Yourself Stay Safe
If You Stay
If you are living in an abusive relationship and are not ready
to leave, you must keep yourself and your children safe. Whatever
your reasons for staying, you do not deserve to be abused.
If you decide to stay with your partner and work things out,
seek outside help. Talk to a counselor who does not blame you
for the abuse, and who puts your safety first.
Contact your local domestic violence program,
public health nurse, urgent care or hospital to get recommendations
for counseling for you first. You can ask about couple’s
counseling as an option later if this is something you want
Prepare a safety plan
- Have a safe place to go.
- Call people in advance and tell them that you are coming
over, so they can watch for you.
- Be aware of any weapons in the house.
- Make a plan about what to do and where to go if you are
in danger. Tell your children of your plan if they are old
enough to understand how to follow directions.
- If you have a vehicle, make sure it has gasoline.
- Try to keep your vehicle in good repair so it won’t
break down on you.
- Keep an extra set of keys in a secret hiding place.
- Always keep some money hidden to help you get away.
- Keep a list of important phone numbers in the hiding place
with your money.
- Work out a code word that can be used on the phone with
someone you trust if you are in danger.
- Have a signal. This can be flashing your lights if it
is nighttime, hanging something unusual out your window where
a neighbor can see, or any other attention-getting action.
Discuss your signal with others who are likely to see it.
Save whatever money you can in a bank account
that is in your name only. Keep the bankbook in a safe place
where your partner won’t find it. Many women are surprised at how
quickly and suddenly they can be in an emergency situation.
Try to save from the grocery money or however you can (if you
don’t have any other sources of income). Knowing
that you have an emergency fund will help decrease your
Do not get pregnant if you think that your
relationship is not good and may become more abusive. Make
sure you control your birth control method and that your
birth control method works. Your partner may abuse you even
more when you are pregnant and after you give birth. Pregnancy
could also make it harder for you to leave. If you become
pregnant and you don’t
want to be, get counseling to discuss your options. If
you are already pregnant, you can still follow these other
Secrets are harmful
Don’t be ashamed to discuss your problems with others
who believe abuse is wrong. You need support. There are still
many people who believe, wrongly, that it’s okay for
a man to abuse his partner (or vice verso) and that abuse is
the non-abusive partner’s fault. Carefully choose
the people with whom you talk.
You are not responsible for your partner’s
Remember that your partner’s behavior
is not your responsibility. Do not be ashamed to tell someoneif
you are being abused. It is not your fault. If your partner
abuses you, your partner has a problem. Encourage your partner
to get help (but remember your partner must also want to
change his/her behavior).
If you feel something is wrong, it is smart to ask for help.
It does not mean you are weak, sick or stupid if you ask for
help. You are doing something positive for yourself.
Stand up for yourself . . .
If the abuse is just starting, tell your
partner you will stand up for yourself and your rights and
that you will not let him/her abuse you. If possible, ask
family as well as your own to tell him/her this behavior
is not okay.
. . . But be careful
If your partner is getting his/her own way, and you
give in, the abuse may become worse if you try to stand up
for yourself. If you are afraid this may happen, try to get
support from family or counselors before you make a stand.
Do not try it when you are alone with your partner. Make
sure you have a safe place to go if you need one. Be prepared
to take the step of leaving your partner in order to be free
from the abuse.
Suicide is not the answer
It is normal to feel depressed at this time of your life.
Many people have the feeling that suicide is the only real
option. Killing yourself may feel like the best escape. It
If you feel suicidal, it’s often the result of believing
your partner’s put-downs, denying your anger toward
your partner, and turning that anger on yourself.
There are other options. There are shelters. There are crisis
hotlines. There are people who will help you if you reach out
to them. If you do not find help at first, keep looking and
asking for help. You have the right to be angry at your situation.
The feelings you are having are yours and it is alright to
feel them. Use your anger, sadness, fear, or whatever feelings
you have to begin taking care of yourself.
Faith and trust in you are important to feeling good about
yourself. Face your feelings and fears. Praise yourself for
what you do well. Have faith in your future. You can learn
from your experiences. You can change your life.
Relax and play
Find something you like to do for yourself. You deserve to
have some happiness and fun in your life. You are worth it!
Eat well and regularly
Your physical health affects the way you feel and your ability
to cope with stress. By giving your body healthy foods, you
will feel stronger and be able to think more clearly.
Physical activity can help you have a better sense of well
being. Regular, fun exercise done with others is best.
Beware of pills, alcohol and drugs
Some people are given pills to calm their
nerves, or they try to escape from pain and anxiety by drinking
too much or by taking drugs. This will not help in the long
run. It keeps you helpless, because you can’t think
as clearly. You lose energy that could be used to do something
more constructive for yourself.
Gain job skills
If you have job skills it will be easier
to be independent. If you need to develop job skills or to
upgrade ones you already have, do it as soon as possible.
Consider a correspondence course. Your nearest library can
help point you in the right direction. This way you will
be prepared even if you can’t
get a job or do not want one right now.
Volunteer work is another way to help you develop more skills.
It will introduce you to people and keep you from being isolated.
Look after yourself
You are a strong person. You can grow even stronger. When
you know you can not make it on your own, the choice is yours
whether to stay in the relationship or not.
If you leave your home . . .
The most important thing is to make sure you and your children
are safe. Do not leave your children unless you have to go
very quickly. This is very important for future custody disputes.
If you have to leave them for a short time, go back and get
them as soon as possible. Get a police escort if you are afraid
that you will be hurt when you return. But remember that the
police cannot decide who will be able to keep the children.
What to take with you . . .
- Any legal documents, such as a deed, mortgage, or lease.
- Keys for the home, car, safety deposit box.
- I.D., including birth certificates for you and your children,
health insurance cards, social security cards, driver’s
license, marriage license, immigration and citizenship papers,
- Bank books, credit cards
- Children’s feeding bottles, diapers, clothes, favorite
toys and blankets. If possible, have everything packed and
within easy reach, or have the police wait for you while
you get them together.
Where can you go?
- The best option if you are not safe is to call 911. The
police can help you get to a safe place.
- If you are hurt or scared and decide not to call the police,
to the hospital on your own. Try to always see the doctor
without your partner. Tell the doctor what happened so that
you have written evidence in case you need it in the future.
- You can go to a friend’s, relative’s, or neighbor’s
- You can go to a domestic violence shelter. If you need
transportation, some shelters can help to arrange this.
* A shelter is a safe place to rest
and plan your future.
“It felt wonderful to be safe behind those shelter
doors, and I felt so much better about myself when I found
out that I wasn’t the only one who had these problems.”
* The shelter can keep you for one night to several weeks.
Some have longer programs and transitional housing. Shelters
are free and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You will meet
other people who have been in similar situations.
* Shelters will provide emergency assistance to men who are
being abused by helping them find a safe place to stay, usually
a hotel or safe house.
* Even if you don’t plan to leave
your home right now, you can call a shelter just to talk.
You are strong
Remind yourself daily, or several times a day that you are
strong. No one has the right to abuse you. Violence is not
a private family affair. There is no excuse for abuse.
For more information, contact:
Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault
Adopted from: Help
Yourself Stay Safe if you Stay
on Violence Against Women
YWCA of Canada, Toronto,