Help for you

If you are in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.

There is nothing you can do or have done to cause some one to abuse or assault you. The only person responsible for abuse is the person who chooses to engage in that behavior.

In your current circumstance, it may seem impossible to get safe or to heal. But there is someone here to help you. There is someone here to listen.

You know your situation and circumstances best and are the only one who can decide what is best for you. While the information and resources below may be helpful, it is not inclusive of all the information you may need. Please call 360.715.1563 to connect with a trained advocate who can help you develop a personal safety and healing plan.

The Path to Safety

If you have been experiencing abuse from an intimate partner, you have likely taken many actions to keep yourself safe, whether you know it or not.  You are the expert of your situation.  When thinking about safety planning, try to identify what you’ve done in the past to help yourself stay safer, and think of ways you may feel safer should another violent incident occur.  Remember: only the abuser can stop the abuse.  Below are some things to consider if you believe an incident may escalate into physical violence.

  • Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger to you and your children before it occurs. Trust your gut. If it’s telling you there is danger, there probably is.
  • Identify safer areas of your home where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.
  • If violence becomes unavoidable, it may help to make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
  • If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest public phone is located. Memorize the DVSAS helpline number (360.715.1563). If your life is in danger or you need medical assistance, call 911.
  • Think about keeping a packed bag in a safe place with anything you might need if you had to leave your home in a hurry: important documents, extra clothes, medications, items your children may need, etc.
  • Consider letting trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and /or visual signal for when you need help.
  • Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.
  • Plan for what you will do if your child tells your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.
  • Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
  • Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. Consider keeping the driver’s door unlocked and others locked for a quick escape.
  • Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used for strangulation.
  • Consider creating several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
If children are in the home, a safety plan should include ways that they can stay safe when violence is happening. If the violence is escalating, avoid running to the children if you believe your partner may hurt them as well.

Planning for Violence in the Home

  • Teach your children when and how to call 911.
  • Instruct them to leave the home if possible when things begin to escalate, and where they can go.
  • Come up with a code word that you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency  — make sure that they know not to tell others what the secret word means.
  • Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.
  • In the house: identify a room they can go to when they’re afraid and something they can think about when they’re scared.
  • Instruct them to stay out of the kitchen, bathroom and other areas where there are items that could be used as weapons.
  • Teach them that although they want to protect their parent, they should never intervene.
  • Help them make a list of people that they are comfortable talking with and expressing themselves to.
  • Enroll them in a counseling program. Call DVSAS (360.715.1563) or Brigid Collins Family Support Center (360.734.4616) for referrals or more information.
Pets can be an important part of a family, and for many victims a critical source of comfort. Statistics show that up to 65% of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusive partners because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you. If you’re creating a safety plan, either to stay in an relationship or to leave one, you can plan for your pet as well.

  • Establish ownership of your pet by transferring veterinarian records and licenses in your name.
  • Obtain safe emergency shelter for pet, somewhere that won’t be disclosed to your abuser (e.g. veterinarian, friend, or family). Please note: The Whatcom Humane Society will house pets for victims staying in the DVSAS Safe Shelter.
  • Pack a bag for your pet that includes:
    • food
    • medicine
    • documents of ownership (receipts from adoption or purchase of pet, license to establish ownership, receipts for animal purchases)
    • health documents (veterinary and vaccination records)
  • a leash
  • an ID and rabies tag if you have a dog or cat (these will also help establish ownership)
  • pet carrier
  • toys
  • bedding

If you have left the abuser:

  • Keep pets indoors (if possible).
  • Do not let the pet outside alone.
  • Pick a safe route and time to walk your pet. Do not exercise/walk your pet alone.
  • Change your veterinarian.
While planning for your physical safety in an abusive relationship or after an assault is critical, your emotional safety and well being is just as critical. Emotional safety looks different for different people, but no matter who you are or what your circumstances, you can take steps to help you understand and accept your emotions when dealing with abuse or recovering from assault or trauma.

Some ideas for how to create and maintain an emotional safety plan that works for you:

Seek Out Supportive People.

The caring presence of trusted friends or family members can help create a calm atmosphere where you can think through difficult situations and discuss your options. DVSAS also offers ongoing support groups for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Identify and Work Towards Achievable Goals.

Achievable goals means goals you know you can meet. The depression and anxiety that can accompany trauma can be debilitating. For those struggling with depression, an achievable goal may be as simple as brushing their hair and teeth that day. Goals can range from calling an advocate to talk to going for a walk.
Remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can help options feel more possible when you are ready.

Create a Peaceful Space for Yourself.

Designating a physical place where your mind can relax and feel safe can be good option when working through difficult emotions that often arise when dealing with abuse. This can be a room in your home, a spot under your favorite tree, a comfy chair by a window or in a room with low lights.

Remind Yourself of Your Great Value.

You are important. Recognizing and reminding yourself of this reality is beneficial for your emotional health. It is never your fault when someone chooses to hurt you, and it has no reflection on your worth and value you as a person.  You deserve to feel safe and respected in all your relationships.

Remember That You Deserve to Be Kind to Yourself.

Taking time to practice self-care every day, even if it is only for a few minutes, creates space for peace and emotional safety. It’s healthy to give yourself emotional breaks and step back from your situation sometimes. This can help you to make the decisions that are best for you.

Navigating the Legal System

If you are considering obtaining a civil protection order, DVSAS can help. Trained advocates are available to talk you through the process of petitioning for an order, and whether one is a good fit for you.
If you are a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault who is involved in the Criminal Justice System, please contact DVSAS at 360.715.1563 to find out what support is available for you.
If you are a survivor of domestic violence looking to file a Parenting Plan or other civil legal documents, DVSAS can help you figure out what resources are available for you.  Call to speak with an advocate or schedule an appointment at (360.715.1563).

Recovering from Sexual Assault

It can be very difficult to know what to do following a sexual assault.  Your safety is of utmost importance. Please know that you are not alone, and consider calling the DVSAS 24-Hour Helpline to talk over your options.  If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

Your options may include:

  • Receiving medical attention at the ER or a forensic exam to preserve evidence
  • Making a report to local law enforcement
  • Identifying other options to help you feel safer while deciding what is best for you

No matter what, what happened to you is not your fault, and you are not alone.