Safety and Sobriety Manual
Best Practices in Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

January 2005

If you have any questions regarding the documents found in the Appendix Resource, please contact Teresa Tudor via email or at 217-558-6192.

Cycle of Violence

The Cycle of Violence by stage

  • Incident
    Any type of abuse occurs (physical/sexual/emotional)
  • Tension Building
    • There is a breakdown of communication
    • Abuser starts to get angry
    • Victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm
    • Victim feels like they are walking on egg shells
    • Tension becomes too much
    • Abuse may begin
  • Making-Up
    • Abuser may apologize for abuse
    • Abuser may promise it will never happen again
    • Abuser may blame the victim for causing the abuse
    • Abuser may deny abuse took place or say it was not as bad as the victim claims
    • Abuser may give gifts to victim
  • Calm
    • Abuser acts like the abuse never happened
    • Physical abuse may not be taking place
    • Promises made during 'making-up' may be met
    • Victim may hope that the abuse is over

The cycle can happen hundreds of times in an abusive relationship. Each stage lasts a different amount of time in a relationship. The total cycle can take anywhere from a few hours to a year or more to complete.

It is important to remember that not all domestic violence relationships fit the cycle. Often, as time goes on, the 'making-up' and 'calm' stages disappear.

Adapted from the original concept of:  Walker, Lenore. The Battered Woman. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.

Manifestations of Violence

Abuse can occur in different forms. It can be physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, social and/or economic. The lists below describe some of the tactics of abuse batterers use as they attempt to gain or maintain power and control over their intimate partners. Abuse does not always progress in regular steps as shown here. Sometimes the abuse may advance from pushing or hitting directly to more severe physical violence such as use of weapons. Although each relationship is unique, any type of abuse must be considered a serious cause for concern. Despite different circumstances, it is important to remember abuse can escalate (especially if intervention fails to occur). A coordinated community response holding batterers accountable for these abusive behaviors is essential as is a response acknowledging and respecting the rights of DV victims. EXERCISE: It is helpful for people to be aware of the tactics of domestic violence. Circle the type(s) of abuse you are now experiencing, (or have experienced in the past). Notice if the violence is increasing in intensity, severity or frequency. Talk to an advocate to develop or review your current safety plan or explore your options. Remember, domestic violence or sexual abuse directed at you is never your fault (even if you were drinking or using drugs).

Emotional Abuse

Manifestation of Violence timeline for Emotional Abuse

Silent Treatment, Insulting Jokes, Insults, Ignore feelings, jealousy, blaming / accusations, isolation, monitoring activities, humiliation, threats, harming pets, degradation, calls you 'crazy' 'drunk or 'junkie', homicide/suicide

Physical Abuse

Manifestation of Violence timeline for Physical Abuse

scratch, deny physical needs, slap, bite, push, force drug use, hit, punch, target hit, throw objects, kick, choke hold or strangle, burn, beat, sleep deprivation, poison, weapon use, disablement / disfigurement, murder

Sexual Abuse

Manifestation of Violence timeline for Sexual Abuse

embarrassing comments, sexual jokes, unwanted touching, ignore sexual needs, treat like sex object 13th step, forced to look at pornography, withhold sex as punishment, sex as duty, demand monogamy when abuser is promiscuous, control forced contraceptives, forced prostitution for drugs, sex after violence, forced sex soon after pregnancy, rape, death

Social / Environmental Abuse

Manifestation of Violence timeline for Social / Economic Abuse

uses gender myths / roles, degrades culture, religion, gender, profession, recovery from substance abuse, etc., destroys property, controls major decisions, demonstration of strength, controls money or finances, denies access to work, threats to victim's family/friends, eliminates support system including access to health care or substance abuse treatment, complete isolation, child abuse/incest, convinces victims they are hysterical/paranoid/suicidal, suicide

Tactics of Power and Control in Intimate Relationships Involving HIV/AIDS

Isolation: Not allowing a person to discuss health status with others through interpersonal relations, social service assistance or support groups. Using physical limitations to keep partner separated from outside community.

Intimidation: Threat of physical /verbal harassment. Threatening to "out" partner as HIV positive to friends, family, work, etc., before she/he is ready.

