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January 2011 / Fleeing Domestic Violence and Relocating Out of State
This month’s contributor Cynthia Amodeo, LMHC is the Coordinator of “Generations of Freedom” the family services department at Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House Emergency Shelter. She graduated Teachers College, Columbia University with her Master of Education and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. Prior to Freedom House she worked with children and families impacted by the World Trade Center attack, children infected with HIV and affected by HIV/AIDS.
In certain cases of Domestic Violence, the threat of danger is so high that a family may need to flee to another state for safety.
An example of this may be an individual who lives in a small town where a confidential location is difficult to establish, due to the close proximity of the abuser. Moving to another state may be a good choice.
Fleeing to another state can, however, be complicated for an individual with a disability, as pre-planning may include a myriad of crucial medical considerations. Proper planning is a paramount concern.
An individual with a disability also has to consider that in many states there is a lack of ‘access’ in domestic violence shelters. Many shelters are in older buildings or modified homes. Some shelters may have made one or more apartments accessible to a person with a disability, but that does not mean that the accessible apartment will be available when a family with a disabled member needs shelter.
Freedom House Emergency Shelter is the only residence in the United States that is totally accessible to, and designed for, people with disabilities who have experienced domestic violence.
The shelter is open to individuals from other states, and Freedom House has worked with individuals from 30 states including Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Missouri, California, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
Potential Freedom House residents, who are relocating from another state, can benefit from clear and thorough pre-planning to allow for a safe transition.
- Hotline - Provide the survivor with the National Domestic Violence Hotline which is 1-800-799-SAFE. This hotline can assist the survivor in obtaining the local domestic violence hotline and domestic violence service providers. The New York Hotline is 1-800-621-HOPE.
- Housing - Where will the person stay when they get to the state? If the person plans to stay with family or friends, is the abuser aware of this location? If family and friends homes are not safe then a domestic violence shelter could be a better option. To get connected to a domestic violence shelter, call the local domestic violence hotline.
- What to bring – Important documents (such as birth certificates, passports, social security cards, health insurance cards, police reports, medical records, order of protection, marriage license, proof of income, lease/deed, credit card and bank statements), appropriate clothing, and medical supplies (such as medication, cane, wheelchair, walker) . If the survivor has children, some toys, diapers, and formula.
- Money – Does the person have enough money to get settled? If not, identify some resources that may be of help such as public assistance.
- Credit Cards/Bank Accounts – Try not to use any electronic transactions that will help an abuser track the survivor, especially if accounts are linked.
- GPS – Be aware of any GPS devices, such as a cell phone, that may be able to track a survivor’s location.
- Safety Plan – Discuss a detailed safety plan. For a sample safety plan, please visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Ms. T, who had cerebral palsy, moved to New York from Maryland after fleeing her abusive boyfriend.
Ms. T worked with a domestic violence advocate in Maryland for six months to prepare for the transfer. Ms. T and her advocate developed a safety plan in case there was a violent incident near to the time of, or relating to, the relocation plan.
In preparation she gathered her important documents and hid them from her abuser. She put money on the side each month so the abuser would not notice. When Ms. T felt like she was prepared to leave, her advocate provided Ms. T with important contact numbers in New York.
Ms. T made a point to refill all her important prescriptions so she would not run out during the initial transition. Ms. T planned with her cousin, who the abuser had not met, and asked her cousin to pick her up at a time when the abuser was at work. The cousin drove Ms. T and her child to New York.
In New York, Ms. T called the hotline and was connected to Freedom House. At Freedom House Ms. T closed her public assistance case in Maryland and opened a new case in New York. She obtained new medical providers so she would not run out of important medication. She was able to transfer her Section 8 voucher to New York and find permanent housing.
Freedom House is available to all victims of domestic violence whose lives are in peril. Our primary focus is on serving victims with disabilities (whether the mother, father or a child in the family). Our direct number for information or referrals is 212-400-6470.