Safety Planning for Domestic Violence Survivors: A Crucial Step Toward Freedom

This year, LifeWay Network joined in solidarity for the 23rd annual Gladys Ricart and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Walk, also known as the Brides’ March, held on September 26, 2023, to remember Gladys, who was murdered in her wedding dress by her abusive former boyfriend, hours before she was to wed her fiancé on September 26, 1999. Every year, women, men and children dress in wedding dresses, in all black or all white, as a sign of mourning and respect, and march through New York City streets to remember homicide victims of domestic violence and raise awareness about the devastating effects of this crime on women, men, children, families and our communities at large.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During this month, communities unite to acknowledge and support survivors while raising awareness about the impact of domestic violence. It serves as a reminder that every individual deserves to live a life free from fear and violence, and encourages collective efforts to break the cycle of abuse and create a safer and more compassionate world. Safety planning for domestic violence survivors is one important aspect.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, abusers and traffickers use similar patterns of behavior to exert power and control over their victims. These forms of abuse include physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and economic abuse. Abusers may even use “love” to force and intimidate their victims into exploitation or trafficking, exacerbating the trauma and mistrust that survivors and victims may have in others.

Organizations like LifeWay, which provide safe and secure housing for women survivors of trafficking, understand the complexities of trauma and the importance of safety planning for domestic violence survivors. Safety planning is crucial to create a sense of community and provide survivors with proactive approaches to ensuring their safety, especially when survivors may need to cross paths with their abusers. 

At LifeWay’s safe houses, safety planning for domestic violence survivors happens in collaboration with survivors to provide additional options and resources for help when these situations are unavoidable. The organization also offers quarterly trauma-informed training to staff, which includes de-escalation techniques and ways to support survivors in rebuilding their lives and living a life free of exploitation.

When staff understand the complexities and impact of trauma, they can work together with survivors to create a holistic support network. As one of LifeWay’s safe housing graduates stated, “LifeWay is not just an organization, it’s a beautiful home.”

    • Domestic violence can happen to anyone, of any age, race or gender, and may look different to different people. Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline to learn more about the warning signs of abuse:
    • If you or someone you know may be a victim of domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available to help 24/7 and in over 200+ languages. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text START to 88788.

By Josephine Crisostomo, director of education, training and advocacy