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  • Safety Plan To Protect Your Family From Domestic Abuse

    Last year, there were 4,000 reports of intimate partner violence in Okaloosa and the two surrounding counties (Florida Department of Law Enforcement, n. d.). Intimate partner (or domestic) violence is any type of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse by a romantic partner. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines it as “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another,” (NCADV, 2020, p. 1). Most domestic violence occurrences are repetitive patterns, rather than isolated incidents, which means that people know that they are putting themselves in a dangerous situation that could be prevented. Interpersonal violence is prevalent in our community, and it can lead to various health and economic problems and can be connected to other forms of violence (CDC, n. d.).

    The consequences of intimate partner violence spread far beyond personal injury. Violence often leads to economic hardship, poor physical and mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, and suicide. Victims often miss days of work and between 21 and 60 percent of them have lost employment due to the violence (NCADV, 2020). Survivors are more prone to physical ailments related to the heart, digestive, nervous, and reproductive systems as well as mental illnesses such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (CDC, n. d.). There is also a higher risk of substance use and abuse by victims of intimate partner violence, which increases even more for marginalized populations (CDC, n. d.). Additional costs to society such as loss of labor and the money put into shelters are another consequence nationwide.

    Leaving an abusive relationship is not easy, and our team is here to help you. One of the most important things you can do if you are living with a violent partner is to have a safety plan in place. This can increase the chances of escaping a scary, threatening, or violent encounter and help you to solidify your plans to leave permanently.

    If you need immediate assistance, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

    Step 1: Prepare

    Collect evidence of the abuse so that you have what you need to file charges later if that is what you choose to do. This could be police reports, medical records, emails, or anything else that documents the abuse.

    Stash a getaway bag that contains all the important documents you may need to start over somewhere else. If you have children, this bag should include their paperwork as well. This could include passports, birth certificates, prescription information, deeds to your house, title to your car, banking information, as well as some cash if you are able to.

    This bag and your evidence need to be kept in a place where the abuser would not be able to find them. This could be at your place of work, at a friend’s house, or at a secret safety deposit box. It is essential that your partner cannot find this, as that would put you at increased risk.

    Step 2: Plan

    Decide where you would go if you found an opportunity to flee. This destination would need to be somewhere that the partner would not immediately know to look, so in most cases, family and friends’ homes are not options. Locating domestic violence shelters in your area is the best first step. Many of these need to be arranged in advance, so contacting them when you are alone and safe to see what kind of arrangements would need to be made is advised. You should also purchase an untraceable phone and add it to your getaway bag. Most cell phones can be traced, so you will need to make a list of important numbers and leave your cell phone when you escape. Plan for all the possibilities that could arise. Keep a window unlocked if you get trapped in the house with your abuser when they become violent. If you have children, create a code word that lets them know to run to a preset meet-up place.

    Step 3: After You Leave Stay Diligent.

    Do not post on social media, change your phone number, and file an order of protection. Make sure that your employer is aware of the situation and has a picture of your partner. If you have children, alert their schools, extracurricular activity leaders, and daycare centers. Give them permission to contact the police if they see your former partner on the premises.

    Leaving an abusive partner is one of the most difficult things to do, but you deserve to live your life without violence and constant fear. You may not be ready to leave yet, but we can help you plan for when you are. Our goal is to provide you with a safe place to begin the process of taking back control of your life. We are not a treatment center; however, we can help you learn how to develop healthy boundaries. You deserve to feel safe again!

    Additional Resources:

    • National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233
    • The Shelter House (850) 243-1201
    • 24 Hour Crisis Hotline – 1-800-44-ABUSE (22873) and 850-863-4777
    • Florida Council Against Sexual Violence –
    • Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence –


    • CDC. (n.d.). The social-ecological model: A framework for violence prevention.
    • Florida Department of Law Enforcement. (n. d.)
    • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2020). Domestic violence. Retrieved from

    Get Support From A Mental Health Professional

    Lady contemplating thoughts feelingsIf you or someone you love is experiencing relationship issues speaking to a counselor can make a difference. Having someone you can talk to about what’s going on in your life can help you feel better. Counseling can help you have a voice during difficult times and give you tools to deal with problems when they arise. If you need help contact New Heights Counseling today. We will provide emotional support, guidance, and tools for dealing with the struggles and challenges you’re dealing with.

    Other Mental Health Services Offered At New Heights Counseling

    Get help new heights logo phoneThe staff at New Heights Counseling provides counseling for a wide variety of concerns such as divorce, separation, family problems, parenting skills, anger management, anxiety, depression, stress, grief, loss, addiction, abuse, trauma, PTSD, self-esteem, confidence, body image, eating disorders, and many more. Our goal is to help you find the best solution for your situation and we will work together to achieve that goal. We are here to listen and understand what you need so we can give you the tools to make positive changes in your life.

    Our services are for children, adolescents, and adults and we offer in-person sessions at our Fort Walton Beach, FL location and online therapy for the state of Florida. We are located on the 2nd floor of WorkSpace Suites at 1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 1057, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547. Get directions here on Google Maps or visit our office location page. Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM. Evenings/Weekends by appointments. Call (850)757-1552.

    About the Author:

    Jessica Saulson HeadshotJessica Saulson currently attends Walden Universitywhere she is finishing up her degree program by completing a student practicum at New Heights Counseling. Once she has completed this, Jessica will receive her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Jessica is passionate about listening and helping others. She seeks to understand her clients and believes every story is worth sharing. Jessica continues to enhance her therapeutic techniques to incorporate them into the counseling sessions. Her goal is to assist others in finding their way back to health and happiness.