Melissa Dohme Hill — who nearly lost her life at the hands of an abusive ex-boyfriend — offered suggestions on how to help people leave abusive relationships.
Friends and families can help when a loved one is dating or married to an abuser, Hill said.
There are warning signs to watch out for, Hill said.
For instance, pay attention to whether your loved one:
- Is drifting away from others — spending all of their time with their partner.
- Is wearing long sleeves or other clothing to hide bruises.
- ls constantly making excuses for their partner’s behavior.
“Often as outsiders, you will see the relationship as unhealthy before the victim will,” Hill said.
If a victim breaks their silence about the abuse, it’s important to believe them, she said.
Then, help that person to connect with a domestic violence victim advocate, she added.
In some cases, your loved one may not acknowledge the abuse, Hill said.
In those cases, friends and family members need to continue to keep an open line of communications and continue to offer support.
Your stance needs to be: You do not agree with the unhealthy characteristics and abuse, but you will be there for them, Hill said.
“Give them all the knowledge and support, and let them know that you’ll be there, you’ll be there for that 2 a.m. call,” Hill said.
Domestic violence safety plan
Before planning to escape and it is safe to do so, consider packing an “escape bag” and keep it in a place where the abuser is unlikely to find it.
Important items to include:
- Birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards, cash, checkbook
- Medications, important records, and insurance policies
- Extra set of car keys, baby items (if applicable), change of clothes
(If you think the abuser might find the bag and attack, put their clothes in, too, and call it a “hurricane bag”).
After you leave the abusive relationship:
- Get to a safe place. See if there is a friend or family member you can stay with. If not, seek a domestic violence shelter (For example, Sunrise of Pasco.)
- Relocate. There are possible funds available through certified domestic violence centers.
- Consider filing for a restraining order; do not drop the restraining order for any reason.
- Change your phone number and service provider.
- Change the locks on your doors, add locks to windows if needed, install security system with alarms, possible motion sensor lights outside.
- Inform work, school, friends, family and neighbors of the situation (tell them to call 911 if they see the abuser, suspect suspicious activity, or hear screaming).
- If you have children: Be sure to change pick-up authorization and inform your child.
- Think of a code word to use to let family and friends know if you are in danger and unable to safely call 911.
- Never agree to meet with abuser.
- Report any attempted contact by your abuser to authorities.
- Seek counseling through support groups.
- Change services that are traceable (bank, credit cards, phones, doctors, daycares, etc.)
- Take different routes when traveling (Vary your daily patterns or activities).
- Consider entering Florida’s Address Confidentiality Program.
- Protect yourself.
- Be aware at all times of your surroundings (Carry mace, have keys between fingers, phone out and available to call 911, check around and under car).
Source: Hands Across the Bay’s Domestic Violence Division
Published March 11, 2020
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