How to have these conversations
with your Children
Planning for safe custody exchanges
If you are in an abusive relationship, a safety plan should include ways that your children can stay safe when violence is happening in your home. It’s key to remember that if the violence is escalating, you should avoid running to the children because your partner may hurt them as well. This information is provided by The National Domestic Violence HOTLINE path to safety.
Planning for violence in the home
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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.
If you’re creating a safety plan of your own to leave an abusive relationship, safety planning for your pets is important as well. Bring extra provisions for them, copies of their medical records and important phone numbers.
If possible, don’t leave pets alone with an abusive partner. If you are planning to leave, talk to friends, family or your veterinarian about temporary care for your pet. If that is not an option, search by state or zip code for services that assist domestic violence survivors with safekeeping for their pets. Try zip code first, and if there are no results, try a search by state. If the none of the results are feasible for your situation, try contacting your local domestic violence shelter. For help finding an animal shelter, visit the Humane Society website.
If you have to leave your pet behind with your abusive partner, try to ask for assistance from law enforcement officials or animal control to see if they can intervene.Take steps to prove ownership of your pet, have them vaccinated and license them with your town, ensuring that these registrations are made in your name (change them if they aren’t).
If you’re thinking about getting a protective order, know that some states allow pets to be a part of these.If you’ve left your partner, ensure the safety of your pet by changing veterinarians and avoid leaving pets outside alone.
Let your child know that what’s happening is not their fault and that they didn’t cause it. Let them know how much you love them and that you support them no matter what. Tell them that you want to protect them and that you want everyone to be safe, so you have to come up with a plan to use in case of emergencies. It’s important to remember that when you’re safety planning with a child, they might tell this information to the abusive partner, which could make the situation more dangerous (ex. “Mom said to do this if you get angry.”) When talking about these plans with your child, use phrases such as “We’re practicing what to do in an emergency,” instead of “We’re planning what you can do when dad/mom becomes violent.”
Planning for unsupervised visits
If you have separated from an abusive partner and are concerned for your childrens' safety when they visit your ex, developing a safety plan for while they are visiting can be beneficial
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Exercise your legal rights. Anyone who is experiencing domestic violence has the right to go to court and petition for an order of protection if they have been battered in one of the fifty states, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia. In most parts of the country you can also ask for custody of your children and child support at the same time. You should try to get a lawyer to represent you and protect all of your rights under law. Call your state and local coalition against domestic violence, a state or local crisis hot line, or the state or local bar association to learn more about where to find legal help.