Protective Mothers' Alliance International

family court abuse/corruption

Safety Planning Tips by Lundy Bancroft

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See on Scoop.itThe War Against Mothers

Protective Mothers’ Alliance International‘s insight:

Excerpted from When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse by Lundy Bancroft, 2004, G.P. Putnam

Now that I have finished asking you to walk a delicate line between approaching your children as wounded and responding to them as courageous and persevering, I am going to introduce another tricky balancing act:

As much as possible keeping your children from being burdened with adult responsibility, while simultaneously equipping them with strategies for keeping themselves — and you — safe.

If your partner sometimes gets scary or violent, your children are almost certainly aware of the fact, as I discussed early in this book; you cannot avoid that fear by not talking about it. In fact, children feel safer if they can talk to their mothers about how frightened their father’s behavior makes them, and discuss actions they might take next time he erupts. And they aren’t just afraid for themselves; they are worried about you, and they need to be able to express that concern and feel that you hear them. They also want to know how they might be able to protect you.

When you sit with your children, individually or as a group, to talk about safety strategies, be sure to emphasize the following points:

Adults are responsible for their own safety. Children can help if they want to, but it isn’t their job.Safety plans won’t always work, and if someone gets hurt, it isn’t the child’s fault.If they make a mistake and do the safety plan wrong, they still aren’t at fault for what happens; the abusive man is always responsible for his own actions.They can’t manage Dad or make him change.They don’t have to talk with you about safety planning if they don’t want to.

Then begin the discussion by asking your children what they think might help, or what they would like to plan to do next time they feel scared of Dad. Elicit as many ideas from them as possible; in this way you will learn what strategies they may already be using, and they are more likely to be able to effectively practice actions that they have come up with themselves. Then add ideas of your own, and see if you can agree on a plan. Here are some of the strategies I have learned about from families over the years, which you might try to include in your safety plan:

Safety Strategies for ChildrenRunning out of the home when the incident startsLocking themselves in a bedroomLocking themselves in a room that has a telephone, and calling for helpArranging a code word with friends or relatives, so that they can use the phone to call for help without the abuser knowing what they are doingDialing 911 (or the local emergency number if it is different)Running to the home of neighbors who know about the abuse, and calling the police from there (if the police are supportive)Siblings agreeing to meet together in a pre-arranged spotMaking an excuse to get Mom out of the home (such as going outdoors and faking an injury, so that she has to come out to help)Keeping a cellular phone hidden somewhere indoors, or in a garage or shed, without the abuser’s knowledge, where the children know where to find it if they need to call for helpPlanning phrases they can say to themselves or to each other to help them stay calm and get through the scary incident (such as, “We’re going to be okay.”)Leaving home as soon as they see that Dad has been drinking, or observe other behaviors that they know are warning signs of a scary incidentHiding weapons or other dangerous objects in the home so that Dad won’t be able to find themTeaching children to call the hotline for abused women in cases where they feel the need for advice about what to doPhysically or verbally intervening to protect Mom (which can be very dangerous in some cases, so children should discuss the risks of this choice)

In some cases women discover that their children have already made agreements with each other involving these elements or similar ones, but hadn’t mentioned their plans to Mom because of feeling that the abuse was an issue they were not supposed to mention, or out of fear of making Mom feel embarrassed or ashamed.

I have heard a few professionals argue that safety planning with children of abused women is inappropriate, because it burdens them unduly with adult responsibility, reinforcing a dynamic that is already part of their experience. But in practice safety planning seems to make this burden less rather than increasing it; children already feel a profound desire, and a great need, to protect their mothers, as came across powerfully in Caroline McGee’s interviews. The only way to truly relieve that burden is to end or escape the abuse, which is far from easy to do, as I discussed in earlier chapters. In the mean time, most children are better off with some empowerment than without it.

If you have not made a safety plan for yourself, apart from any safety planning with your children, I would encourage you to do so first. You can look in Chapter 9 of Why Does He Do That? for an introduction to creating your own plan, but I encourage you if at all possible to work in conjunction with an advocate at a program for abused women. (And if you do not have time or transportation to get to the program, work with an advocate there by telephone).

Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

August 20, 2013 at 7:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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