As a DV advocate, I get asked this A LOT: “What steps would a person need to take to escape domestic abuse?” What an excellent question! Here is my step-by-step BASIC guide. I mean, we could get into A LOT more detail, but domestic abuse victims don’t always have that luxury…I definitely didn’t…

STEP 1: Understand the lethality of your situation. There is a GREAT online tool, if you’re not sure of the extent of danger that you’re in (because most people don’t realize until it’s too late, as I did when mine attempted to shoot me): Be sure and answer honestly. To be fair, I filled out the assessment, answering as if I were that person that I was in active abuse nearly six years ago. Mine looked like this:

STEP 2: Know your resources for law enforcement, housing, food, medical/mental health, advocacy, and legal issues. Make a list and/or gather information about resources that you’ll need to have at your fingertips, in order to re-establish your life. These resources can be ones that you’ll retain, but some may be possibilities that you will need to explore. The advocacy portion can include your specific DV advocate, along with other DV resources. I find a notebook helpful, but don’t make it obvious if [the victim] is still within active abuse. When I was going through active abuse, I kept my notebook at work, as it was a place that my abuser NEVER was. I was able to plan better

STEP 3: Think through safety issues/risks you may face — run the scenarios! I like to call this “playing Devil’s Advocate” or the “Worst Case Scenario Game.” If you have children, you might establish protocols with them, so they know where to go and what to do, and how to tell if a situation isn’t right. For my littlest one, “go check and see if our dog got out,” meant run and hide in the dog house and then run to the neighbors.

STEP 4: Take all precautions! What does this look like? Maybe have a secret password for people who are allowed to pickup your kids in an emergency situation, or to stash your pet dog when you call and utter a code word, without question. Maybe have a person whom you can call and “order makeup” or ask “what’s that casserole recipe you were telling me that you’re Mom use to make that was SO easy” when you’re actually in eminent danger. Do not put ANYTHING past the abuser that is so desperate to keep you! Safety first, safety always!

STEP 5: Pack, if you can, making a list of things to bring/hide. This can include banking info, emergency information, important documents (SSN, driver’s license, legal documents, birth certificates, banking info, debtor information, medications and/or medical paperwork. A safety deposit box can be an awesome thing!

Be safe out there! The world only has ONE OF YOU! <3