Let’s Talk About Domestic Violence: Planning for Safety

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Article 5 of 5 in a series: by Rev Wambui Njoroge, M.Sci.

Before you can appreciate this Article, you need to have followed the other 4 Articles written in October/the month to create DV awareness in USA. Those articles had a target audience, which is Diaspora immigrants in USA. They highlighted types of abuses used against immigrants families and resources available. We concluded that DV is a crime. It is not Love in any language or in any country. Si Habari ya Malaika Nakupenda…Kidege nini. DV is a serious issue in the society and communities. The National Hotline for DV is: 1.800.799.7233 (safe) available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 365 days a year. It is for you, your family and your friends. Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (here counselors refers to getting the right information from professionals). 

Ministering to Victims of DV: 

Please if you are ministering or helping a victim of DV and you know, you are not trained nor qualified to provide the right information that will lead to safety, it is good to prayerfully refer that person out. Do not refer people to yourself. Give them options. Know when a person needs a level of care that you are not trained nor experienced to give. Help that is necessary is one that can stand a legal test and have you the helper not thrown in jail. It is great wisdom to know when and how to help. Also because of liability issues, it is better that you are wrong in referring a person outside your jurisdiction of education and experience than to be sorry. It is better to be blamed now for helping, than to be called upon to testify when it is too late.

If you or someone you know is a victim of DV, there are several recommended things that you can do to keep yourself safe. But first, will you please talk to your Pastor, Priest, Lay Reader, Elder or family? DV is a serious issue and it should not be used to threaten or intimidate families. However, I think it is important for significant individuals in your life to know what it is going on. I don’t think it is such a good idea to only reach out for help during crisis. It is getting old. Besides, is it not better for significant others to know instead of reading it in social media when your enemies get some meat to quench evil appetites? Remember what you can predict, you can actually prevent. When talking about behavior, on a scale of 1-100, 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest, What happens or is done to most of us that we cannot control contributes 10%. The good news is that  90% of our behavior constitutes our individual response. This is what is within our control. Whether you tell or not, the decision of what to do is entirely your choice if you are 18 years and older. 

Planning for Safety:

A: Break the Silence. Tell someone. DV thrives on family secrets.  Speak Up. Speak Loudly until someone listens.

  •  If you feel and know that your life is in immediate danger please call 911. Abusers do tell what they will do to you.
  •  (Remember in one article, the abuser said he was going to cut the fingers of a typist, and proceeded to get a knife)
  •  Memorize or know the numbers of people you can go to for help, like local crisis. Local shelter. Why memorize? Supposing your abuser takes away your telephone? Some people tell you to go Online…these days a computer savvy abuser can easily track you down…
  • Tell significant others that you TRUST – Your  Pastor, Elders, Priests…Prayer partner, deacons or deaconess…family, friend or even a co-worker.
  • Identify escape route and where you can go quickly. I once allowed my friend from TN to know that she could come to my home 24/hrs. and I will not ask them why if they showed up at my door with a small bag. Because I knew that the husband was abusing this Sister. I had bought liability insurance during my family therapy clinical supervision. That changed to Child & Adolescent Counseling. So I would not do that..in 2019.
  • Talk to your children and youth about what they can do during a violent incidence and how they can keep themselves safe. Usually School-Age children, sometimes will have disclosed to a school counselor that there is a DV in their homes. They too are given a safety plan. They have a lot of resources available during school hours (7:30am to 3:30 pm). Schools do their best to protect students within that time. That is why it is near impossible to sue a school district or system and win because we have the bases covered. All are mandated reporters and we take the students seriously. The school staff have a large crowd of witnesses…practically everyone that works in the school including all teachers, Bus drivers, custodial workers, Coaches, Substitute teachers, School Resource Officers (real Police). So it is not just the school counselor.

B. Emergency Escape Bag: The issue is that  in DV you  Should not be Afraid to Run Away. Instead when your life is threatened. You have one life. So instead, You should be more Afraid to stay. 

