Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preparing to escape

If you plan to escape, then that means changing virtually every aspect of your life: your home, your money, your car, your job, schools, the works. This requires a lot of planning: the big issues are money and jobs, housing, child support, and emotional support. He has had a plan for years, to control you, so you need a plan too – you need to be ten steps ahead of him.

Schedule places and times for yourself to work on your plan.
Review these articles (particularly the section on packing to escape), come up with your own plan and keep it safe (disguise it as a FEMA-style emergency-readiness kit for hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, tornados etc).
Plan it like the script of a movie, step by step: where you will go, where your purse and keys are stashed so you can grab them quickly, whom you will contact, what to do with the kids, what you’re bringing and where it’s stashed, what your alternate escape route will be if the first one goes sour.
Figure out when you can be ready, and start thinking in terms of that target date.
Stash a copy in a secret email account or hide it with a friend, or at work.
Be thorough – it’s the little details that lead to big trouble.
Review your safety plan with a domestic violence advocate to plan the safest way to leave the abuser.
Memorize important numbers (like Social Security) and have the numbers for shelters and the rest of your support network handy (hidden).
Learn some marketable job skills.
Stash money somewhere safe.
Make a list of the things you'd like to get out of the house, and prioritize -- which ones do I really need? Try to move some of your stuff out ahead of time, behind his back, if it’s safe.
Pack in trash bags – easier than boxes and suitcases.
Make extra keys.
Is the car in good shape, and the last payment made?
Plan for contingencies, in case things go wrong: the bank is closed, the car breaks down, sick kid, movers don’t show, new home unready, abuser calls, neighbors blow the whistle, etc.

A key element in all of this is putting together your “posse”, your “Gang of Four”: these are a handful of people who know you intend to leave. Even they probably only need to know very little about your new destination, address, phone number. What little you tell them, tell at the last minute. Ideally the posse consists of people the abuser doesn’t know, because he will con them or threaten them; think of relatives in other states, old college friends, pastors. Don’t trust anybody else, because people can’t help spilling secrets and some may take information about you straight to the abuser because they like him or they want to save your marriage. And don’t tell the kids anything!

Another key element: don’t tip him off in your behavior. The New Runaway You must look, sound, feel exactly like the Old Terrified You. Abusers are very perceptive. Be an actress. Don’t change your routines. If he’s suspicious, consider distracting him with a diversion.

Feel free to use fakery: join an activity or a gym, and use that time to plan your departure. Find something to distract his attention with, so he's not paying full attention. Plan your cover stories carefully. Give no sign of your departure right up until D-Day, then skip out when everything is quiet and a departure is least expected, and leave a false trail of phone calls to hotels and schools 300 miles away from your real destination.
Think about what will happen at the time you actually leave, to keep safe. Many DV attacks – and many of the fatalities -- occur right when the survivor tries to leave.Never tell him you're seeking a divorce until after you have a safety plan.
Figure out the ground rules at your new home and work, to include how to communicate with family and friends.
Call ahead to the police and the women’s shelter at your destination.
Prepare to send an “I am alive and well” letter to authorities, so they don’t go hunting for you.
Use form letters to tell everyone not to give him information about you, to include passwords which must be used before anything is released to anybody; send them to friends, family, utilities, creditors, insurers, lawyer, accountant, doctor.
Prepare for possible legal action: collect your new point-of-contact details, details regarding your car, the abuser’s abusive letters/emails/voice messages, the abuser’s phone numbers, and bagged/dated hair samples for both of you.

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