If you or a friend needs help:
Thinking about leaving:
You and your children deserve to feel safe, loved and valued. While considering whether to leave or not, you may be feeling a huge range of emotions. This is normal. Talking to a trusted friend may help you clarify your decision or calling the 24 hour crisis line for a bit of moral support and guidance can also help. Some important things to consider are that the longer you stay the more dangerous it is for you and your children, there will never be a perfect time to leave, and that you will not change their behaviour – it is the abusive persons responsibility to make changes to their behaviours and, like your decision to leave, they can only do this when they are ready. They may never be ready. In which case, you have some decisions to make and some safety planning to do.
Women that make a plan to leave, are much more successful at rebuilding their lives and staying safe. If you are safe enough to leave within the month it is a good idea to have a plan in place.
- if it’s safe, get together a bag that you can leave with a friend or whanau member, including:
- copy of protection order if you have one
- medicine for you and your children
- copies of birth certificates for you and your children
- passports for you and your children (if you have them)
- children’s toys
- spare cash, credit cards (if you have them)
- drivers license
- copy of bank details and any other important documents like insurance or residency papers
- important phone numbers like friends, family, doctors, police, Women’s Refuge, lawyer. If it’s possible get a cellphone and keep this with you. Even a phone with no credit can access emergency services on 111.
If it’s safe, talk to your family and neighbours. Let them know what’s going on and ask them to watch out. Set up a code so if they know you are in danger they can ring the police.
To stop someone checking your phone calls, pick up the phone and push any number. This will stop them using redial. To hide your phone number from caller ID, dial 0197 before the number. Plan and practice an escape route from your house for you and your children. Plan a safe time to leave, and a safe route. Take your house and car keys. Organise somewhere safe to go and a safe place to stay for a while (this could be a Women’s Refuge safe house, a friends place, or another flat.) Talk to Women’s Refuge or a lawyer about a Protection Order and sort out care of your children if you have any.
Help your children understand what is going on. They need to know how to keep safe too. You do not have to tell them all the details, but if they are old enough, it’s important that you include them in your safety planning, if possible. Make sure they are aware of escape routes from your home and that they are aware of a safe neighbour that they can run to and ask for shelter and who will call the police on your behalf or allow them to.
The most important thing is that you and your children are safe. If the time is right to leave, just leave. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t made a plan.
Helping Someone Else:
Many of the women and children we see at Women’s Refuge have been able to get out of a violent situation and go on to lead safe and happy lives, because of the help and support of people like you. What you do and say can make a huge difference to their lives. Women may not be able to see what all the violence is doing to them and their children. They might not know where to go, think they are to blame, or be embarrassed or ashamed. You can show them that other people do care. The most important things you can do are:
- Don’t judge. It really is a process and unless you’ve lived it, we suggest you don’t judge it. People make choices in times of crisis that they may not otherwise have made.
- Listen. Again we go back to don’t judge. You may not hear what you want; some of it will be unpalatable for you and you may feel very sad for your friend or family member. The more your friend feels safe to share, the more supported your friend may feel and the more likely they may be to reach out to someone else who will listen too.
- Believe her. Let her know it’s not her fault, that there are no excuses. There is no excuse for family violence in Aotearoa. ‘It’s not OK’ and we all know it. Acknowledge the strength it has taken to get this far.
Don’t be afraid to raise the topic yourself if you suspect a friend or family/whanau member is living in family violence.
Tell them what is happening to a “friend” or speak from your own experience. Show them some literature about family violence and talk about the topic without being specific to her, so that she can see you are non-judgmental and supportive. Tell her if you are afraid for her life. Let her know you are sad about the abuse and that no-one deserves it.
It is important that she makes her own decision to leave. This may be frustrating for you, but there are so many things going on. Try and be supportive. You can educate yourself about domestic violence. If a life is in danger do not hesitate to call the Police. It’s often hard work being a support person. You need to look after yourself. You can get support from Women’s Refuge or other support agencies. Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui – Be strong, be brave, be of good spirit.