The note: Escaping domestic violence

Planning, from having money saved to a prepaid phone in your "go bag" can make the difference when fleeing domestic abuse.

$5.50 plus tip by Several Seconds for Flickr Creative Commons -
$5.50 plus tip by Several Seconds for Flickr Creative Commons -

VISTA, Calif., May 15, 2015 – With bright red, glossy eyes, a crushed heart pounding from fear and a red handprint embossed on her cheek, Tina closed the door to the checkered sedan. She placed her “go bag” on the bench seat next to her, feeling the anticipation of speeding away.

“Where to?” travelled from the raspy mouth of the driver ready to start the meter. Tina had not planned that far ahead. Her brain was scurrying for an answer she didn’t have. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a folded piece of paper.

She took the paper, unfolding it in her shaking hands, only to see an address in an adjacent county.

The meter ran, just as Tina did.

Domestic violence is a common, yet an underreported issue that is concealed in homes across the world. In the United States a variety of relationships falls under this umbrella. The majority are between married couples, along with boyfriends and girlfriends.

However, there are other relationships that co-exist in this hidden world. For example, violence happens between siblings, same-gender couples, parent and child, child and parent, cohabiters and exes. In all domestic violence cases, regardless of the type of relationship, there is a victim (and often more than one) and an aggressor.

Unfortunately, the scenario above isn’t a common one. Many victims stay in relationships hoping things will get better, only to find that abuse escalates over time. What once was a joyous relationship with visions of “happily ever after” becomes the journey to a dark, lonely, isolated and scarred nightmare.

Often, fear, the root cause of this mental prison, doesn’t allow the victim to leave. Over time and with escalated violence, this issue can be deadly and not just for the victim.

Domestic violence is synonymous with intimate partner abuse and domestic abuse. Under the domestic violence umbrella drip the types of violence that fall upon one’s head. There is physical abuse, which happens to be the image many of us conjure up when we hear the term. However, there is verbal, emotional and mental abuse that holds hands with physical abuse, though not always.

Abuse types can be solo or intermingled, but no matter how abuse surfaces, it is still abuse. Abuse is not acceptable. Abuse should not be tolerated.

For those who are currently involved in a relationship that is unhealthy and unacceptable, what options are available for those suffering in the shadows of a fear-based and fear-invoked situation? Many victims don’t feel they can leave the situation, while for others on the outside, it seems the most logical solution.

To answer this question, it is important to understand that one solution doesn’t create a mold for the variables that need to be taken into account in such a diverse population. Two things are the foundation to overcoming the dark cloud attached to this umbrella: first, resources, and second, support.

Regardless of whether the victim decides to remain or go, it is valuable to know where to find resolution to anchoring fears and the support to release these strongholds when he or she is ready to leave.

Once resources are known, a victim can create a plan to tackle these challenges. If the decision is to leave the relationship, there are things a victim must understand and have in place. The first is of extreme importance.

The most dangerous time for a victim is when fleeing the situation.

Therefore, a plan is not only necessary, but crucial to one’s safety. A victim needs to look at the resources available and utilize them prior to leaving. The victim should have an idea of a destination and be ready to leave, even before the planned date of departure.

A “go bag” and a safe location unknown to friends or family needs to be established. The “go bag” should contain only essential items that can be easily carried. Material items can be replaced, the victim cannot be. In the “go bag” the items should be reduced to cash, important documents, medications, a change of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a brush, several meal replacement bars and a charged pay-as-you-go phone ready for use.

Everything else can be replaced or provided by a shelter. Having some personal items already at the destination can alleviate concern about items being left behind.

There are a number of resources, from domestic violence shelters to advocates to financial compensation, available for victims of violent abuse. One does not have to be alone.

The checkered sedan pulled up along a of a row of hotels in a busy metropolitan city, not far from a police department. Tina reached in her “go bag,” pulled out some of her stash cash and paid the man with the raspy voice.

She took a deep breath, opened the door with one hand and grabbed her “go bag” with the other. She got out, held her head up high and walked toward the address on the paper. Along the way she saw a shiny black Mercedes Benz with the driver’s side window cracked.

She took the folded paper and slipped it through the crack in the window. She was free at last.

*The opening and closing of this article are fictional.

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Rebecca L. Mahan
Rebecca L. Mahan is a retired law enforcement and Field Training officer who has spent more than 20 years studying domestic violence, working with victims of traumatic events and offers services to victims via her firm, The V.O.T.E., Victims Overcoming Traumatic Events, Program Mahan is a columnist, author and host of The V.O.T.E., Victims Overcoming Traumatic, Program" radio show. She has degrees in Church Ministry, Occupational Studies - Vocational Arts including her masters in Biblical studies. She is currently enrolled in a Doctorate of Philosophy of Theology program. Mahan has used her knowledge and training to write V.O.T.E.: Victims Overcoming Traumatic Events for use by patrol officers.