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When Home Isn’t Safe: Tips for Victims of Domestic Abuse

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If your partner’s behavior becomes unpredictable, you may start to feel as if you are constantly walking on eggshells around them. You may even feel restrained from your normal daily activities and that you are becoming isolated from friends and family.

If this sounds like your experience, the Family Advocacy Program and Military OneSource offer ways to help you prioritize your safety.

Call The Hotline

For immediate support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 800-799-7233.

Maintain your support network

You can take these steps to help ensure your safety and wellness if you start feeling trapped and that your partner is watching your every move:

  • Create scheduled check-ins with trusted family, friends or neighbors by phone, text or social media so they know you’re OK.
    You may not feel comfortable or safe sharing information about your relationship while home with your partner (for example, you may be worried that they will overhear you, or that they are monitoring your phone, email or web activity). But if you can, checking in with your network can help them become aware of your safety concerns. For example, if the abuse has escalated and you’re not reaching out to them at the time you normally would, it might tip off your network to call for help.

  • Develop a code word or phrase to share with your support network to indicate that you are experiencing an emergency and are in need of immediate help.
  • Have a discussion with your friends and family about what help is most important to you if you ever need them to intervene (since help in an emergency can look different to different people). Let your friends know that this may mean asking them to be prepared to call 911, or to call your partner’s cellphone as a distraction to their behavior.

Maximize your privacy at home, especially as a way to connect with help

  • Going to the bathroom and running the shower or faucet while on the phone with a friend, or when calling the Family Advocacy Program or the National Domestic Violence Hotline, can help add another layer of privacy and noise to distract from your partner overhearing your conversation.
  • Stepping outside is a good way to take time to breathe, practice mindfulness and center yourself to help calm your anxiety. This may also be a good time to make a call to friends or family, or to call Military OneSource to speak with a consultant for some brief, non-medical counseling.

Make a backup plan for emergencies

  • Be prepared. In extreme cases, you may determine that you need to leave home for your safety, and your children’s safety. If your partner has been physically abusive or threatened violence — especially if they have access to a gun — it might be a good idea to hide a bag of essentials in the event the abuse escalates to the point where you need to leave.
    Keep items such as medications, spare cash (if available), a change of clothes, a phone charger and IDs in a safe place that is accessible only to you.

  • Plan the fastest and easiest routes out of your home (and if you can, share them with your children) in the event you need to quickly escape. Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website to search for local shelters for domestic abuse victims.

Manage your situation with help from these resources

Each relationship and situation is different, and some of these ideas may not work for you or your family. If you are unsure about where to start, you can contact your installation’s Family Advocacy Program to speak with a victim advocate, who can help you develop a safety plan unique to you.

If you have experienced sexual assault or threatening sexual harassment during military service, you can find information and resources via the VA military sexual trauma webpage. You can also talk or chat with an advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline by visiting or calling 800-799-7233, or reach out to the Defense Department’s Safe Helpline.

Getting help for an abusive relationship can be even more complicated for individuals with a disability, or who are caring for loved ones in a multigeneration household. The following information will help you locate the resources you may need.

For more resources, you can refer to Military OneSource’s United Against Domestic Abuse page.

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Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, visit the 24/7 Family Advocacy Program Victim Advocate Locator or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800−799−7233.