There is no guarantee that if to you follow all or some, of these strategies that you will be safe; however, implementing these strategies could help to improve your safety situation.
Personal Safety with an Abuser
- Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess danger to you and your children before it occurs. If an abusive situation seems likely, try to diffuse your partner’s anger.
- Try to avoid an abusive situation by leaving. Go for a walk, and let your partner cool down.
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways of escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.
- Don’t run to where the children are as your partner may hurt them as well.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target; dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with you face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
- If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know the numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest pay phone is located. Know your local battered women’s shelter number. Don’t be afraid to call the police.
- Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.
- Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help.
- Tell your children that violence is never right even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you nor they are at fault or cause the violence, and that whenever your partner Is being violent, it is important for them to keep themselves safe.
- Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.
- Plan for what you will do if, for instance, your children somehow tell your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.
- Keep weapons, like guns and knives, locked up and as inaccessible as possible.
- Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keep it fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked for a quick escape.
- Develop the habit of not wearing scarves or long necklaces that could be used to strangle you.
- Have several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
General Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship
- You may request a police stand-by or escort while you leave.
- If you need to sneak away, be prepared:
- Make a plan for how and where you will escape, and include a plan for a quick escape;
- Put aside emergency money as you can;
- Hide an extra set of car keys; and
- Pack an extra set of clothes for yourself and your children and store them at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house. Try to avoid using next-door neighbors, close family members and mutual friends, if at all possible.
- Take with you a list of important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc., as well as other important items, including:
- Driver’s license
- Regularly needed medication
- Checkbooks and information about bank accounts and other assets
- List of credit cards held by self or jointly, or the credit cards themselves if you have access to them; and
- If time is available, also take:
- Copy of marriage license, birth certificates, will and other legal documents
- Verification of social security numbers
- Citizenship documents (passport, green card, etc.)
- Titles, deeds and other property information
- Welfare identification
- Medical records
- Children’s school records and immunization records
- Insurance information
- Valued pictures, jewelry, or personal possessions.
- Create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies, schools in a town at least six hours away from where you actually are located. Ask questions that require a call back to your current house in order to leave numbers on record with your abuser.
After Leaving the Abusive Relationship
- If getting a restraining order and your abuser is leaving:
- Change residence locks and phone number as soon as possible;
- Change your work hours and the route you take to work;
- Change regular route you use to take your children to school;
- Keep your copy of the restraining order in a safe place;
- Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect; and always call the police to enforce the order even for the slightest violation.
- If you leave:
- Consider renting a post office box for your mail or using the address of a friend;
- Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports and can be accessed by your abuser;
- Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number; and
- Change your work hours if possible.
- Alert school authorities of the situation, and the fact that a restraining order is in place.
- Consider changing your children’s schools.
- After you leave, reschedule any appointments that your abuser was aware of before you left.
- Shop at different stores and frequent different social spots than you previously frequented so your abuser will be less likely to find you.
- Alert neighbors of your situation, and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
- Talk to trusted people about the violence.
- Replace doors with solid-core wood, steel or metal doors. Install security system, if possible.
- Install a lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to the house (motion sensitive lights).
- Tell your co-workers about the situation; ask their assistance in screening all calls you receive during office hours.
- Explicitly inform your children’s caretakers about children who is allowed to pick up the children and that your partner is not allowed to do so.
- Call your telephone company about “Caller ID.” Ask that your phone be blocked, so that if you make the phone call, your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.
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Preparing to leave an abusive situation can present a number of safety concerns. As you think about how to get ready to leave, here are some options that may help you plan:
Prepare a Safe Room in Your Home
- install inside locks on a door
- plan barricades
- escape to a room with a window or phone
- arrange a signal for help with a neighbor
Find a Safe Shelter and Know How You Will Get There
- arrange to stay with family or friends
- call DVIP 351-1043 or 1-800-373-1043
- keep spare car keys or cab fare in your home’s safe room
- decide whether or not you will take the children with you
Start Talking to People
- call the shelter for support
- call other supportive agencies for information and resources
- talk to a lawyer to learn about your rights
- contact a trustworthy friend
Document the Abuse
- keep a journal (make sure it is hidden)
- get photos of your injuries and property damage
- seek medical attention and have injuries documented in your records
- show injuries to family and friends
Papers You Should Copy
- bills for injuries or damaged property
- rent/mortgage/utility payments
- social security numbers for you and your children
- social service papers
- property and auto titles/registration
Identification You Should Have
- social security cards
- birth certificates
- driver’s license
- tax and bank records
- immigration paperwork
- hide keys to your car, house, safety deposit, post office box
- hide cash or open your own bank account
- save or photocopy pay-stubs
Pack a Suitcase and Hide It
- in car, under bed, neighbor’s, church, public locker, garage, etc.
- pack for yourself and kids: shoes, socks, underwear, nightwear, change of clothes, toothbrush, combs, diapers, etc.
