We recently published a blog about safety planning for the holidays (you can read it here). Today, we’re digging in deeper.
Like many Americans, victims of domestic abuse often travel for the holidays. But these survivors face unique and complex challenges as they travel. How can abuse survivors keep themselves and their children safe while traveling?
Abuse and the Holidays
The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and togetherness. But for those living with an abuser, holiday stress can often exacerbate the tension within the relationship, potentially triggering new or worsening abuse.
Traveling adds even more complications. Being with an abuser, miles away from the familiar safety of home, can leave a survivor feeling more vulnerable. That’s why it’s crucial to protect the physical and emotional health of both the survivor and her children.
If you or someone you love needs help this holiday season, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at thehotline.org, by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or text “START” to 88788.
Traveling With an Abusive Partner
Before traveling with an abuser, the National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests creating a safety plan. Having a safety plan for every scenario – including events that might occur during travel – can give the survivor peace of mind while away from home.
A safety plan should focus on more than just physical safety. Each survivor should also have a plan to look after their mental and emotional health. That might mean carving out time to be alone, focus on self-care, or engage in a fun activity to break up the tension of travel.
However, physical health should be at the forefront when planning holiday travel.
If you are concerned about your physical health due to an abusive relationship, answer the following questions before heading out on your trip:
- What are your rights in the cities, states, or countries you’re visiting? What are medical providers in these locations required to tell authorities if you seek medical attention? By researching this information, you’ll know what you can share comfortably with a medical professional should you seek help.
- What will your insurance cover at your destination? What will the costs be if you need to seek medical attention in that area?
- If you are pregnant, consider consulting with your OB/GYN about ways to stay safe, including stress relief strategies.
You should also prepare for emergency scenarios while traveling. Think about ways to escape potentially dangerous situations and get yourself to safety. This might include:
- Giving your itinerary and contact information to trusted family and friends.
- Keeping copies of your important documents with you at all times, or leave them at home with a trusted friend or family member.
- Having a stash of money set aside, where you can get to it if need be. This should include enough money for a taxi and a hotel room for a night.
- Knowing your resources. Look up emergency numbers for your destination and the contact information of local shelters along the way. You can click here to look up shelters by state and city.
Traveling With Children
Traveling with an abuser requires lots of planning. But if there are children involved, you should consider taking additional precautions.
First, keep a copy of your children’s important documents on you at all times, such as their passports and birth certificates. You might also consider leaving a copy with a trusted family member or friend who won’t be influenced by your partner. These documents will be necessary if you need to leave in a hurry.
Secondly, you may want to check custody rights in the state or country where you will be traveling. It will be helpful to understand these laws if you need to take the children and go into hiding while you’re traveling. Check with WomensLaw to learn more about national custody rights and The Hague Domestic Violence Project for international law.
Depending on the ages of your children, you might also discuss safety planning with them directly. This plan could include teaching them how and when to contact emergency services, creating a safe word that indicates they should leave the house and call for help, and discussing where in the house they can go when they are afraid. Click here for more safety planning resources from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Your safety – and the safety of your children – should be a top priority this holiday season. Planning ahead can protect your physical and emotional health.