If Verbal Abuse Turned to Violence: Check List & Safety Suggestions
by Cathy-Anne Jones
Some of these safety suggestions apply if you are separated from a violent person, and some if you are living with a violent person, or a person who demonstrates violence by breaking things, walls, doors, furniture or threatens you. It is important to know that a threat to your physical safety is the assault part of “assault & battery.”
Make the home as safe as possible by changing the locks, adding dead bolts, and obtaining an apartment that is not on the first floor.
Remove sharp objects and weapons from sight.
Keep a telephone in a room that locks from the inside.
If possible, purchase a cell phone and keep it in a pocket or in an accessible hiding place; pre-program 911 or the number of a safe friend or relative into the phone’s directory. Cellular services frequently offer phones free when you sign up for service.
Plan and practice an escape route out of the home and a safety plan for the children.
Keep a bag packed and hidden in a safe place at home (or locked in a car trunk with only one key), or with a safe relative or friend, in case of flight. It should include: money for phone calls, transportation, and one month’s expenses, clothing, diapers, court documents, passports, identification (social security, driver’s license, welfare identification, family photographs), birth certificates, school and medical records, necessary medicines, credit cards, checkbooks, work permits, green cards, lease/mortgage payments, insurance papers, bank books, telephone/address books, car/house keys, and ownership documents for car/house and copies of financial information if possible.
PROTECTION ORDERS AND DEALING WITH A BATTERER
If a protection order includes provisions about the children, give a copy to the children’s school or child care facility. Make extra copies of protection orders and keep them in safe places. Attach a copy of the interstate protection order provisions of the Violence Against Women Act and proof of service to each protection order (See 18 U.S.C. 2262 (1994)) to minimize enforceability problems in other states.
Show the orders to police officers to improve their response. Show neighbors a picture of the batterer and/or the batterer’s vehicle so they can screen visitors and call the police if necessary. Batterers/stalkers often gain access to apartment buildings by pretending to be someone else or by following tenants indoors.
Develop signals for neighbors and friends to call the police, such as banging on the floor or wall. If possible, arrange to have a relative or friend call every day at an appointed time.
Enroll in a reliable self-defense course and regularly practice these skills. Obtain a private or unlisted telephone number, and be selective about revealing a new address. Batterers have located victims through friends, relatives, co-workers, court or social services documents, the post office, and private investigators.
Use the block code when making telephone calls. Use an answering machine or all trace when receiving calls to collect evidence of harassment or protection order violations.
To Thwart A Stalker
Alter routines — change transportation routes or timing (including picking up children from school) so that the stalker cannot locate you. Trade cars with a friend or relative. Stalkers/Batterers often locate former victims by identifying their vehicles.
Be aware that motor vehicle records, including addresses, may be available to the public. Most Departments of Motor Vehicles will permit drivers to use a number other than their social security number for identification purposes and will keep information confidential upon request. If a batterer or stalker becomes violent or threatening: Call the police at 911 (or the equivalent) and ask for the dispatcher’s name. When the police respond, obtain the officer’s name and badge number. (Lawyers should use this information to pursue negative or positive police responses, locate police reports, and subpoena witnesses)
Seek medical treatment if injured by the batterer or stalker. Photograph all injuries.
Record all appearances of the stalker in a note book.
Travel with another person. Victims frequently are harassed on the way to or from work by stalkers or batterers who are jealous of co-workers, or want victims to lose their jobs and become economically dependent.
Safety at Work
Give a picture of the stalker and the stalker’s vehicle to security guards and colleagues at the workplace. If the stalker shows up, security or other workplace personnel can order the stalker to leave or call the police. Keep a copy of your protection order at work. Notify a supervisor or the Human Resources Department of the existence of the order and give them a copy.
Screen calls with voice-mail or a machine if possible, or ask a colleague to screen calls or listen in on the line. recorded threats made by the stalker/batterer may be used as evidence in court.
Sources Ronet Bachman & Linda E. Salzman, U.S. Dep't of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey, Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey 1, 4 (1995). Barbara J. Hart & Jane Stuehling, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Personalized Safety Plan (1992) Office of the City Attorney, City of San Diego, California, Personalized Safety Plan (1990). Cambridge Police Department, Domestic Violence Safety Plan, Norfolk County District Attorney's Office, Massachusetts, Personal Safety Plan and Youth Safety Plan (1996).