 caused an increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in multiple countries. For victims of abuse, the pandemic is not the only threat to their lives.
That said, here are eight important tips you can and should use to actively ensure your safety in escaping abusive marriages and surviving domestic violence:
Identify the red flags
Do not underestimate how far the abuse can go. Assess your partner’s violent capabilities and evaluate the risk of danger you might continue to experience.
Ask yourself these following questions:
- Does your partner isolate you from the world?
— Abusive people usually find ways to make their partners’ social circle smaller. From using jealousy to accusing friends and family of causing problems.
- Does your partner verbally abuse you?
— More than just intentionally saying hurtful and cruel things, verbal abuse also comes in many forms. Abusers may make their victims believe that the victims are the ones responsible for their abusive behaviors or that the abuse is brought upon by the victims’ actions. Verbal abuse can also come in the form of gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation wherein the abuser makes the target doubt their judgment and reality.
- Has your partner threatened to hurt you physically?
— It’s highly likely that the people who openly use threats of physical abuse during arguments eventually follow through.
- Has your partner resorted to breaking, striking, or throwing objects in an argument?
— Breaking possessions can be viewed by abusers as punishment. Throwing and striking furniture, appliances, and walls can be seen by abusers as ways to terrorize their partners into submission.
- Does your partner in any way use force during an argument?
— This is not only exclusive to striking. This also manifests in restraining someone forcefully like even holding someone’s arm strongly or pushing someone to the wall. In most cases, even the slightest shove could turn into a full-on assault after some time.
If your partner has already physically harmed you. There is a high possibility that it will happen again.
Maximize safety at home
Create a safety plan at home and create an exit plan if your first plan does not work. Imagine your plan over and over and go through all the steps you have to take. Being mentally prepared in awful situations can save lives.
Know the areas to avoid
Avoid areas in your house that have possible weapons. Kitchens have knives and ceramics or glass that can be sharp once broken. Bathrooms have tubs and toilets that can be used to hold you down.
Know the safe places in your house
Always position yourself to be as close as possible to an exit. Always stay in places with windows and other open spots for quick emergency getaways.
Be mindful of weapons that can be used to harm you
Watch out for guns, knives, or any easily held weapons. Be careful with your own weapons as well. Most of the time, victims’ weapons for self-defense are used against them instead.
Do not lock away and hide weapons at random. This may trigger a fight with the abuser that might lead to assault. Instead, find subtle ways to make the weapons unusable like dulling a knife.
Be ready for escape
Have someone on speed dial. Preferably someone with authority.
Make sure your car is fueled and parked efficiently for emergency drives. If you see that a fight is about to start, subtly make sure that the driver’s door is unlocked.
If you cannot escape, make sure all the vital parts of your body are protected. Do everything you can to avoid getting your head, neck, and torso from getting injured. Pretend that each blow is harder and more painful than it was. And make sure that you can still move and swiftly make a run for it once given the opportunity.
Do not do it alone
You are not alone. Communicate. Don’t take domestic abuse lightly. Isolating yourself further is the worst possible thing to do.
Talk to your family and friends
Having someone to call in time of crisis can be the difference between life and death. Having people to discuss your plans with can help your mental stability. Knowing that someone understands and knows what’s happening can help you become more emotionally stable.
Know the numbers to call
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Find out what the number of your local shelter is and have it on speed dial. Memorize the numbers of your family and friends.
Seek professional help
Talk to local social workers and attorneys to find out what your options are. Being in contact with experienced divorce lawyers as early as possible may give you a tactical advantage and a sense of relief. Whether it’s filing a restraining order or pursuing both civil and criminal actions for maximum protection, access to information and legal advice is important.
Knowing where you stand should be the priority. Victims of domestic abuse often stay because of their attachment to the abuser, the well-being of their children, their economic stability, or their fear of getting caught. Take time to breathe and truly think about everything. Research more and get all the information you can before deciding. This is about your life and those of the people close to you. Think it through.