1. Read the Basics section
Interpersonal violence is complicated. Many of us don’t really understand it or what to do about it. Read the Basics about violence section for a clearer picture of what is going on. The Basics about violence intervention section shares lessons Creative Interventions have learned from responding to violence.
Share this information with others who may be in a situation of violence and need resources to help them work out what to do.
2. Risks can increase as you take action to end violence
Taking action to create safety can mean more risk, at least in the short-term. Everyone needs to understand what risks you are taking, who might be endangered and what you can do to increase safety or reduce harm.
Interpersonal violence is often about maintaining control over others. When people take action to end violence or gain safety, violence and threats of violence can get worse. People doing harm may threaten to harm themselves.
Risk assessment should include possible reactions from the person doing harm. These include retaliation or hitting out when they feel they aren’t in control of the relationship anymore or when people find out about their violence. Safety planning and actions need to think about these increases in risk.
3. Think about safety for everyone
Safety may involve many people—the person who was hurt; their children, friends, whānau, workplace and community; the people carrying out an intervention; and the person who is doing harm. Aim for a plan that includes everyone’s safety.
4. Involve other trusted people in staying safe
Because intervention actions often involve some danger, each action should involve at least one other person (hopefully more) to help with planning, support and follow up.
People could help by:
- Acting as a sounding board
- Going through a safety plan together
- Going together to take an action, wait in the car or around the corner until they know you are safe
- Waiting for a phone call that everything is okay
- Watching children to make sure they are safe
- Distracting or confronting someone who may be a danger.
Even if someone has to act alone, try to have a back-up or buddy system—someone who knows what they are going to do, when, and who can go with them, stand close by or at least be in contact by phone or text.
5. Make safety checks a regular part of your plan
Risks and dangers can change constantly. Make risk assessment and safety plans a regular part of your intervention—and, if necessary, of your daily lives.
A situation can change for many reasons:
- People are hearing about the violence and say or do things that cause a change—they might treat the person doing harm differently
- People have gathered to take action
- The person who was harmed feels more confident and assertive, shifting the power in the relationship; this can increase the danger
- The person harmed leaves or attempts to leave; this is the most dangerous time in a violent relationship.
6. Remember the signs of high risk
The risk and level of harm is much higher if:
- Weapons are involved—guns, knives, machetes, anything that can cause great harm
- The person causing harm has a history of violence
- They are threatening suicide.
Risks are higher when the person causing harm feels like they are losing control of the person or situation. Violence is more likely and can be worse at these times. Take extra steps to assess risks and increase safety.
7. Separate safety from other feelings of discomfort
Exposing someone to situations they aren’t used to or don’t think they have the skills for may make them feel insecure and uncomfortable, but it is not necessarily a threat to their safety. If there is real danger, that needs to be planned for and dealt with. Often there is not.
For example, the person who caused harm may feel vulnerable and unsafe when they are asked to take responsibility for the harm they caused. Friends and whānau who have ignored signs of violence may feel guilty, ashamed and unsure when they are asked to help. People may feel so uncomfortable talking about violence and abuse that any disagreement or criticism feels scary.
Like any big change, ending violence will require some discomfort and bravery.
8. Prioritise the safety of young people
Young people are sensitive to violence. Actions taken for safety may be scary and threatening to them. Can you include them in a plan before it happens? Or do you need to protect them from the plan? Think about their maturity and whether you need to keep information safe—can they keep information from others? Is it fair to ask them?
Take special care of the emotional, sexual and physical safety of children. Think about how they can be cared for and kept safe from the situation of harm and intervention. Think about how they can express their confusion or fear, and be re-assured by people they trust. Make sure they can keep doing things that are important to their well-being: time to play, school, regular meals and sleep.
If children are kept safe away from parents or guardians, check the laws about removal of children, escape from violence, and what is considered kidnapping. Make sure you know who can take children from school premises. Anti-violence programs like Women’s Refuge and Rape Crisis, and lawyers who are familiar with issues of violence, children and custody can give information about what is legal and how it will affect custody. It may be possible to talk with police or welfare services anonymously to get information without endangering yourself or the children.
If you are a child or young person and you are being hurt, get help. Talk to someone. Think about someone you can trust who isn’t close to the person hurting you—it might be a parent, the parent of a friend, a teacher, a neighbour. You can call or text 1737 anytime to talk to someone.