© MuslimMatters.org http://muslimmatters.org on January 26, 2011. All rights reserved. Please see legal & other disclaimers here <http://muslimmatters.org/legal-disclaimer>.
Bismillah walhamdolillah. To begin, I am an attorney licensed in both Texas and California, but I am not a specialist in family law, and I am not submitting this post as legal advice nor as a substitute for legal advice.
Rather I have come across some very useful and (sadly) necessary information for people — let’s be frank, usually women — who have to seek the assistance of law enforcement to restrain a violent or abusive spouse (or former spouse).
The following information is from the website: www.texaslawhelp.org, and was provided to that site by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.
PERSONAL SAFETY PLANNING
Information provided by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
SAFETY DURING AN EXPLOSIVE INCIDENT
• If there is an argument, try to be in a place that has an exit. Avoid the bathroom, kitchen or any room that may contain weapons.
• Practice how to get out safely. Know what doors, windows, elevators, stairwells, or fire escapes you would use.
• Keep purse and car keys readily available.
• Identify a friend or neighbor you can tell about the violence and ask them to call 911 if they hear a disturbance coming from your house.
• Arrange a code word to alert your children, friends and family that you need help.
• Plan where you will go if you have to leave home & a back-up place (even if you don’t think you are going to need it).
• In a dangerous situation, appease the abuser if possible to keep him or her calm. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
Remember: You don’t deserve to be hit or threatened!
SAFETY FOR YOUR CHILDREN
• Talk to your children about a safety plan when you are not with them.
• Tell your children’s school and/or daycare who has permission to pick up the children.
• Teach your children how to dial 911 for police and fire assistance.
• Practice your escape plan with the children, if appropriate.
SAFETY WHEN YOU ARE PREPARING TO LEAVE
• Abusers are more violent when they believe that the person they have abused is leaving the relationship. This is the time to be most cautious.
• Get your own post office box so that you can receive checks and mail.
• Open a checking or savings account in your own name at a different bank and try to get a credit card in your own name, to increase your independence.
• Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important papers, extra clothes and medicine with someone you can trust so you can leave quickly.
• Keep change for phone calls on you at all times. Using a calling card is not safe!
• You can seek shelter and help by calling 1-800-799-SAFE. Figure out who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you some money.
• If you have pets, make arrangements for them to be cared for in a safe place.
• Review your personal safety plan often.
SAFETY AND YOUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH
• The experience of being battered and verbally degraded by partners is usually exhausting and emotionally draining.
• If you are thinking about going back to your abusive partner, talk to someone you trust about your options.
• Have positive thoughts about yourself and be assertive about what you need.
• Plan to attend a support group.
• If you have to communicate with your partner, take someone with you for moral support & meet in a public place.
SAFETY IN THE HOME
• Use different banks, grocery stores and shopping malls. Shop at hours different from those you used when residing with the abuser. Change your routine!
• If you stay in your home:
o Change the locks. Buy additional locks for the windows, and don’t forget the patio door.
o Tell your neighbors that the batterer no longer lives there, and to call the police if they see the batterer near your home.
o Screen your calls.
• If you move:
o Never call the abuser from your home, or tell them where you live.
o Request an unlisted number from the phone company.
SAFETY AT WORK OR IN PUBLIC
• Carefully decide who you will inform at work about your situation.
• Inform your supervisor, building security officers, and/or co-workers of your situation. If possible, provide them with a photograph of your abuser.
• Arrange to have someone screen your calls, whether it is the receptionist, voicemail or a co-worker.
• Have a safety plan to use when you leave work:
o Ask someone to escort you to and from your vehicle or bus.
o Park in a secure, well-lit area.
o Use a variety of routes to come and go from home.
o Think of what you would do if something happened on the way home.
o Avoid isolated roads.
- CHECKLIST: ITEMS TO TAKE WITH YOU
Children’s birth certificates
Social Security cards
Health Insurance/HMO cards
Money/Credit/ATM cards (in your name)
Checking/ Savings account books
Lease, rental agreement, house deed
Car registration and insurance papers
Health and life insurance papers
Medical records for your family
Work permits / Green Cards
Income Tax / IRA’s
Passport / Visa
Divorce and custody papers
Mortgage / Loan payment books
House, car, and office keys
Pictures of you, children & abuser
Change of clothes
Children’s favorite toys/blankets
REMEMBER: DON’T RISK YOUR LIFE OR YOUR CHILDREN’S LIVES FOR ANY OF THESE ITEMS. MATERIAL THINGS ARE REPLACEABLE… LIVES ARE NOT!!
If you or the person you wish to advise are in the State of Texas, I highly recommend the pdf file from which the above information was copied. It is a succinct description of the law and legal avenues available to women who have reason to fear the actions of their spouses or former spouses. Also, it has fill-in forms that should be compatible with most computers.
But again, the information I copied and pasted is good for a person in many parts of the world, but the form itself will only help you in Texas, wAllaho’Alim.
If your spouse beats you, or threatens you or your children or other loved ones with physical violence, or makes you afraid constantly, then please seek help. But a woman should not have to be beaten or physically hurt before she has access to help. You have a right to feel safe. If you are in doubt about whether your situation is abusive, you still have every right to ask for help. And if you are not being abused, but you know someone in such a situation, please do not wait until some terrible act takes place.