by Christina Hays
With the Holidays upon us, ensuring everyone’s safety becomes difficult and challenging for survivors of abuse. Acronyms help us remember the important things, and safety planning with people fleeing abuse increases the likelihood that everyone gets out with as little harm as possible. Picking a word with a Holiday theme may just help someone recall what they need to do as they work through a plan to get safe. This year we will use the word PEACE.
P stands for prepare. Every person who leaves abuse needs to prepare before actually fleeing. If at all possible advocates recommend putting together a go bag, securing important papers (i.e. birth certificates, social security cards, insurance cards, marriage license, immigration documents, etc.), deciding where to go when leaving, and having a backup plan. Preparation is vital to getting out quickly and ensuring that the survivor has everything that they need making it unnecessary to risk going back for anything.
E represents escape. Leaving an abusive situation can be the most dangerous time. We call it an escape or exit strategy for a reason. This is usually the scariest time for a victim of intimate partner violence. Ideally the person fleeing has worked out a safe exit strategy with an advocate. Sometimes the survivor just needs to wait for the perfect window when the abuser has left the home, passed out, or gone to work.
A epitomizes acclimate. After fleeing abuse survivors need rest, recuperation, and support. Getting out of the abuse does not take away the mental and emotional toll or the physical exhaustion from walking around on eggshells. Being in a safe place finally feels like getting a deep breath after being under water for several minutes. It starts out as gasping and then panic at the thought of not being able to breath freely again.
C denotes counseling. Crisis counseling after leaving an abusive and traumatic situation helps unpack the mental anguish some survivors feel after leaving. Advocates provide a safe place to get everything out in the open without fear of criticism or judgement. Counseling teaches tools to help get through the pain and heartache associated with the loss of a relationship. Working through the relationship, pointing out red flags and warning signs, and unlearning trauma responses represent a few ways counseling helps.
E symbolizes encouragement. Crisis Services of North Alabama provides free services to survivors of intimate partner violence. When people ask how to repay advocates the answer is always the same. Help share information that you learned here. Give our card to someone that may need help in the future. Always reach out when you need to talk or if you ever find yourself in another abusive situation. Stay a part of the survivor’s community we build through in-person or online support groups.
During the Holiday season if you find yourself in an abusive situation, and you do not know how to get out safely, please reach out to Crisis Services of North Alabama locally at 256-574-5826 or at our 24/7 HELPline at 256-716-1000. Trained crisis counselors provide a safe place to talk about the abuse and work towards starting a violence free future.
Feel free to pass on P.E.A.C.E. with anyone who needs help getting free from abuse. For more information on ways you can become a part of the PEACE challenge this Holiday season please contact me directly at 256-574-5826 or email me at the following: email@example.com.