Economic Abuse: Denying access to financial resources for expense of disease, i.e. medication, medical care, nutritional services. Forcing positive partner to maintain a certain level of work activity to generate income despite higher physical abilities limited by HIV.

Privilege Abuse: Repeatedly, systematically taking advantage of opportunities, resources, to the exclusion of the positive partner. Also, taking advantage of heterosexist and homophobic assumptions, attitudes, and institutional biases to the detriment of partner. (See Lesbian/Gay Power and Control Wheel.)

Minimizing, Denying, Blaming: Forcefully attempting to maintain normalcy of life by acting as if the HIV-positive partner does not have physical limitations based on HIV status.

Emotional Abuse: Moralizing about partner's HIV status, verbal insults regarding appearance, physical abilities, and economic burden.

Using Children: Questioning the ability of HIV-positive partner to provide support (emotional, economic) to children. Threatening to take children away and/or deny partner access to children.

Physical: Forcing/coercing unprotected, high-risk sexual behavior. Physical violence and detainment. Denying physical access to medications or nutrition.

Religious Abuse: Moralizing regarding HIV status. Forcing a faith or belief system (mainstream or other) on positive partner.

10 Myths About Lesbian and Gay Domestic Violence

Myth #1: Domestic Violence is more common in straight relationships than it is in lesbian or gay relationships.

  • Truth: There is no reason to assume that gay men and lesbians are less violent than heterosexual men and women. Consequently, best estimates of same sex domestic violence are derived properly from the well-known statistics for battering in the straight community. At least 30,000 lesbians and 500,000 gay males are abused by their lovers each year in the United States.

Myth #2: It isn't really violence when a same-sex couple fights. It is just a "lover's quarrel" between equals.

  • Truth: This myth draws on our inability to see violence between two people of the same sex as a violent situation where one person is obviously the victim. This myth is based on the idea that domestic violence is really two people battling in a boxing ring and is completely false. There is nothing equal or fair about domestic violence. Being knocked against a wall or enduring endless criticism from an angry lover does not entail fairness. Further, dismissing domestic violence as "just a lover's quarrel" trivializes the violence and gives tacit consent for it to continue. Finally, this myth completely overlooks psychological abuse or material destruction.

Myth #3: The batterer will always be butch, bigger, stronger. The victim will always be femme, smaller, weaker.

  • Truth: This myth grew out of what people think victims look like and unfortunately focuses on the narrow stereotype that gay and lesbian domestic violence is physical and strength-related. This is simply not true. Size, weight, butchness, femmeness, queeniness or any other physical attribute or role is not an indicator of whether or not a person will be a victim or a batterer. A person who is 5'2", prone to violence, accustomed to using power and control tactics and very angry can do a lot of damage to someone who may be taller, heavier, stronger and non-violent. A batterer does not need to be 6'4" and built like a rugby player to smash your compact discs, destroy your clothing or tell everyone in your workplace that you are "really a queer."

Myth #4: People who are abusive under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not responsible for their actions.

  • Truth: Violence is a choice, and there are better choices. Every sane person is always responsible for every action taken. Drugs and alcohol are excuses for battering. Studies of batterers in treatment show that they decide to batter their mates significantly prior to deciding to drink. In fact, there is evidence to show that batterers who abuse drugs and alcohol are equally likely to batter while sober. If a person who batters is on drugs or alcohol, that person has two serious and very separate problems. Being on drugs does NOT relieve a person of responsibility for his/her own conduct.

Myth #5: Lesbian and gay domestic violence is sexual behavior - a version of S&M. The victims actually like it.

  • Truth: Domestic violence is not sexual behavior. In S&M relationships, there is usually some contract or agreement about the limits or boundaries or the behavior, even when pain is involved. Domestic violence entails no such contract. Domestic violence is abuse, manipulation and control that is unwanted by the victim. Like victims of other crimes (including rape, mugging, terrorism, harassment, assault and threats), victims of domestic violence do not enjoy the violence they experience. This myth is very pervasive in the gay and lesbian community. Its perpetuation permits trivialization and denial of the victim's cries for help. Domestic violence cannot ever be dismissed as sexual behavior. There is no similarity whatsoever.

Myth #6: The law does not and will not protect victims of lesbian and gay men's domestic violence.