- address book with important numbers
- treasured possessions – things he might destroy
Remember that every situation is different, so some of these ideas may work for you and some may not. If you would like to talk about more options or how to apply an option to your situation, we can help! Just give us a call on our crisis hotline any time of day or night to speak with a trained advocate and make a safety plan.
One option available is to seek a civil protection order. For more information about Protective Orders under Iowa Code 236, please look at the following resources:
This information about the Pro Se Domestic Abuse Protective Order is general. For more specific details, the court process and additional community resources contact a DVIP advocate at our 24-hour Hotline. All services are free and confidential. We can help you figure out if this option is available to you and if it is a safe option.
Iowa law combines two sections of the criminal code to define domestic violence. The assault code, which defines criminal behavior and the domestic abuse act, which defines a domestic relationship.
Assault, in lay language, is defined as one of the following:
- Physical contact that is insulting or can cause an injury.
- The threat of physical contact and the apparent ability to carry the threat out.
- Using a weapon in a threatening manner.
Iowa Criminal Code 708 Assault – Definition
A domestic relationship is defined as one of the following:
- Two individuals that are married, divorced or separated.
- Two individuals that have lived together at some point in the past year.
- Two individual that have a child in common, whether or not they have been married, divorced or living together at some point in the past year.
- Two individuals in an intimate relationship or have been within the past year.
Iowa Criminal Code 236 the Domestic Abuse Act – Definition
If an individual is convicted of a domestic abuse assault they are likely to face the following consequences:
- Mandated jail time
- Attendance of a education program for abusers
Consequences vary based on the seriousness of the criminal conviction. If you have questions about your situation, contact a DVIP advocate at 319-351-1043 or 1-800-373-1043. An advocate can give you information or referrals about the following issues:
- Your Legal Rights
- Mandatory Arrest
- Enhanced Penalties
- No-Contact Orders
- Custody Issues related to Domestic Violence
- Victim Compensation
Immigration issues related to Domestic Violence
In some cases, you may be eligible for monetary compensation from the state of Iowa. For more information, see the Iowa Attorney General’s website:
Introducing a new program at DVIP!
We are adding inside and outside kennels to assist victims and their children with pets staying in our emergency safe shelter.
We are renovating a basement room, that has access to DVIP’s backyard, to include 3 dog kennels and 3 cat havens. The room will have special venting and bathing facilities. Outside we will have 3 dog kennels and small run area. We expect to assist about 25 pets a year at our shelter.
DVIP’s Historical Commitment to Family Pets:
Up to 70% of domestic violence victims report having a pet. Abusers threaten, injure, and at times kill pets in order to control their victims and to create an environment of fear within the home. Approximately 48% of women have refused to leave a dangerous situation for fear of their pets’ safety. DVIP is the only domestic violence program in Iowa that has an organized safe pet program.
Over the past 15 years DVIP has raised funds and recruited community support to foster and provide critical resources (medical/food) to pets. In the past year we have fostered 2 horses, 1 donkey, 1 potbelly pig and 8 piglets, 3 rats, 1 snake, 1 bearded dragon, 1 rabbit, 12 cats and 7 dogs.
Many times our volunteer foster partners work with our families to make sure they see their pets throughout their stay in shelter, but this doesn’t replace being with your pet when you leave your home.
In November we were awarded a national grant from RedRover to expand our support services. It is our goal to provide kennel services on premises, because we understand the therapeutic value of families and pets staying together when they are in crisis.
We will maintain our foster program, but by adding kennels we provide flexibility and a unique support. Our partners have been fantastic in preparing for this change. With the funds from RedRover, we will purchase the cat havens, outdoor kennels, appropriate flooring, venting and bathing units.
The Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center will be assisting with training our staff and volunteers committed to Cooper’s House. We have also recruited local veterinarians that will provide medical screening of pets coming into shelter.
Also, DVIP will be providing therapy animals, such as our therapy-dog-in-training, Molly! Research shows that pet therapy has profound impacts both personally for victims and can also impact positively the shelter environment. Pet therapy reduces stress, and provides support during times of crisis or conflict.
This is also true for victims that will be able to bring their pet to shelter through our Pet Program. The human-animal bond can facilitate healing, aid attachment, and provide a source of comfort to survivors and their children.
Visits can be spontaneous and visits last as long or as short as needed; or can consist of specified goals and objectives for each individual, focusing on nurturing, grief, loss and rebuilding trust.
How can I help?
We will need additional funds to pay for the inside dog kennels—funds for walls, dutch doors and tiles (or fiberglass) for wall protection.
Throughout the year we will need donations of dog food, cat food and litter.
Other helpful items will include leashes, collars, portable kennels, litter boxes, toys, food/water bowls, bedding and towels.
Thank You to Our Sponsors!
The Recognize campaign is a social media initiative launched in August, 2016.
By using social media, we hope to spread awareness, knowledge, and support for those who have or know someone who has been affected by domestic violence.