A Step-By-Step Plan For Fleeing Domestic Violence During Coronavirus

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How To Leave An Abusive Relationship: A Step-By-Step Plan For Fleeing Domestic Violence During Coronavirus
Heartbreak

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there are almost 20 people per minute abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

While domestic violence stats are often lower than reality because of underreporting, it is believed 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence. Abusive relationships also impact men, as statistics indicate 1 in 7 men may also be victims.

Leaving an abusive relationship seems like such an intrinsic idea, however leaving is not simple for many victims experiencing the physical, emotional, sexual, and even resource abuse of an offender.

These numbers are terrifying, and there is evidence that even more intimate partner violence (IPV) may be occurring as people across the world are home, sheltering in place from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and more isolated than ever.

As Amanda Taub writes in The New York Times, “Mounting data suggests that domestic abuse is acting like an opportunistic infection, flourishing in the conditions created by the pandemic.”

NYC Hope, which is New York City’s domestic violence online resource, has also experienced a surge of activity since the pandemic has taken hold.

According to CNN, “Website visits more than doubled — going from about 45 visits per day to 115 visits per day — from the period of March 18 to April 5.”

“We've been seeing a lot of clients who just physically can't reach out for services — people who are isolated in a home or quarantined with their abusive partner," Kimberlina Kavern, senior director for Safe Horizon, a domestic violence organization, told CNN. As a survivor of domestic violence, this is terrifying to me.

Sources indicate that it may take up to seven attempts at leaving before an abuse victim is able to successfully leave their abuser. Regardless of socioeconomic status and even family resources, leaving requires a plan that will keep the abuse victim and any children emotionally and physically safe.

Because of the pressing need for an escape plan during these turbulent times, I have created a list to help you — or someone you care about — leave an abusive partner when the time is right.

RELATED: 3 Signficant Ways Relationship Abuse Changes You

I am a survivor of domestic violence.

For 5 years, I experienced resource, emotional, and physical abuse while married to my first husband. Though I have been divorced from my abuser for 5 years now, the experiences, triggers, and trauma of domestic violence have not escaped me.

The abuse took years to manifest into the use of a firearm and ultimately a conviction of my ex-husband for his violence against me. There were many times that I had desire and intention to leave, but my plans were thwarted by lack of resources, lack of external support, and really just a lack of tips on how to leave my abuser safely.

After many failed attempts at leaving and staying gone once I’d left, I’ve compiled a list of the actions, tools, and resources that worked for me to develop a safe exit strategy from my abuser.

According to NBC News, more people across the USA are experiencing abuse similar to what I did and reaching out for help, so this list is incredibly timely.

“Houston police received about 300 more domestic violence calls in March than they did in February, a roughly 20 percent increase. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, police fielded 517 additional calls about domestic violence in March compared to the same month last year, an 18 percent jump, while Phoenix police received nearly 200 more calls, an increase of nearly 6 percent.”

RELATED: 7 Things That Look Like Love (But Are Actually Emotional Abuse)

I’ve compiled a safety plan for a victim seeking to become a survivor of intimate partner violence by successfully leaving. These tips apply to non-pandemic times, but can be adapted for today, too.

1. Identify a trusted individual who can hold a duffle bag for you.

A friend can order soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, whatever toiletries you’ll need via amazon and ship it to address where your duffle bag is waiting.

If you can sneak your social security card and birth certificate out to get it to the duffle bag, great. If not, you can order a new birth certificate online and have it mailed to the address with your duffle bag.

Make sure you take/mail your children’s docs, too.

2. Apply for public assistance. medical, cash assistance, and food stamps.

Don’t include your abuser’s income. When you speak with your case worker, ask for a domestic violence waiver to be put on your file that will exclude them from requesting or considering your abuser’s financial info.

3. Go online to USPS and request that your mail be held at the post office instead of being delivered to your home.

See if your state has a SAFE AT HOME program. This allows you to use a PO Box for everything so that you never disclose your physical address- the program forwards all your mail to you.

4. Identify what clothes you’ll need.

Is it school uniforms for your child? Is it clothes for work for you? If you need to rotate a few outfits for your baby out, you can say something like “these outfits are too small, I’m handing them down.” If it’s your work clothes, cycle out a few all black things that require little ironing, are inexpensive, and can hold you over for a little.

You may only be able to take 5 outfits so don’t overwhelm yourself with looking awesome. Decent and presentable is good enough.

5. Strategize what leaving will look like.

Once your duffle bag has a few outfits, your vital records, and toiletries, you can really begin to strategize what leaving and not returning looks like. You’ve done amazing for getting your bag together.

RELATED: What To Do When You Find Yourself In An Abusive Relationship (And How To End It)

6. Plan your exit.

You do not have to wait until the next fight to make an exit.

You can go pick your child up from school and never return. You can go to the market and never come back. You can run to your cousin’s house for sugar and don’t come back.

7. Keep a journal and talk to one trusted person — but otherwise don't talk about your plan.

In the course of your transition, pray, journal, and maybe speak to one trusted person but this isn’t the season to spill your soul because your safety depends on the quiet and swift moves you’re making.

8. File a protective order as soon as you can.

When you do leave, the next business day, make your way to family court or wherever you go in your jurisdiction to file for an emergency protection from abuse order. The scope of these is rather narrow so have clear examples of the intimidation and/or abuse.

9. Apply for custody of your child/children.

While at family court, apply for relevant custody of your child. This is important because many abusers use the child as a pawn to lure you back because in many states without a formal custody order, technically the child can’t be kidnapped by either party.

RELATED: How To Recognize The Signs Of 'Trauma Bonding'

10. Inquire about appearing for custody hearings over the phone or online.

You can request to appear for child support and/or custody hearings over the phone instead of in person if you feel intimidated speaking or asking for you and your child’s needs in the same courtroom. This may also be beneficial if you are at-risk or caring for someone at-risk of coronavirus.

In some places you can also ask that they be removed while you speak.

11. Ask for support from the police.

You can request a police escort to accompany you to the home if there is something you desperately need to retrieve.

12. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about replacing any prescriptions.

Prescriptions can be resent to the pharmacy and refilled at a low cost if you explain the circumstance to your doctor. This may require a police report.

13. Speak with the HR Dept at your job.

You may have designated leave time for domestic violence recovery. You may also have legal protections against losing your job for taking off for court or anything related to adjusting after leaving your abuser.

14. Consider what you will do if you lose your job.

Losing your job might seem overwhelming, but you may qualify for unemployment due to the circumstances.

You’ll also receive public assistance. And you may be expedited as priority on the childcare funding assistance wait list.

RELATED: You Can Get PTSD From Staying In An Abusive Relationship

If you or anyone you know may be experiencing intimate partner violence, please do not hesitate to keep this list close to develop a safe exit strategy. There are also tons of free resources for individuals experiencing intimate partner violence — you are not alone.

Understanding the nuances of all the resources can be overwhelming, however you can get started with the National Domestic Abuse Hotline any time of day by calling 1−800−799−7233.

Local organizations in your area, like Women Against Abuse in Philadelphia or Connections For Abused Women and Children in Chicago, as well as RAINN are availble to help you online or in person.

RELATED: I Said I Would Never Put Up With An Abusive Relationship — Until I Was In One

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Brittany Bronson is an award-winning career consultant focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels of the workforce. She's also a wife and mother to an amazing 8 year old and a set of 3 year old twins. Follow Brittany's professional work on Twitter aand her personal Twitter, @BossyBritt, for more tips on resume writing, interviewing, and overcoming professional barriers.