Whether you are thinking about leaving, have decided to leave, or are thinking about giving your abusive husband another chance, it is vital to have a personal safety plan. This can be the difference between life and death. Just going through these steps will give you some peace of mind.
Safety At Home
1.Tell a trusted friend or family member what is going on
1.Tell a trusted friend or family member what is going on.
If you are planning on staying: Tell your friend or family member about the abuse in as much detail as possible. Show them proof if you feel that they don’t believe you. This way, if you are having a rough time, they can come and take you away (even if only for a little while).
2. Know your options in a case of emergency. Make a list of people you can call to stay with:
If you are planning on staying:
-Family: If your parents/siblings are supportive, then you need to make sure that they can protect you because this is the first place your husband/in-laws will check. They will most likely come under the pretence of ‘mediation’, but then emotionally blackmail your family to let you go with them. Use your family’s help to go to a distant relative or friend that is unknown to your husband/in-laws.
-Friends: Will they pick you up in the middle of the night? Do they have access to a car? Keep a burqa (to disguise you) and a spare bag at hand.
-Organisations: Are there any organisations that can help you? Do they provide or refer you to counseling services and legal assistance? Do they help you to get a job and permanent housing? In case of doubt, use our resources page to figure out which organisations and shelters can help you and how.
It is vital that – in the case of family, friends, and colleagues – you test their reliability and trustworthiness first, as discussed in point 1(see above).
3. Make a list of pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages of leaving. Be realistic about both situations and re-evaluate your options on a regular basis. What sounds like a good option today may not work well tomorrow. Don’t act impulsively on such an important decision. Take time to carefully strategize and evaluate your options.
4. Pack an emergency bag with things such as:
Clothes, toothbrush and other necessities, non-perishable food, special blanket or toys for the children, cash, cheque book, ATM/bank and credit cards, phone numbers of friends and organisations which can help you, copies of important documents (personal identification, birth certificates, passport and NIC, driver’s licence, school and medical records, deed of ownership for the house or car, car papers, insurance papers, tax returns), extra keys for your car and house, etc. Leave the bag at home (in a hidden place) or with a trustworthy friend/relative. Do not leave it at your parents’ house if they are not fully behind you leaving.
5. Record evidence of your husband’s/in-law’s abuse. Try to record the voice of your abuser or try to take a picture/video of physical assault. This can be very useful if you are filing for divorce, claiming child custody, or proving to your family that you are telling the truth. But ONLY do this when it is SAFE to do so.
6. Always document and save all harassing phone calls and encounters. Keep digital and paper copies of texts and emails. Document any evidence of bruises.
7. If your children are old enough to understand what is going on and if there is someone you can trust to help you, teach your children how to call them for help when you are being physically assaulted. Teach them a code word that you can use in a case of emergency.
8. Memorise or keep a list of telephone numbers in your wallet of people who will help you.
9. In case your husband, in-laws, or family want to lock you in the house/room, make sure to have a spare set of keys hidden in your emergency bag.
10. Save enough money for a flat deposit and for up to three months of rent (if possible).
11. Keep your room clear of weapons and other sharp objects: If you have a knife holder/rack, either put it in a place that is hard to reach or put the knives in a safe place. If there are guns in the house, hide them in a safe place or – in a case of emergency – know how to unlock them. If there are acids or other dangerous chemicals in the house, avoid the room in which they are in at all costs. If you think you may be set on fire, call the police immediately!
12. If you are sleeping in separate bedrooms, lock and barricade the door so that he can’t attack you while you are sleeping. Have a spare phone (that nobody else is aware of) hidden in your bra or in the room you think your in-laws or husband might lock you in. This will allow you to send a message to your family and friends to rescue you.
13. What you should do if there is an argument or a threat of violence: Try to move to a room where you cannot be trapped or where there are no guns/acid/oil. If possible, avoid the bathroom, garage, basement, or any rooms without access to a window or external door. If your in-laws are not abusive, take the fight to where they are and insist on sleeping in the same room as them so that you can spend the night in safety.
14. Consider learning some basic self-defense techniques to protect yourself from harm. This will also increase your self-confidence and emotional strength. But beware! It is not advisable to fight your husband because most women can easily be overpowered by an angry man and you may put yourself in serious danger or get killed by trying to fight back.
15. Keep your mobile phone charged, always and have some key numbers on speed-dial: You never know when an unsafe situation might erupt, so have the number of police, ambulance, friends and family on speed dial. Additionally, try to always keep your mobile phone charged because it can be life-saving in tough situations.
16. If you have a smart-phone, download a personal safety app: Downloading a safety app can be useful if you have a trusted circle of friends and family who can be alerted automatically by the app if you are in danger. Some safety apps include P.F.O. and Circle of 6.
17. Always surround yourself with people when possible: Whether it is inviting relatives over for when your husband is on holidays or going to stay with relatives/family if he lets you – try to surround yourself with people. This might not be possible all the time but the chances are that the less time you spend alone with your husband, the less the chance of violence and extreme abuse. Even if violence does happen, at least it might be diffused by other people.
What do you do during and after a fight?
1. Try to diffuse the situation and to quench his anger by staying as calm as you can. Do things that assure him you are listening. Be careful about hitting back or picking up things (glass, books, mobile) to throw at him. This may make him want to grab these things from you and hit you, causing much more damage.
2. Do not argue or talk back if that agitates him. An abuser never wants to admit his own fault, but only wants to find excuses to abuse you.
3. If the noise wakes up your children or if they are present in the room with you, try to position yourself away from the children to protect them from the abuser. If they are old enough to remember the code word you taught them, then say it so they can go and get help, i.e. call your father, brother, in-laws, or friend.
4. If things are getting very violent and you are at risk of serious injury, then run to your in-laws or call your parents/friends immediately. If the abuser is distracted or has to go to the toilet, use the opportunity to grab your children, the emergency bag, your purse, and the keys, and drive away from the house. If you don’t have a car, then call for help as soon as you have a chance to do so.
5. If you are unable to escape immediately, wait until the abuser is asleep or make an excuse to check on the children. If you cannot leave the house with your children, then leave and plan to come back to get them with the help of family and friends.
6. If you are hurt and need medical attention, then wait until the abuser is distracted or asleep and call your family/friends for help or go to your in-laws. Keep some bandages and antiseptic agent in the bathroom. If you are calling your family/friends, call them from where your husband cannot hear you. If you think that he will continue beating you, lock yourself in a safe room until your family/friends get to your house.
7. If you see the abuser with a gun/knife/pillow/oil/acid in his hand, DO NOT attempt to pacify him and LEAVE immediately!
8. Keep a spare phone with you (hidden from view) at all times because your husband might confiscate your normal phone during a fight to stop you from calling someone for help. If you are calling your family/friends, call them from where your husband cannot hear you. If you think that he will continue beating you, lock yourself in a safe room until your family/friends get to your house. If nobody lives near you, call the police immediately! Don’t try to run on foot if there is no rickshaw/taxi/bus near your house because your husband can outrun you on foot or overtake you in a car.