I Have Found My Voice and I Refuse to Shut Up

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Safety Planning

If you’re in an abusive relationship you should always have a safety plan.

Be ready to leave. Plan ahead.

Pack a bag…pack clothes, money or a checkbook and important papers.
Keep the bag in a safe place. Keep it with a friend or family member. Write down phone numbers for the police, a shelter, relatives or friends. Keep numbers where you can find them.

Find a safe place. Go to a friend or family member’s home. Go to a shelter. Call the National Domestic Violence Hot-line at 1-800-799-7233. Ask where the closest shelter is. Go to a motel or hotel. (Save enough money to pay at least for 1 night.)

Plan how to leave. Think about how you will go.

Will you leave by car? Keep the keys where you can find them. Put extra car keys in a safe place. Keep gas in the car.

Will you take a bus or a taxi? Know where the station is or the number to call. Have money for your fare.

Will you get a ride from a friend? Know who you can call.

Will you leave on foot? Think about where you will go.

If you have children, talk to them.
Tell them the abuse is not their fault.
Tell them to stay out of the fighting.
Teach them to call 9-1-1 or go to a neighbor for help. Teach them to know what to do when the fighting starts.

It’s not your fault either. Do not take advice from people who say the abuse is your fault. It’s hard to make a plan to be safe if you think you are to blame.

Abuse is not normal.

You deserve to be safe.

It’s not your job to stop the abuse. You can’t.

Have a plan in place. Be ready and stay safe.



The following mock investigation of Mr. Smith illustrates the brutal and rigorous treatment that victims of rape sometimes endure in the judicial process. The dialogue underscores the point that rape victims are never at fault for the crime committed against them, and it highlights the importance of sensitizing members of law enforcement and the judicial system to better meet the needs of victims.

Investigator: Mr. Smith, you allege to have been help up at gunpoint on the corner of First and Main.

Mr. Smith: Yes.

Investigator: Did you see a gun?

Mr. Smith: No.

Investigator: So, you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than resist?

Mr. Smith: Yes.

Investigator: Did you scream? Cry out?

Mr. Smith: No.

Investigator: In other words, you didn’t try to get help for yourself.

Mr. Smith: I was afraid to.

Investigator: I see. Have you ever been held up before?

Mr. Smith: No.

Investigator: Have you ever given money away?

Mr. Smith: Yes, of course.

Investigator: And you did so willingly?

Mr. Smith: What are you getting at?

Investigator: Well, let’s put it like this, Mr. Smith. You’ve given money away in the past. In fact, you have quite a reputation for your generosity. How can we be sure that you weren’t planning on having your money taken by force?

Mr. Smith: Listen, if I wanted…

Investigator: Never mind. What time did this hold up take place?

Mr. Smith: About 11:00 p.m.

Investigator: You were out on the street at 11:00 p.m.? Doing what?

Mr. Smith: Just walking.

Investigator: Just walking? You know that it’s dangerous being out on the street late at night. Weren’t you aware that you could have been held up?

Mr. Smith: I hadn’t thought about it.

Investigator: What were you wearing?

Mr. Smith: Let’s see – a suit. Yes, a suit.

Investigator: An expensive suit?

Mr. Smith: Well, yes. I’m a successful lawyer, you know.

Investigator: In other words Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be a good target for some easy money, isn’t that so? I mean, if we didn’t know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think that you were asking for this to happen, mightn’t we?

Source: American Bar Association Journal

On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship 7 times before she leaves for good.

During the process of my divorce, I began working for a domestic violence and sexual assault program. My oldest daughter could not understand how I could do this work day in and day out when the majority of women wouldn’t follow through with leaving. I explained to her it was a process and not easy or even safe in most cases. She still didn’t understand until one day she came home and said, “I get it now mommy. I understand why you do what you do.” She had read The Starfish Story at school and had an ‘aha’ moment.

The Starfish Story

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, ”Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

That is exactly what it is about. Every victory, no matter how small, is still a victory.

Every seed of affirmation that is planted will take root and grow with continued support and nurturing.

Although I never actually left my abusive relationship but once, I must have left 100+ times in my mind. When the day finally came, I was able to walk away with no doubt, no self-blame and no attachment. It was the epitome of freedom.

Write yourself a happy ending,

Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

1) You have been physically harmed, including being hit, pushed, pinched or slapped.

2) You are subjected to threats of harming you, your friends, family or guilt-induced that you may cause him/her to harm himself/herself.

3) You live in fear of his/her disapproval and the resultant consequences.

4) You are called demeaning names or criticized, teased and ridiculed in a mean spirited way (“fat”, “ugly”, “bitch”, “stupid”, etc.).

5) You are made to feel that any problems, yours or his, are all your fault.

6) You observe him/her mistreat/rage against others including family, friends, service people or pets.

7) You are forced to be isolated from your friends or family in order to maintain harmony.


Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.


Crisis Lines

Anonymous and Confidential Help
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)