  • Truth: It depends somewhat on where you live, but in the United States, heterosexuality is not a criterion for protection under the law. Illinois courts have consistently held that the Illinois Domestic Violence Act protects same-sex as well as opposite-sex partners. Gay persons usually have to demand equal rights and one of those rights is protection from a violent person, regardless of the nature of the relationship. Battery is a crime. So is much of psychological abuse and destruction of personal possessions. Police sometimes have been unwilling to recognize same-sex relationships as domestic, and it is difficult for police to see men as victims of domestic violence. For too long they have mislabeled same-sex violence as "mutual combat." Finally, despite the probability of encountering homophobia and further victimization by police, it is still important to report all incidents to the police and insist that your rights are protected.

Myth #7: Domestic violence occurs primarily among gay men and lesbians who hang out at bars, are poor, or people of color.

  • Truth: Domestic violence is a non-discriminatory phenomenon. Batterers come from all walks of life, all ethnic groups, all socioeconomic strata, and all educational levels. This myth grows out of the higher visibility in social services that some groups have and the corresponding lower visibility that other groups have, giving the illusion that nourishes this false idea. Gay male and lesbian domestic violence does not adhere to cultural and economic boundaries. It occurs proportionally across all groupings and categories of people. No group is exempt.

Myth #8: Victims often provoke the violence done to them. They're getting what they "deserve."

  • Truth: This is absolutely untrue. This myth perpetuates the idea that victims are responsible for the violence done to them, that somehow victims cause the batterers to become violent. Violent behavior is solely the responsibility of the violent person.
  • Batterers choose violence; victims do not "provoke" it. This myth is common among both batterers and victims of domestic violence, and is probably a strong force that keeps the victims in abusive relationships.

Myth #9: It is easier for lesbian or gay victims of domestic violence to leave abusive relationships than it is for heterosexual counterparts who are married.

  • Truth: Gay and lesbian couples are as intertwined and involved in each others' lives as are heterosexual couples. It is also possible that lesbians and gays are more couple/family oriented than their heterosexual counterparts, as many are alienated from their own families.

Myth #10: Victims exaggerate the violence that happens to them. If it were really that bad, they would just leave.

  • Truth: This myth is 100% backwards. Most victims tend to minimize the violence that happens to them because of guilt, shame, embarrassment and self-blame. Leaving is often the hardest thing for a victim to accomplish - harder for instance than staying. Batterers threaten their victims with more violence (including threats of murder) if they leave. Incidence of domestic violence actually increases after a victim leaves. Leaving also requires strength, self-confidence, self-reliance, and a healthy self-esteem. Those qualities have been eroded by life with an abuser. Leaving a violent partner may also mean leaving one's home, community, or city.

Sample Personalized Safety Plan for Domestic Violence Survivors



Review dates:

Personalized Safety Plan

The following steps represent my plan for increasing my safety and preparing in advance for the possibility for further violence. Although I do not have control over my partner's violence, I do have a choice about how to respond to him/her and how to best get myself and my children to safety.

Step 1: Safety during a violent incident.

Women cannot always avoid violent incidents. In order to increase safety, battered women may use a variety of strategies. I can use some or all of the following strategies:

  1. If I decide to leave, I will [fill in blank].  (Practice how to get out safely. What doors, windows, elevators, stairwells, or fire escapes would you use?)
  2. I can keep my purse and car keys ready and put them (place) [fill in blank] in order to leave quickly.
  3. I can tell [fill in blank] about the violence and request they call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my house.
  4. I can teach my children how to use the telephone to contact the police and the fire department.
  5. I will use [fill in blank] as my code word with my children or my friends so they can call for help.
  6. If I have to leave my home, I will go [fill in blank] . (Decide this even if you don't think there will be a next time.) If I cannot go to the location above, then I can go to [fill in blank] or [fill in blank].
  7. I can also teach some of these strategies to some/all of my children.
  8. When I expect we are going to have an argument, I will try to move to a space that is lowest risk, such as [fill in blank].  (Try to avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, kitchens, near weapons or in rooms without access to an outside door.)
  9. I will use my judgment and intuition. If the situation is very serious, I can give my partner what he/she wants to calm him/her down. I have to protect myself until I/we are out of danger.

