Many people experiencing domestic and family violence say they don’t want to leave their home or their relationship, they just want the violence to stop. For others a lack of finances, wanting to maintain access to children and pets, or limited outside support may mean they feel they can’t leave. If you are staying in the relationship try to make yourself as safe as you can.
Think about and identify some of the ways you have coped until now and work out how you might use those strategies in the future. You understand your situation better than anyone else so use that knowledge to help minimise the risks to yourself.
Find out about your options, and who can help you, even if you don’t want to use them yet. For example, finding out how to report to police and apply for an ADVO (see Reporting to Police & ADVOs) before you actually need one means that you will be better prepared if it becomes necessary. Knowing what you can do and how to do it can help you to feel more in control of your situation and your safety.
If you do decide to stay at home it’s important to remember that once violence begins it is likely to get worse over time. Some people develop a Safety Plan to protect themselves (and their children and pets).
There are also a number of support options that can help you stay at home and live either with or without your partner. Talk to a service about initiatives such as Staying Home Leaving Violence and Start Safely (see Private Application for an ADVO) or get legal advice about applying for an ADVO that allows you to continue to live together but prevents your partner from being abusive.
Planning Ahead: Making a Safety Plan
If you are experiencing domestic and family violence you might consider making a Safety Plan. A Safety Plan sets out what you can do under certain circumstances to help reduce the risk of emotional or physical injury to yourself (and your children). Your Safety Plan could include strategies for reducing risk to yourself whilst living with your partner, how you will leave when you make the decision to do so, and what you will do to stay safe afterwards.
You can make a Safety Plan on your own or speak with a friend, counsellor or someone from 1800RESPECT (The National Sexual Assault Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service) phone 1800 737 732. There is an excellent section on the 1800RESPECT website that can help you to create your own personalised Safety Plan.
If you write your Safety Plan down, make sure you hide it so that it can’t be found easily. You could leave it at a friend or family member’s house or with a support service. You might just think about and memorise the details of your plan. If you make an electronic version you could think about locking it with a password or naming it something like “shopping list” so that it is harder to search for.
When developing your Safety Plan think about the times your partner is most likely to be violent or abusive and how they act during these times so you can develop strategies that best suit your needs.
Whatever the circumstances it is important to remember that domestic and family violence is not your fault or not your responsibility. No one ever deserves to be abused.
Living with an Abusive Partner
If you are living with your abusive partner there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of injury to yourself (and your children). You are the best judge of your safety.
- Plan and practice (with your children) how you might escape from your home safely and quickly. Think about the safest exits so that when you feel that things are getting out of control you can leave quickly.
- If possible, keep weapons and knives locked up or inaccessible (e.g. remove knife-blocks from kitchen benches).
- Let trusted friends, family or neighbours know about the abuse and let them know about your safety plan.
- Have a code (perhaps a word or phrase) that you can use with someone you trust by phone or text so they know you are in danger and need help from them or the police.
- Teach your children that their responsibility during an incident is to stay safe – not to rescue you.
- Program the police, taxi company, local support service and a family member’s or friend’s number into the speed dial on your phone.
- Keep essential items like money, keys and identification somewhere that you can access them quickly.
- Plan where you will go and how you will get there in case you need to leave in a hurry.
- If possible, keep a Safety Diary. Record any instances of abuse, and try to include details, dates, times and photos. You may want to keep your Safety Diary at your doctor’s office, a friend’s house or electronically but remember to make sure it is secure (you could use a password, email it to someone you trust or hide it under another name).
- Keep text messages your partner sends to you, and save online messages or posts made by your partner.
- Ask a family member or friend if they can take care of your pets at their house, or regularly take the pets for walks.
- The NSW Government has developed an app called Aurora which has a number of safety features including an alert to send to friends or Police.
During a Violent Incident
- Try to stay away from, or leave, the kitchen or other rooms with potential weapons.
- Try to stay out of rooms without exits.
- Press the emergency speed dial number and use your code word if you have arranged one.
- Depending upon your capacity to do so, defend yourself.
- Trust your instincts.
Your Rights as a Victim of Crime
For victims of crime, the Charter of Victim’s Rights sets down requirements about how government agencies (e.g. the police, hospitals, health services) and a range of service providers should treat you.
Under the charter, as a victim of crime you have the right to:
- be treated with respect, dignity and compassion;
- be kept informed about the investigation and prosecution of the defendant, including:
- What the charges are or why the defendant has not been charged;
- Decisions to change or drop charges;
- The date and place of the court hearing; and
- The final court result, including any appeal or gaol sentence given.
- be told about, and have access to, the different services that can help you, including counselling, welfare, health and legal services; and
- protection from the defendant while your case is in court.
If you believe that a government agency or service provider has not acted in accordance with the Charter, you can make a complaint:
- You can first speak with the person you are dealing with from the agency or service provider about the problem. You should only do this if you feel comfortable.
- If you are not satisfied with their response, you can ask staff to tell you how to make a complaint to the agency/service provider.
- If you are not satisfied by the agency or service provider’s response (or you did not feel comfortable speaking to them), you can contact Victims Services.
Victims Services can help you make a complaint and give you information on what can be done about it. You can also submit a complaint using the Charter of Victims Rights complaint form located on the Victims Services website.