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Christmas Safety Planning Tips From a Domestic Violence Advocate

As the winter holidays approach, domestic violence advocates, such as myself, want you to know just how important safety planning is. Let’s face it, the holidays are such a stressful time filled with a variety of pressures (e.g., gift hunting, party planning, spending more time with relatives). All these things can create additional tension to relationships that are already abusive. Therefore, it’s crucial to prioritize your own well-being.

Surprisingly, calls made to the domestic abuse victim advocates at the National Domestic Violence Hotline are much lower on both Thanksgiving and Christmas day. However, there’s a definite surge that occurs during the weeks right after New Year’s. Domestic violence advocates believe that this is because many victims put off seeking help so that they can maintain stability throughout the holidays. If you know someone who has this hope this season, help them create a safety plan so that they have a way out before a crisis occurs.

What do domestic violence advocates suggest putting in a safety plan?

To begin with, the first thing that domestic abuse victim advocates say that you should know is what a safety plan is. It’s a structured approach that enhances your well-being and protects you against potential harm. For it to be comprehensive you’ll want to make sure that you identify safe spaces within your home, establish communication strategies with people you trust and create an emergency escape plan. For instance, as a domestic abuse victim advocate I really encourage you to create a code word or signal with a trusted individual so that you can discreetly convey to them that you’re in danger.

You should also pack what domestic abuse victim advocate call a “jump bag.” This is a bag that contains your essential documents (e.g., drivers license, social security card, birth certificate, credit card, bank information, marriage license, car title, lease or mortgage papers, passports, insurance information and cards, welfare documents, court documents for things like divorce and custody decrees, pay stubs, recent tax returns, immunization records), medications, and other necessities (e.g., clothes, toiletries, items for your children). Other important things to include in your jump bag are a list of domestic violence shelters in the area with their contact information, money, and an extra set of keys. Consider also buying a prepaid mobile phone in case you can’t get to yours when you need to leave. You should keep all of these things in a concealed location so that you can quickly escape if necessary.

Once you’ve created a safety plan and packed your jump bag you want to make sure to safeguard your technology. To do this domestic violence advocates strongly encourage you to:

  • Adjust your privacy settings to hide your current status, mobile uploads, and photos.

  • Disable location settings.

  • Lock your computer and smartphone with passwords that you change frequently.

  • Save important messages from your computer (anything that would help document abuse if you need proof), documents, and pictures on a portable USB flash drive

What else do domestic violence victim advocates want you to know heading into the holiday season?

Domestic abuse victim advocates believe that taking these steps will empower you to proactively address your unique circumstances. It’ll also foster a sense of control during these challenging times.

After the holidays are over domestic violence advocates witness an increase in the number of people who are seeking help or shelter. Therefore, this time is crucial for community support. As I start preparing for this season there will be additions to this site to look forward to as well. There will be a section dedicated to domestic violence advocate training being added. This work is something I’m dedicated to but it’s also something that I need your help with. Won’t you please consider making a monetary donation to Healing Family Trauma Pittsburgh this holiday season? My domestic abuse victim advocate work depends on donations like yours. Thank you.

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