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Domestic violence is like a thick fog. You can see it when it's far away, but as you get near, you aren't sure you've entered it until you can barely see ahead. You don't know when it will end, and sometimes your only strategy is hope.
But what if you planned before you went into the fog? What if you had a roadmap so that when you found yourself in the thick of it, instead of panicking and not knowing what to do, you had a plan, which helped you remain calm and productive? Here are some legal tips to help you create a safety plan in case you or someone you love has a foggy future ahead.
If you feel that you may be forced to flee your home, due to safety concerns, put all of your important data in the cloud. Many companies, such as Google, offer free data storage that you can access from any computer with your login information. Many legal action items, such as protective orders, assault charges, and child custody, work best when there's data to back up claims. If you have photos, doctor bills, or narratives, that could be used as evidence, put copies of them in the cloud. That way, if your cell phone is ripped from your hands, or you have to flee without your laptop, you can do so without worry.
A great deal of support is available to women based on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a federal domestic violence law. There are literally dozens of public-private support groups and resources available for survivors of violence. Simply by reading VAWA and the news surrounding it, you will hopefully be aware that you are not alone, and that there is support available if you want to break ties with your abuser. Keep in mind that VAWA also addresses immigration issues. Never feel you have to stay in an abusive relationship just because you need a Green Card.
There are numerous banks online that will allow you to open up a back account for free with no money down, even if you have bad credit, or no credit at all. Take the time to open an account, even if you never use it. Money isn't power, but without money, we can feel powerless. If you have an account through which you could receive, store, and get money, you may feel more empowered to walk away if the need ever arises.
Having a legal safety plan not only provides you with a roadmap in case you get stuck in the haze, and with adrenalin pumping, can't find your way out. It will also give you the courage to know that you aren't a victim. That you have a plan. And if things get bad, you can turn to the plan. If you would like further tips on creating a general safety plan, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline. For more legal tips, check out FindLaw's Domestic Violence section or contact a local domestic violence attorney. All of these resources can help you flesh out a more detailed plan, and help you get on with living, rather than fearing, your best life.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.