It’s one thing to know you need an emergency plan to escape possible domestic abuse, and another thing entirely to create it. My first emergency plan was to drive a half mile down the road and sit in the farmer’s road with my lights off. That was it. I didn’t have extra keys, I didn’t pack an overnight bag. Nothing but me and (I hoped) my purse. I wasn’t being realistic.
I worried about how Will would react to my plan, although I knew I wasn’t supposed to tell him about it. I felt confused and upset that I had to contemplate leaving my home for even an instant. However, the incident in 2008 had opened my eyes somewhat. Will would put his hands on me. He would. He had before, and I could only assume he would do it again. But my emergency plan did not involve leaving my marriage, only my home.
I spent the next weeks rather pissed off that if he misbehaved, I was the one who had to leave the situation. Why couldn’t HE leave when he felt his temper rising? Why wouldn’t he take some responsibility for the intimidating airs he put on around our home? Why wouldn’t he admit that he was at least part of the problem? And as I stewed in my anger, I realized something else. What Will had been doing wasn’t right AND he was doing everything and saying anything he could to avoid accepting one bit of responsibility. I would always be the one to have to leave. Always.
At this point, I started fleshing out my plan a little more. I knew that I needed enough cash to cover a hotel room (I wasn’t to the point of asking my friend for a crash pad), and probably at least one meal. So I opened an account in my name in a bank separate from our family bank. It felt weird to have something I couldn’t tell him about. I decided that if I hadn’t needed to use my emergency cash stash by our 25th wedding anniversary, then I would turn all the “hidden” money over to him at that point and we would take a vacation – just the two of us, to celebrate how far we’d come as a couple and how happy we were together. I didn’t think it was “right” to put secret money aside, so I had to rationalize it in that way. I’m okay with it now, but then I really wanted that couple’s vacation!
The fantasy I held of us being close some day continued, but even so, my emergency plan was a little stronger. Soon after, I worked up the nerve to ask my friend if I could run to her family’s home, if I needed to. She agreed, and I felt better for talking to her, but bad because I felt I (and possibly the boys) would be a burden to her family. In my heart of hearts, I know she would have us stay as long as we needed to stay, but still, I felt like a yet-to-be discovered leech on someone’s leg in the pond.
In so many ways, making my emergency plan FELT like I planned to LEAVE. It was hard to assimilate the information and follow through with making keys, telling neighbors, getting a PO Box, securing documents, creating a personal login for the bank, signing a contract for a phone that accessed the Internet…it felt sneaky. I don’t like sneaky. I prefer an open approach, honesty, integrity. This didn’t feel like integrity to me.
The night I left, I had yet to put a change of clothes or toiletries in my car. I had to pack them while the cops were here. I didn’t remember to take any documents, I didn’t even think about securing my personal files on the external drive I’d left by my computer. I wasn’t ready because I had hoped it would never come to that – I wasn’t ready because I wanted to STAY. I had planned to return home the next day until I remembered what he said as I walked out the door with the cops – I had thought it completely ridiculous that he told me to take myself off the bank accounts. What?!
So at about 4 in the morning, I used my phone to check the bank. I had emails saying that he had changed the username, password, pin number, phone password,…all of it. He had tried to lock me out of the accounts. But he didn’t know about my login information. I used it to remove funds from our savings account and transfer them into my own personal account. Just like that, in those 3 minutes, I knew I wasn’t going home.
I received more emails from the bank showing that around 7 am, he called and withdrew all the remaining money out of all of our accounts, even the boys’ accounts. I imagine he felt as if I stole the money from him; I know he was really mad about it. But what had he expected me to do? He kept telling me that he’d been waiting for me to leave, waiting and hoping that I would go. But when I did, he seemed to want to make it impossible for me to leave. How was I going to stay gone with no money I wonder?
I suspect that he wanted me to come groveling back to him after learning what the “real world” was like, sleeping in my car in the cold, no money for a burger. But I’ll never know, and I’m too smart to ask him to explain his reasoning – it would only lead to more abuse.
The emergency plan I created wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t nearly enough – I wish I’d had a pre-packed bag, I wish I’d … it doesn’t matter. My two saving graces were my high-tech phone and my bank log in information. But if I had to do it over again, I would have pressed through the emotional pain of creating an emergency plan, a thorough emergency plan, before I had the need for it.
Download A Safety Plan that Keeps You Safer Whether You Stay or Go – HINT: scroll to bottom of page and look for text that says “Download the Domestic Violence Safety Plan to print at home.”