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VIP: Survivor Support
The University of Mississippi

Domestic Violence: Steps If Battered

Know that no one’s situation is the same. Whatever you choose is the right choice for you, and no one has the right to take control away from you. Some things to consider:

Steps if abused

WARNING! Violence often gets worse when you try to leave or show signs of independence (taking a class or filing for divorce). Your assailant may become desperate if he or she feels they are losing control of you. He or she may decide that you have left for good and will take revenge out of malice and spite. Take special care.

Call the police

Write down the emergency number for the police. It’s usually 911. Call the operator if you don’t know it. If you don’t have a telephone, arrange a signal with neighbors so that they can call the police. When the police come, ask them to arrest your partner. If you are scared to do that in front of your assailant, think about talking to one of the officers alone.

Get support from friends and family

Tell your family, friends and co-workers what has happened. Don’t try to protect him. Ask for what you need.

Move out; move away

It’s not fair. You should not have to leave your home because of his behavior. But sometimes the only way you will be safe is to leave. There are shelters throughout the country that can help you relocate. Call the Family Crisis Center (662-234-9929) or S.A.F.E., the nearest domestic violence shelter, which is in Tupelo (crisis line 1-800-527-7233, or visit

Make a safety plan

Figure out what to do before or when the next attack happens. (See “Safety Planning” below.)

Get a personal protection order (PPO)

Contact the local police or the Violence Prevention Office to assist you in obtaining a PPO. The Violence Intervention and Prevention can be reached at 662-915-1059 or

Keep your own records of the abuse

Keep a journal or log of all incidents of physical violence, threats, harassing phone calls, unwanted contacts, missed parenting time, etc. You may also want to include promises your assailant made about getting help or changing his behavior.

Take pictures of any bruises or injuries you have. Take pictures or videotapes of any damage done to your home or property. Make sure you write the date of the incident and a description of what it is on any pictures. If you are taking pictures of bruises on a specific part of your body, take two pictures. First, a close-up that shows the bruise, and a second picture farther away that shows your face and that part of the body. That way, you can prove the bruise was made on you. When taking pictures of a hole in the wall, put something next to the hole to show how big it is. Keep copies of any email he sends to you. Record or make copies of any messages on answering machines or voice mail. Write down the name, address and phone number of any witnesses to the violence.

Get medical help

If you have been injured, go to the emergency room or urgent care unit, or see your doctor. Medical records may be important evidence in criminal or civil court cases. Medical records may also help you get a personal protection order. Give all the information you feel safe to give. Medical records are supposed to be confidential and are not supposed to be given out to anyone but you.

Special medical concerns

What seems like a minor injury could be a major one. If your head gets hit and you lose consciousness, if you are more groggy an hour after an attack, if you have a persistent headache or if you have a seizure, be sure to see a doctor. These could be signs of brain injury, bleeding in the brain or a closed head injury.

If you are pregnant and have been beaten on your abdomen or back, tell the doctor. Many batterers injure unborn children. If you’ve been beaten in the belly, if you start to feel faint, notice bruising on your back or large bruises on your stomach, you could also have wounds to your internal organs that could be life threatening.

If you’ve been limited in your access to medication, try to see a doctor and ask for free samples. Most pharmaceutical companies have policies to provide low-cost or free medication to people who cannot afford them, so if you have a chronic condition and are worried that you won’t be able to pay for medication, this might be an option. If your insurance is in your partner’s name, be careful that it is not billed for medical care (if you don’t want them to know about it).

Note: If you are treated for injuries from an assault, your health care provider may be required to report the assault to the police. If you need medical care but you are not ready for police involvement, you do have the right to decline to speak to the police when they arrive or to decline to give the name of your assailant. We do not want your fear of police involvement to prevent you from receiving medical care.

Safety planning when you’re still living with your assailant or when you are leaving

Here are some things to consider when you suspect your partner is about to assault you again.

  • Try to figure out the “warning signs” that come before an assault (drinking, taking drugs, pay day, a bill collector, a bad day at work). Are there physical signs that he is going to hit you (clenched fists, threats, heavy breathing, a flushed face, destruction of property, etc.)?
  • Try to get out or get help before the assault.
  • Are there any weapons in the house? Where? Can you remove the weapons? The ammunition? Lock them up?
  • When an assault occurs, try to move to a room or area that has access to an exit. Avoid a bathroom, kitchen or anywhere near weapons.
  • Can you figure out a signal for the neighbors to call the police? Can you teach your child(ren) to call the police? Or can you go to a neighbor and call?
  • Can you and your children memorize telephone numbers to call for safety?
  • Can you hide a cell phone if your assailant destroys the phone in your house? (You may be qualified for a special cell phone that calls 911.)

Think ahead & prepare for situations where you may need to leave in a hurry

  • How will you get out of the house? Some women take out the garbage, walk the dog, get the newspaper or offer to go get him cigarettes. Set up a routine where it’s normal for you to leave for a short period of time.
  • Where will you go when you get out of the house? Where is the nearest telephone?
  • Try to collect and hide money.
  • Put important documents in one place where they can be easily grabbed.
  • If possible, leave copies of documents, spare clothes, spare keys to the car and the house, and money with a neighbor or trusted friend.
  • Think about taking money from any of your bank accounts. This is not stealing. You can always give it back. Our experience is that if you don’t take it, your assailant will take it all.
  • Reach out for help. Enlist your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and professionals in your safety planning.

What about the kids?

TAKE YOUR CHILDREN WITH YOU. If you do not have your children with you, you will not be able to file for temporary custody of your children. The parent who has physical possession of the children will almost always get temporary custody. Assailants often withhold access to the children or threaten to harm them in order to get their partners to return. If the assailant has physical possession, he can get temporary custody. If he gets temporary custody, you cannot legally take the children from him. You will have to go to court and contest the temporary custody. Even if you know your assailant has been abusive to the children, if there is not an open Child Protective Services case against him, the court will probably not give you temporary custody unless you have the children in your possession and you file first.

