The statistics are staggering and sad. According to multiple sources, three of every ten women (and one of every ten men) have suffered emotional or physical abuse from a partner. Because these situations are so gut-wrenching and can easily cloud the judgement of otherwise rational people, it is terribly difficult to end the cycle of abuse.
My firm has experience with these situations, and I understand the reluctance to act. However, given the importance of this topic (and the recent hurricane potentially adding fuel to already volatile relationships), I am offering a checklist of steps that I hope can help those who need help.
If you are in an abusive relationship, please read this list of steps you should take prior to leaving or evicting your partner.
- Change the positions of your various pieces of furniture in your home – If you are being chased, your pursuer is depending on muscle memory to navigate while angry. Broken toes and/or smashed shins will slow anyone down real fast, and it will help corroborate your story later.
- You don’t want any obvious weapons laying around that can be wielded on impulse – be sure to hide the silverware (and plastic cutlery as well.)
- Read “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker – originally published almost 20 years ago, this has been described as a survival guide on how to avoid violence. It has been endorsed by such luminaries as Marcia Clark, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster and Oprah Winfrey.
- Agree on a simple signal to alert your friends, family and neighbors that you are in imminent danger. Make it simple – it can be a text saying “911”, a phone call and hang up, even something as obscure as putting out the trash on the wrong day. You should not be alone during this time and signals will keep you connected.
- Don’t threaten the abusive party – For example, if he/she shows up at the house do NOT say “I’m calling the police”. Just call them – it will be unexpected and might distract or confuse the other person sufficiently to allow you to escape. Also, making that kind of announcement just means the other person now has a deadline and can do whatever comes to mind for that period.
- Get to know your neighbors – in many neighborhoods everyone knows everyone else, but in some that’s not the case. You must find at least a couple of close neighbors who can be relied upon to help you in a time of need (such as by answering your texted “danger” signal.)
- Install an alarm – A good alarm is like having a pack of noisy dogs in your living room. Nothing will get by silently – every visitor will be loudly announced. Often a shrill alarm will scare any intruder away.
- Listen to your instincts – This is extremely valuable advice that is featured in “The Gift of Fear.” No one knows the habits, mannerisms and likely behaviors of your partner like you. If something doesn’t seem quite right, it probably isn’t.
- Do not drive the same way home every day – I know this might sound a little too “James Bond,” but you don’t want to give your partner a blueprint to your every move. In addition,don’t park in the same spot everyday either. There are too many ways to track cars now. And last, never be afraid to make a scene in public. This can be extremely effective in defusing a situation.
- Unfortunately, paper doesn’t stop bullets. Restraining orders and the like will not deter certain people. Please see #3 and #8.
Before the “Day”
Ultimately, there will come the day that you will either leave or evict. In preparation for this, you must do the following:
- Change all passwords, open a new bank account and transfer enough community funds to live and pay your lawyer,
- Change all locks at the house, pack a bag and prepare to stay somewhere else for two weeks at least. If the other party is to be evicted, then have a plan for some adult family members to camp out with you for awhile. You should not be alone in the house for at least two weeks.
- Per #6 above, ask your designated neighbor(s) to keep an eye on the house. Also, agree on the code word, transmission channel and what the appropriate response should be. If you are remaining at the house, be sure to have them check on you periodically if you fail to contact them.
Above all, watch your back, and have others help you as well. This also means keeping your phone charged and on you at all times. If you don’t already own one, consider buying a gun, BUT take the proper classes on how to use a gun, practice, practice, and get the required licenses, and above all, DO NOT leave it out or near where your pursuer might use it against you. If you already have a dog, you might consider another one. Your partner might be familiar enough to charm his/her way silently past a family pet.
Please take these steps to heart, and you may contact my firm to learn about your legal options for dissolving an abusive relationship.