Many readers responded after a woman wrote of her co-worker’s life with an abusive husband (April 11). This follow-up letter stresses the seriousness of the woman’s situation:
“The woman it was written about called me, panicked that her husband would realize it was about her.
“Though I’m not the person who wrote you, we, her co-workers and friends, don’t know what more to do than report him to the police, but she won’t let us.
“Our company is also aware and has offered to provide at work any counselling or help. She keeps refusing.
“I feel that one day this’ll come to a terrible end and we’ll feel guilty about not doing anything.”
Here are Readers’ Suggestions:
Reader #1 – “If in Toronto, I suggest her co-worker contact Toronto Victim Services (or similar services in other cities) and they’ll suggest what should be the next steps.
“I received excellent advice and help from them when in a similar situation and they’re extremely supportive.
“The Victim Services website also gives valuable tips on how the woman can safeguard herself while preparing to leave the relationship, as well as after having left.
“It also provides information about how to safeguard the children.
“Through an Employee Assistance Program at work, or her employer’s help, she can secure the short-term services of a lawyer, for free, who can advise her of her legal rights.
“She needs to make plans to stay somewhere. The lawyer can courier a letter to her husband, on an agreed date, to let him know that she and the children won’t be returning to the home.
“She’ll also need to contact her local police station through the station number, not through 911. Police will accompany her to collect belongings for her and her children.
“Some tips from my own experiences:
- if possible, have a disposable phone that’s pay-as-you-go to leave at work so that when she leaves, she can communicate (with her children, or for help) without her husband’s knowledge.
- try to leave personal identification and any necessary prescriptions or medication at work or with the co-worker/friend.
- try to photocopy all important documentation without raising red flags, to bring to a lawyer.
- create another email address while at work if husband’s monitoring her email (notify employer/work of this email).
- create an extra set of house keys, car keys, and any other important keys required before leaving.
- create a list of important safe phone numbers with a name and relationship to her to leave with her co-worker.
- try to develop a safety plan with her children before leaving (if they’re aware of the abuse and are supportive of their mother).”
Reader #2 – “I work in a shelter for abused women and children. This woman just needs to get out.
“She shouldn’t worry about her belongings, a police escort can be arranged after she leaves, for her to get her stuff.
“On the day she plans to leave, she should ensure that her son is working that day so she can contact him not to return to the home.”v
Reader #3 – “The free, 24/7 crisis line for the Assaulted Women's Helpline is 1-866-863-0511. It’s toll-free and completely anonymous. Their website is www.awhl.org.
“They specialize in safety planning, referrals, and operate in over 154 languages. (This includes legal, shelter resources, medical clinics, etc.).
“If she cannot call herself, her co-worker can call on her behalf and they can make a plan together.”
Reader #4 – “This woman may not be leaving for several reasons - not always out of fear from the abuser - but sometimes fear of the unknown.
“Starting over for some can seem very overwhelming e.g. the task of where to begin, the how-to's for making such an escape happen.
“I watched as my mother was verbally and emotionally abused for years, throughout her entire marriage to my father.
“She finally chose to leave my father, very late in life. I stood beside her proud for a decision that could not have been easy.
“I was supportive through the entire process and balance of her life. My only wish is that she’d done it sooner.
“It is NEVER okay to live like this.
“The first step is knowing that YOU are not the problem.
“This friend needs to continue supporting and being there for her co-worker. The husband sounds as though he’s a ticking time bomb....”
Tip of the day:
More suggestions and support for escaping abuse appear in tomorrow’s Part Two column.