Domestic Violence: Staying Safe
Domestic violence calls are dangerous for responding police officers. The situation has already exploded before they arrive. Tempers and emotions are at their peaks. Children and other family are often in the home when the violence erupted. Pets are excited. Neighbors sometimes gather outside the home. Both the perpetrator and the victim are present, which creates a unique situation. Normally, suspects in violent crimes have fled before the police arrive. And nine times out of ten – no, 99 times out of 100 – the victim decides to defend the husband, even after calling 911.
I, like most officers, have been in my share of tussles. But the hardest I’ve ever been hit (with a fist) was by a woman when I tried to handcuff her husband for beating her. She had been crying and telling me how badly she was treated. How regular the beatings had been. How she was a prisoner in her own home. And how frightened she was. Too frightened to leave.
Well, I placed her husband under arrest – he resisted, and we went a round or two before I finally managed to getting a cuff on one of his wrists. Then, out of nowhere and before I could hook the other wrist, I was blindsided with what felt like a cinder block. That little lady made me see that bright light you often hear about. Now I was struggling with two people. He was trying to flee, and she was pummeling me for all she was worth, all the while screaming to her husband, telling him to run. Fortunately, another officer and a civilian arrived to assist.
What to do to be safe?
– Call the police. They can help you and your children leave. They can take you somewhere safe.
– Tell people about the abuse. Let your family and friends know. Show them your bruises.
– Get medical help! Sometimes an injury is much more serious than it first appears.
– Get a protection order from the court. This is a court order that bars the husband from having any contact with you. If he does he can be arrested.
– Keep a list of emergency and important phone numbers in a place where they’re easily accessible for you and your children.
– Ask your friends and neighbors to call the police if they hear violence in your home.
– Keep a bag packed in case you need to leave quickly.
– Talk to a friend about helping you leave if, or when, the time comes.
– Have a plan for leaving. Maybe have a friend waiting down the street to take you away when you walk the dog.
– Talk to someone about loaning you some money when the time comes to leave.
There are many people standing ready to help you. All it takes is for you to make the first move. Please talk to someone if you are in an abusive relationship. If not for you, then for your children.
Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
HAVEN (Help Against Violent Encounters Now) Crisis Support Line 248-334-1274
HAVEN Toll free Crisis Line 877-922-1274
And, in an emergency, dial 911. You don’t have to say anything. Just dial and leave the phone off the hook. Someone will respond.
I would add another to your “what to do to be safe” list.
Don’t let it happen twice.
Don’t believe the offender when they swear it will never happen again and beg to be taken back, asking that you drop charges or change your story. Statistics show overwhelmingly that domestic violence offenders are likely to re-offend.
If you want to take them back, do so, but only after they’ve done everything demanded by the court, have attended counseling, and gotten under control any alcohol, drug or anger issues.
Anyone can make a mistake, but as the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
Elena – You must live in an area that’s not the norm. Police officers no longer have to rely on the statement and testimony of the victim to make an arrest for domestic violence. And, I’ve never known a police agency that didn’t respond to a 911 call where they could hear a dispute in the background. I stand by my statement – Call 911 if you’re in trouble.
I also stand by my statement about asking a friend for help. By help, I don’t mean the friend should go next door and confront the abusive husband, or even provide transportation for the victim. They can make the necessary phone calls and other contacts for the victim. And, they can be a great ear for listening.
I do agree that there are serious problems with the systems that are in place to help victims of domestic violence. The paperwork to get a protective order can be mind-boggling. But, it is a necessary evil, because too many people (men and women) use the legal system as a means of seeking revenge for less serious things, such as cheating spouses. Even abusive wives have been known to use the system to punish and control their husbands. Most areas have representatives available from Family and Domestic Violence centers who can help victims complete the paperwork. They provide other services, such as locating safe houses for victims and their children, and they accompany the victim to court, if needed.
I also agree with another point you made. It takes a ton of courage to take that first step.
Be strong and do what you have to do. There are many people out there like Elena who care, and who’ll help you through this difficult situation.
Carla you bring up an excellent point – many women who could use a PFA cannot for various reasons understand the forms. And it takes a ton of courage to go and try.
The above list is potentially useful for the popular image of the US mainstream middle class, and assumes a support system. It is not useful for others. Calling the police can result in death – they generally only do things like telling the woman to leave. They don’t have the resources or legal right to do much more unless it’s to call an ambulance. I’ve seen it too often.
If you have to pack a bag, don’t put it somewhere for an emergency, you are already in an emergency and need to take that bag and get out NOW! This isn’t a game, this is your life and that of any children you have. Same goes for locating money.
Asking a friend to help you puts them into possible danger. The abuser knows who your friends are and will go after them if they can’t find you. First time I saw that one I was a kid. My mother’s friend wound up in the hospital. You should never ask an untrained person connected to you for help against violence. Call an abuse hotline, the United Way help line, or go anywhere that feels safe to you. I’ve even picked up women at their local library which they knew about because of story hour.
And around here, calling 911 and leaving the phone off the hook is not likely to get forwarded to the local police for investigation. They have proven over and over again that they assume all calls from my city are pranks unless you can convince them otherwise. Even the cops I know are beyond frustrated.
The day my attorney served divorce papers on my ex, I knew he’d be upset (to put it mildly), so I called the county courthouse to find out about getting a PFA. After the clerk outlined the information I needed to bring with me and the paperwork I needed to fill out, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. At the time I was temping and I would’ve lost a day’s pay if I’d taken the day off to go to court to fill out form after form, most of which seemed to accuse me of making false accusations. I felt like I was being put on trial before I could get any sort of protection. Instead of filing anything, I had a friend come over and we stayed up all night, softball bats in hand, making sure my ex didn’t come near me or our 2 boys. Matter of fact, I recall that night was March 13th, so tomorrow will be the 9th anniversary of the start of my emancipation. 🙂
I can see the point in making absolutely sure the woman isn’t falsifying documents to screw her ex over, but can’t a PFA be a little less impossible to get? It deterred me from getting protection and thankfully, I didn’t need it, but there have to be other women out there who think, “Geez, too much trouble”, only to find out in the end that they were wrong.