Step 2: Safety when preparing to leave.

Battered women frequently leave the residence they share with the battering partner. Leaving must be done with a careful plan in order to increase safety. Batterers often strike back when they believe that a battered woman is leaving a relationship.

I can use some or all of the following safety strategies:

  1. I will leave money and an extra set of keys with [fill in blank] so I can leave quickly.
  2. I will keep copies of important documents or keys at [fill in blank].
  3. I will open a savings account by [fill in blank with a date], to increase my independence.
  4. Other things I can do to increase my independence include: [fill in the blank, 3 lines available]
  5. The domestic violence program's hotline number is [fill in blank]. I can seek shelter by calling this hotline.
  6. I can keep change for phone calls on me at all times. I understand that if I use my telephone credit card, the following month the telephone bill will tell my batterer those numbers that I called after I left. To keep my telephone communications confidential, I must either use coins or I might get a friend to permit me to use their telephone credit card for a limited time when I first leave.
  7. I will check with [fill in blank] and [fill in blank] to see who would be able to let me stay with them or lend me some money.
  8. I can leave extra clothes with [fill in blank].
  9. I will sit down and review my safety plan every [fill in blank] in order to plan the safest way to leave the residence. (domestic violence advocate or friend) has agreed to help me review this plan.
  10. I will rehearse my escape plan and, as appropriate, practice it with my children.

Step 3: Safety in my own residence.

There are many things that a woman can do to increase her safety in her own residence. It may impossible to do everything at once, but safety measures can be added step by step.

Safety measures I can use include:

  1. I can change the locks on my doors and windows as soon as possible.
  2. I can replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors.
  3. I can install security systems including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, an electronic system, etc.
  4. I can purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from second floor windows.
  5. I can install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for each floor in my house/apartment.
  6. I can install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my house.
  7. I will teach my children how to use the telephone to make a collect call to me and to (friend/minister/other) in the event that my partner takes the children.
  8. I will tell people who take care of my children which people have permission to pick up my children and that my partner is not permitted to do so. The people I will inform about pick-up permission include [fill in blank] (school), [fill in blank] (day care staff), [fill in blank] (babysitter), [fill in blank] (Sunday school teacher), [fill in blank] (Sunday school teacher), [fill in blank] and (others).
  9. I can inform [fill in blank] (neighbor), [fill in blank] (pastor), and [fill in blank] (friend) that my partner no longer resides with me and they should call the police if he is observed near my residence.

Step 4: Safety with a protection order.

Many batterers obey protection orders, but one can never be sure which violent partner will obey and which will violate protection orders. I recognize that I may need to ask the police and the courts to enforce my protection order. The following are some steps that I can take to help the enforcement of my protection order:

  1. I will keep my protection order [fill in blank] (location). (Always keep it on or near your person. If you change purses, that's the first thing that should go in.)
  2. I will give my protection order to police departments in the community where I work, in those communities where I usually visit family or friends, and in the community where I live.
  3. There should be a county registry of protection orders that all police departments can call to confirm a protection order. I can check to make sure that my order is in the registry. The telephone number for the county registry of protection orders is [fill in blank].
  4. For further safety, if I often visit other counties in my state, I might file my protection order with the court in those counties. I will register my protection order in the following counties: [fill in blank], [fill in blank], and [fill in blank].
  5. I can call the local domestic violence program if I am not sure about B, C, or D above or if I have some problem with my protection order.
  6. I will inform my employer, my minister, my closest friend and [fill in blank] and [fill in blank] that I have a protection order in effect.
  7. If my partner destroys my protection order, I can get another copy from the courthouse by going to [the office] located at [fill in blank]
  8. If my partner violates the protection order, I can call the police and report a violation, contact my attorney, call my advocate, and/or advise the court of the violation.
  9. If the police do not help, I can contact my advocate or attorney and will file a complaint with the chief of the police department.
  10. I can also file a private criminal complaint with the district justice in the jurisdiction where the violation occurred or with the district attorney. I can charge my battering partner with a violation of the protection order and all the crimes that he commits in violating the order. I can call the domestic violence advocate to help me with this.

Step 5: Safety on the job and in public.

