Plan safety measures in case of domestic violence

BY JODY K. ALTHOUSE
December 17, 2014

The holidays often are referred to as the best time of the year. It is a time for loved ones, celebration and joy. However, for victims of domestic violence, the holidays can be a very dark and scary time. Unrealistic expectations, financial pressures and the increased consumption of alcohol can raise stress levels, which can contribute to incidents of domestic violence. Before the holidays, it is important to set realistic expectations and realize that things may not go as planned. Domestic violence is more likely to occur when stress levels are high.

If you find that yourself involved in an episode of domestic violence, it is important to have a safety kit in case you have to quickly exit a dangerous situation. This kit should include emergency numbers; a bag of clothing and toiletries; important documents, such as birth certificates and a driver’s license; prescriptions and medication; car keys; house keys; and cash — all hidden in a safe, easy-to-access place.

Below are some tips to help keep you safe:

Put phone numbers on speed-dial: If you have a mobile phone, add these numbers:

• National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-7233

• The local domestic violence shelter helpline where you will be spending Christmas.

• The number of a close friend, co-worker or family member who can be on standby to get you out of the situation or act as witness.

Have a “safe” word or phrase: In a violent or emergency situation, you may not be able to text or say much. Have an agreed-upon “safe” word or phrase with your close friend, co-worker or family member who agrees to have his or her phone on standby to receive any emergency calls or texts. Keep it short and simple.

Download a safety app: If you have a smartphone, consider downloading a safety app for women, many of which have been designed to automatically alert your support network if you are in danger.

Keep your phone (and some money) on you at all times: Also remember to keep your phone fully charged.

Arrange for an ally in advance: If you are going to spend the holiday season with extended family and you know who would believe and support you, call that person in advance to ask him or her for support and intervention should a situation turn violent.

Always have an audience: Use holiday visits to extended family and friends as a chance to minimize being alone with your abuser.

Defuse it: Walking away from a potentially explosive situation may help temporarily alleviate the abuse.

Have an escape plan: When you are away in a household that is not your own, quietly check out all possible escape routes in the house itself.

Following these suggestions — often known as a safety plan — can’t guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer. If you need help creating a safety plan, call the Centre County Women’s Resource Center’s 24-hour hotline at 877-234-5050.

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Jody K. Althouse is the director of outreach and education with the Centre County Women’s Resource Center. This column is provided by the Communities That Care Prevention Coalition of Centre County serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola and State College area school districts.
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