  •  Put your important papers together. These papers for Immigrants will include everything for yourself and for minor Children and Youth under your care….at least have copies – Passports, Visas, 1-94, Green Cards,  Naturalization Certificates, EAD Card, Social Security, Birth Certificates, Marriage certificate or other proof of marriage such as photographs of your wedding, invitation cards, Proof of divorce if your current spouse had a previous marriage, Proof of adoption if minor children under your care are adopted (very important if you are in a step family marriage), Tax returns, Pay stubs for you and your spouse, copies of your abusers immigration information (Leave abuser’s originals and copies alone…because of counter accusations. Instead, write down the information from original documents.
  • Pack your medical prescriptions, have extra car keys, extra house keys, money, checkbooks and account numbers, credit cards and a list of contact numbers for places where you do business together. You may not keep this bag in your home. Keep the bag with someone you trust. This is why it is important to cultivate relationships of trust outside family circles. It is more important for those who have sisters and brothers here. That is the first place the abuser will look for you…it is good that they don’t know your plans at this time.
  • Trust your instincts or what we call gut feelings. If you know or feel you are in danger, you know yourself. You probably are in danger.
  • Try to get to a safe place as soon as possible. A shelter might be ideal because they are prepared and know how to  help. (You remember how as part of my work it was difficult to find a shelter that would accept the family because the abuser was a PO who knew all the shelters. Likewise, if the abuser is someone in authority in your county…you might want to go to a nearby county. God forbid that the abuser is clergy. They also know where the shelters are.
  •  Remember as you plan there is help for the victim, and also for the abuser who is willing can get help. We do not want families separated, but at the same time, we do not want to support DV in the faith community or the larger Diaspora community

Curtain of Time:

While writing this article, I looked back at the curtain of time. I was reminded of MAU MAU (Civil unrest A.K.A. Emergency in Kenya). Planning for safety was pretty much the same – like where to hide and for how long. What to say or what not to say. When to speak and when to keep quiet. Who to trust or not and who to talk to about issues. Memorizing names and issues, even putting them in a song or in codes was common. My family lived in a hot area and even as a children, we knew we had to have a safety plan in case the home guards came to our home. One could not hide in any home…the great outdoors were safer.  There was a song that one person could sing so loudly in Kikuyu. That song announced trouble in the neighborhood…or village. It had nothing to do with the present danger. My parents were involved in large scale farming for commercial purposes. So Included in our safety plan, were our shamba workers, our cows and goats…the pigs and chickens made such loud noise even the home guards and the hyenas left them alone. There was a place where animals were taken every evening…it was open from 4pm and would be closed by sunset. As a victim of DV as you make your plans, don’t forget your pets. Think about who can keep your pets for you or a temporary shelter until things cool down. I have noticed in USA some people have a note on their doors, and photos of a cat or a dog. It reads, “In case of a crisis or disaster, don’t forget ….cat’s name and dog’s name. You cannot go hiding with a dog as it barks loudly and knows the way back home…and can lead the abuser back to your safe hiding place.

My friends in Diaspora, my part is to raise awareness. Some people get upset when information on  DV is shared. Why can’t the Church tell us these things? There are many spiritual principles and practices that the Church does, for all other things, help is still available. People cannot practice some things outside their cultural context. So if your Church has people who believe that it is not a crime to abuse women, why should they be talking about it? Why are we acting like we don’t know? I used to discuss DV openly with my father, RIP. He used to look me in the eyes and tell me, then I pray you marry a man that is not abusive. I am so grateful that he was open about it. It is God who graciously answered my father’s prayer, for which I am grateful. 

Nevertheless, I believe that, together we are able to help families find intervention and connect with community support timely. We are not supposed to be afraid to help. The fact is family violence is very costly to the community, and to society at large. Of course, I am for prayers as our first response, then Do something after prayers like peace and reconciliation. If all fails just Go-ask your legs if you have eaten and ever denied them anything? Of course they will answer in the affirmative. No, you have shared everything with us. Pray, Do, Go. Trust in God and do the right thing.

What Next?

The decision you make is you own. It might be the most difficulty decision in your life. But no one else can decide for you. That is when you have put all preventive measurers in place. When you have done the best that you know to do, you still owe it to yourself and to minor children placed under your care. You have just one life to live. You deserve to Live in confidence. Someone else called it, “Doing My Life.” Well “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with all men”  women and family members. (Romans 12:18)/Email/revwambuifavored@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The Information contained in this article is meant to create awareness and make recommendations. Examples used are from my notes. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please get help as a follow up. In USA, if you live within the boundaries of our 50 States DV is a crime. 

Online Resources:

www.domesticviolence.org

Domestic Violence Prevention

Family Violence Prevention.

Senior Columnist

Kenyan Parents In USA

BOARD MEMBER CENTRAL ORGANIZATION FOR DIASPORA UNITY(CODU)

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