Safety plan with your children

Teach them to call 911. Practice what they should do during an assault, and decide on a code word that means they should get help. Tell personnel at your children’s school, day care and any other “after-school activities” what is happening. Make sure they know who has permission to pick up the children and who doesn’t.

What to take with you

Your life and your safety are most important. Trying to bring your children is important. Everything else is secondary. If you can do it, here is a list of things you should take with you. (If you’re worried about taking something of his, remember, you can always give it back.)

  • Identification: Driver’s license, birth certificate for you and the kids, voter registration card, credit cards, work identification, unemployment card, green card, passport, baptismal certificate, marriage license, adoption records
  • Social security numbers for you, your partner and your children. Bring your own and your children’s cards if available.
  • Medical records, health insurance information
  • Keys to the car and to the apartment or house
  • Any welfare records
  • Financial information such as bankbooks, checkbooks, savings records, stocks, insurance, pensions, etc.
  • Prescription drugs, copies of prescriptions for you and the children
  • Spare eyeglasses or contact lenses for you and the children
  • Money
  • Photos, diaries, address books and other personal property that cannot be replaced
  • Automobile (If the car is in your name, take it. If it’s in both your names, take it. If it’s in his name, he has another car, and you’re married, take the car.)
  • Clothes and toys are the last priority. They are replaced most easily. When your assailant finds that you are gone, he will probably destroy things that are important to you. If you can, take things that are not replaceable, things with significant sentimental value. Assailants usually take any money that is in a joint account, and if they have access to your credit cards, they will use them. If you think your assailant knows your credit card numbers, you might want to change them.

Safety planning after you’ve left the assailant – stalking and harassment

  • Change the locks.
  • Find a neighbor you trust who would call the police if the assailant is around.
  • Get motion sensor lights. Consider a large dog.
  • Set up a routine with a friend or family member who will check in with you on a regular basis. Agree on a code word that means you’re in danger.
  • Vary your regular routine to avoid the assailant following you. Leave for work at different times. Don’t always go to the same grocery stores, gas stations and/or restaurants.
  • Use a private post office box such as Mail Boxes, Etc. They have post office boxes that have a street address. File a change of address card with the U.S. Postal Service. Use it for all mail, packages and magazines.
  • Get an unpublished and unlisted telephone number.
  • Order line blocking for your telephone number.
  • Contact Family Crisis Services about getting a “911 cell phone” if you don’t have access to a phone.
  • If you can, install your phone line in another residence and use call forwarding.
  • After you leave, remember to change the password on any voice mail that you use, and change the retrieval code for a telephone answering machine.
  • If you have a personal protection order, keep a copy with you at all times.
  • If you live where there’s security, or a rental/property manager, give them a picture of your assailant and a copy of the PPO. Give a picture, a copy of the PPO and any custody documents to your child’s school as well.
  • Try to live in an apartment complex with an outside door to each building that is locked.
  • Ask your neighbors not to buzz someone in unless they know who they are.
  • If you can, keep your car in a garage to keep the assailant from tampering with it.
  • Document all contacts by the assailant. Save letters and cards, tape voice-mail messages and phone calls. Make copies of emails. Keep a journal of all strange occurrences.
  • If your assailant must get something from your home or you need to get something from his, see “Retrieving Belongings After You Have Left” below.
  • Have your name removed from reverse directories. The entries in these directories are in numerical order by phone number or by address. These books allow anyone who has just one piece of information, such as a phone number, to find where you live.
  • Be careful who you tell where you are. Unfortunately, assailants usually find their victims through family members. Your sister may tell his sister who then tells him.
  • Change your email password as soon as you leave, then again every few weeks.
  • Remember that anyone with a radio scanner could listen in on a cell phone or cordless telephone conversation if he or she is within two miles. Digital phones may offer greater privacy, but they are more expensive and not foolproof. Be careful not to reveal any private information on a cell phone or cordless phone.

Retrieving belongings after you have left

If you need to get something from your assailant’s home (or your former home) or if your assailant must get something from your home, call the police to request a “civil standby.” This is a request for the police to come and stand by to ensure that there will be no violence or harassment during property transfer. Usually the police can only stay for 15 -20 minutes, so if you need more time, you might have to do it more than once. Remember that police are not required to do civil standbys.

Safety in the workplace

  • Inform your boss, co-workers and any security of the situation. Provide them with a picture of the assailant and a copy of the personal protection order.
  • Ask that your calls be screened or sent directly to voice mail.
  • Ask that your office be locked, or make sure that the front desk does not let your assailant into the office.
  • Ask that your current home address or phone number not be given out.
  • Carpool to work with someone, or ask security to walk you to and from your car each day.
  • Ask if you can vary your work schedule.
  • Suggest to your boss that someone from SAPA come and consult with them and/or do a talk for employees about domestic violence. This may help them take your situation more seriously.

Safety for survivors and their children during parenting time

If parenting time is ordered by the court, try to have parenting time arrangements made through a third party with whom you feel comfortable.

  • Work on having drop-off and pickup happen in a public place (police station, near mall security, post office lobby), or have it happen at a third party’s home.
  • Try to avoid arriving at or departing from the drop-off/pickup site at the same time as the assailant.
  • If the exchange of children must happen at your home, try to have the custody order specify that the assailant must wait in his car across the street and that he cannot come to the door.
  • Arrange for a supportive, calm and mature friend to be present during the exchange.
  • Have the kids all ready to go before he arrives.
  • Keep the door locked in case he shows up early.
  • Document all problems with parenting time, and report them to the Friend of the Court.