Each battered woman must decide if and when she will tell others that her partner has battered her and that she may be at continued risk. Friends, family and coworkers can help to protect women. Each woman should consider carefully which people to invite to help secure her safety.

I might do any or all of the following:

  1. I can inform my boss, the security supervisor and [fill in blank] at work of my situation.
  2. I can ask [fill in blank] to help screen my telephone calls at work.
  3. When leaving work, I can [fill in blank].
  4. When driving home if problems occur, I can [fill in blank].
  5. If I use public transit, I can [fill in blank].
  6. I can use different grocery stores and shopping malls to conduct my business and shop at hours that are different than those when residing with my battering partner.
  7. I can use a different bank and take care of my banking at hours different from those I used when residing with my battering partner.
  8. I can also [fill in blank].

Step 6: Safety and drug or alcohol use.

Most people in this culture use alcohol. Many use mood-altering drugs. Much of this use is legal and some is not. The legal outcomes of using illegal drugs can be very hard on a battered woman, may hurt her relationship with her children and put her at a disadvantage in other legal actions with her battering partner. Therefore, women should carefully consider the potential cost of the use of illegal drugs. But beyond this, the use of any alcohol or other drugs can reduce a woman's awareness and ability to act quickly to protect herself from her battering partner. Furthermore, the use of alcohol or other drugs by the batterer may give him/her an excuse to use violence. Therefore, in the context of drug or alcohol use, a woman needs to make specific safety plans.

If drug or alcohol use has occurred in my relationship with the battering partner, I can enhance my safety by some or all of the following:

  1. If I am going to use, I can do so in a safe place and with people who understand the risk of violence and are committed to my safety.
  2. I can also [fill in blank].
  3. If my partner is using, I can [fill in blank].
  4. I might also [fill in blank].
  5. To safeguard my children, I might [fill in blank] and [fill in blank].

Step 7: Safety and my emotional health.

The experience of being battered and verbally degraded by partners is usually exhausting and emotionally draining. The process of building a new life for myself takes much courage and incredible energy.

To conserve my emotional energy and resources and to avoid hard emotional times, I can do some of the following:

  1. If I feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can [fill in blank].
  2. When I have to communicate with my partner in person or by telephone, I can [fill in blank].
  3. I can try to use "I can . . ." statements with myself and to be assertive with others.
  4. I can tell myself, "[fill in blank]" whenever I feel others are trying to control or abuse me.
  5. I can read [fill in blank] to help me feel stronger.
  6. I can call [fill in blank], [fill in blank] and [fill in blank] as other resources to be of support to me.
  7. Other things I can do to help me feel stronger are [fill in blank], [fill in blank], and [fill in blank].
  8. I can attend workshops and support groups at the domestic violence program or [fill in blank], [fill in blank], or [fill in blank] to gain support and strengthen my relationships with other people.

Step 8: ltems to take when leaving.

When women leave partners, it is important to take certain items with them. Beyond this, women sometimes give an extra copy of papers and an extra set of clothing to a friend just in case they have to leave quickly. ltems with asterisks on the following list are the most important to take. If there is time, the other items might be taken, or stored outside the home.

These items might best be placed in one location, so that if we have to leave in a hurry, I can grab them quickly.

When I leave, I should take:

  • Identification for myself
  • Children's birth certificates
  • My birth certificate
  • Social Security cards
  • School and vaccination records
  • Money
  • Checkbook, ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) card
  • Credit cards
  • Keys-house/car/office
  • Driver's license and registration
  • Medications
  • Welfare identification
  • Work permits
  • Green card
  • Passport(s)
  • Divorce papers
  • Medical records-for all family members
  • Lease/rental agreement, house deed, mortgage payment book
  • Bank books
  • Insurance papers
  • Small saleable objects
  • Address book
  • Pictures
  • Jewelry
  • Children's favorite toys and/or blankets
  • Items of special sentimental value

Telephone numbers I need to know:

Emergency Contacts Numbers
Police Department - Home
Police Department - School
Police Department - Work
Battered women's program
County registry of protection orders
Work number
Supervisory's home number

Reproduced with permission from Barbara Hart and Jane Stuehling, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1992.

Adapted from "Personalized Safety Plan," Office of the City Attorney, City of San Diego, California, April 1990.