Recognizing abusive behaviour can be the first step to building a safer life. It is important that you develop a safety plan regardless of whether or not you are planning on leaving the relationship. Shelters are equipped to help you develop your personalized safety plan. You do not need to be staying at a shelter to access these services.
WHAT IS ABUSE?
Abuse can happen to anyone of any age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or gender. Abuse can affect people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. It has no boundaries.
Remember that you do not have to stay in a shelter to receive help from them.
Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. While we often assume that abuse is physical, there are in fact many forms of domestic violence. Some are less obvious and difficult to see but are no less devastating. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time.
Types Of Abuse
Abusers rarely exercise only one form of abuse on their loved ones. It is often the manipulation of several forms of abuse and a behavior which can go from loving and attentive to violent and abusive in a matter of hours if not minutes.
Physical Abuse can include slapping, punching, kicking and choking. It is being slammed against a wall or being injured with a weapon or object.
Psychological Abuse includes living with the constant fear of threats of violence against you and/or your children, friends, relatives and pets. Your partner may be harassing you at work by calling repeatedly or by showing up. They may destruct items that you value or may make suicide threats.
Emotional Abuse is never-ending experience of criticism, name-calling, and put downs alone or in public. It includes unjust blaming, false accusations about loyalties and controls on your time, activities and actions.
Sexual Abuse or Marital Rape is being forced against your will to perform sexual acts or also have pain and injury inflicted during intercourse.
Financial Abuse means that you have limited or no access to the family’s money therefore no control over what is spent or saved, over what moneys come into the family and over what will be bought.
Digital abuse is the use of technology to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. This includes your partner controlling who your Facebook friends are, writing degrading messages about you in public spaces online and having control of your passwords. The abuser may also access your phone to monitor who you are texting and calling.
Spiritual Abuse may mean mocking or denigrating one’s spiritual beliefs or using religious doctrine as justification for abuse.
MAKING YOUR SAFETY PLAN
Protection planning is very important, since leaving a relationship can sometimes lead the abuser to become more dangerous because he sees control over his victim disappearing. If you feel that you are at risk of violence by your partner, we strongly advise you to develop a personalized safety plan as a first step in protecting yourself and your children.
In addition to planning in advance where you would go in an emergency and how to get there, a safety plan also includes thinking about how to deal with your emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action and more. You should consider including the following in your safety plan:
- Know the quickest route out of your home. Practice escaping that way.
- Know the quickest route out of your workplace. Practice escaping that way.
- Know the route to shelters, police stations, hospitals, and public places/stores that are open 24 hours a day
- Decide who can help you and talk to them about your plan.
- If appropriate, teach your children how to reach help (e.g. dialing 911, going to a neighbour) in an emergency situation.
- Try to put aside some money that your partner doesn’t know about.
- Make an extra set of car keys and hide them in case your partner takes your keys away when you want to leave.
- If appropriate, tell your neighbours about the abuse and ask them to call the police if they hear a disturbance.
- Have a code word to use with your children, family and friends. They will know to call the police and get you help.
- Gather in one accessible place key documents such as your health card, bank and/or credit cards, keys, medication, legal papers, important phone numbers, jewelry/photos/sentimental items, a few items of clothing and favourite toys/blankets.
- Have a bag packed with copies of important papers, clothes etc. and store with a trusted friend or family member.
- If a situation looks like it may turn violent don’t run to the bathroom or bedroom where you may be trapped, rather head for the nearest exit.
CALLING FOR HELP
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Your partner can often tell when you have made up your mind to stop the abuse. Do not underestimate your partner. Make sure your phone calls don’t leave tracks.
Your cell phone can keep records of the numbers that have been called. Local calls made on a regular telephone line will not produce a record, however, many telephones have a “redial” button, and you may want to call a friend or other “safe” number after you make any call you don’t want your partner to know about – they can check up on you just by pressing “redial”.
Internet-based telephones, which also go by names like “VOIP”, or “Network Telephony”, keep records of all calls. Web-based telephone systems, such as “Skype”, also keep records. You should not use these types of telephone systems to call for help if your partner has access as well.
The safest way to call or to receive calls from a shelter is from a friend’s phone, a public phone, a work phone, or any telephone that has nothing to do with your partner.
STAYING SAFE ON YOUR COMPUTER
Power and control issues are a part of domestic violence and abusive partners frequently use technology to monitor and control those they abuse. This is why it is important to cover your tracks. You should not save the address of this website or bookmark it in your website’s browser. Remember it instead. Many women’s shelter websites have a “Hide This Site” button – if you click on this button it will immediately take you away from this website. You can use this button to hide what you are doing quickly.
If possible, enable the privacy mode of your Internet browser. This may be called “private browsing”, “InPrivate browsing”, “incognito mode” or “private window”, among other names. This is a privacy feature that disables browsing history and prevents your browser from saving web cache information.
If you do not use the privacy mode, you should delete your Internet history in your web browser. This information is created when you visit websites and is stored on your computer. Every browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome or Safari) creates this information differently. Find out where the history is stored in your web browser.
Clearing web browser histories in this way will delete ALL histories of visited websites. If you are concerned that someone may be checking up on your Internet usage, the absence of all files and history may appear suspicious. Before closing the browser,and AFTER you have left this site, please follow the information found on these browser-specific information pages