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Victims of domestic violence live in a shadow of fear and shame

Anyone can be a safe haven for victims of domestic violence
Victims of domestic violence should try to pack a go bag with clothes, extra keys and other items in case they are able to leave quickly. (Submitted photo)

Secrets hide in the dark – created by shame and fear in the darkness of domestic violence. That is the concept behind Purple Light Nights – shining a light on the pain and heartache of domestic violence and providing resources for victims to get the help they need and see the options they have.

If physical violence or threats have occurred, then charges are likely to be brought and police should be and can be called. In emerging situations or when police have not been called, it is essential that victims be able to make an escape. Being prepared is important and you may be able to be that light that helps lead them to safety.

We must all remember that violence is not just physical violence. Psychological and emotional violence are two of the most powerful and destructive types. Financial is another that is almost invisible unless one knows what to look for. Sexual violence is usually behind closed doors that hides behind another curtain of shame and fear.

We must all be the light and the first step is knowing where and how to shine that light of hope.

The most important thing for friends, family and neighbours is to be sources of safety, help and support. Letting the person, you suspect or believe is a victim of domestic violence know that help is there whenever they need it – night or day – a phone call or knock on the door is all it will take to provide a safe haven to escape the fear, shame and dread.

Fear and shame are what cause victims of domestic violence to stay in hostile and unhealthy environments. The most important and valuable thing friends, family and neighbours can do is let them know that you are there for them. Let them know you are willing to help, to listen and help without judgement. You can be their safe haven.

Tell them they can always count on you for support and help to escape the abuse. Let them know that they are not alone – from making a phone call to the police or agencies that provide specialized assistance to giving them a safe place to go to.

Here are some professional and helpful hints on how you can be a source of support and safety and a safe haven for the victim.

• Encourage the victim to not confront their partner or let them know of plans to leave

• Safety must be the number one priority –to keep the victim protected.

• Help the victim to organize and pack a small bag with important items and keep it stored at your home in case it is needed

• You or the victim can call your local shelter, or, in an emergency, the police.

• Create a code word that allows the victim to safely alert you that they need help immediately.

• Offer to provide childcare if needed while seeking help.

The Escape or “Go Bag”

Offer to keep the bag for them so they will be prepared and can just leave when an opportunity presents itself.

Important items: Phone card, chargers for phones, extra clothing and footwear, medications and prescriptions, extra key set (home, car, and office); Phone numbers of emergency shelters and agencies.

Important documents - birth certificates, social insurance numbers, driver’s license and registration, care cards, address book, passports or immigration identification, custody agreements, insurance, bank statements or other financial records, leases, mortgage/deed papers, copy of any restraining or other legal orders, school and vaccination records and

photocopies of credit cards, bank statements, bank cards.

Cash - also an important item and a source of security

Safety is always the first priority – and knowing that you are a safe haven is invaluable to the person trying to escape domestic violence. You can be that safe haven by shining a light that will help dispel the darkness of fear and shame.

For more information, contact Victim Services at 604 869-7770.