I’ve stayed in many safe houses.
These secret, hidden homes were created by women to protect other women and their children from abuse and domestic violence. To give solace and refuge in a time of great duress. Isn’t that incredible? The first one I ever stayed at with my daughter was my last hope. Every other shelter had been full.
It was early evening. I did an hour-long intake with a support worker and was shown to our bed. My daughter fell asleep while I pushed a pillow over my face to stifle my sobs. My life had gotten so out of control and scary.
In the morning, I was offered support from a legal advocate. I had to spill the truth about everything that had happened to me and my daughter. I hoped that there was some way they could help us. There wasn’t.
A support worker in the room went over to her desk, picked up a stack of papers neatly held together with a paper clip, and handed them to me. I was surprised by the title on the front page – 101 Ways to Disappear.
Here are a few on the list:
1. Do not tell anyone where you’re going or what you’re going to do.
2. Do not ask your friends for shelter or help and NEVER ask members of your family.
3. Do not call anybody to say “good-bye”.
4. Do not have contact with family or friends. (The authorities such as police and the FBI will monitor their residential lines.)
5. Destroy all photos of you.
6. Don’t take any new photos of you.
7. Stay out of all buildings that have closed-circuit television. (Video cameras)
8. Have all of your mail directed to a P.O. Box under an alias.
9. Do not use any credit or debit cards. (The authorities can trace them.)
10. You are a cash-only person now.
11. Change your personal appearance. Dress in clothes you wouldn’t normally wear. Cut and dye your hair. Wear a hat and sunglasses.
12. Don’t stand out. Blend in.
13. Change your name.
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