Planning ahead a critical first step in escaping abuse
By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer
If you or someone you know is thinking about leaving an abusive relationship, there are some things that are good to know.
Creating a safety plan is an important part of living with domestic violence. Victims should consider gathering important phone numbers such as family members, police or local shelters; developing a code word to use with a friend or family member to indicate you need help; coming up with an escape plan and a place to go.
In putting together a safety plan victims should gather important documents such as their birth certificate, social security card, school or medical records, extra keys to home, work and the car, money, clothes and medicine. These items may be put in a bag and kept in a safe place in the event of an emergency. Each situation is different and safety plans may be tailored to an individual.
However, there’s not always time to pack a bag when it comes time to leave. Such was the case for Linda*, who after spending eight years in an abusive relationship decided to leave one afternoon while her fiancé was napping.
“I decided it was time to make a change now or never,” she said.
Linda’s abuser issued such control over her life that he owned their house and cars and had prevented her from working or making friends and estranged her from her family.
“I had the clothes on my back and that was it,” she said.
Anne* on the other hand was able to leave her physically abusive relationship with more pre-existing independence.
“I was fortunate to have already been working,” she said. “I wasn’t financially dependant on my relationship.”
If victims need a protective order, forms are available at the county’s clerk of court office. The forms may be completed without an attorney and can provide immediate protection with a judge’s order. The order typically mandates that the perpetrator stay away from the victim until the case comes to trial. Protective orders initially only last for 10 days. The process is free.
Perpetrators who violate protective orders may be charged with a criminal misdemeanor. Also, victims may ask that perpetrators be found in contempt of court for violation and if there was physical contact made, the perpetrator may face assault charges.
* names have been changed
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.799.SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE
The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 888.232.9124 or www.nccadv.com
REACH of Haywood County, Inc.
PO Box 206 • Waynesville, NC 28786
Office: 828.456.7898 • Crisis: 828.456.7898
Web Site: www.haywoodreach.com
REACH of Jackson County
PO Box 1908 • Sylva, NC 28779
Office: 828.631.4488 • Crisis: 828.586.1911
REACH of Macon County
PO Box 228 • Franklin, NC 28744
Office: 828.369.5544 • Crisis: 828.369.9116
PO Box 1416 • Bryson City, NC 28713
Office: 828.488.9038 • Crisis: 828.488.6809
30th Judicial District Domestic Violence-Sexual Assault Alliance, Inc.
PO Box 554 • Waynesville, NC 28786
Note: for immediate assistance, dial 9-1-1.