Get Help – Safety Plans
When confronted with violence, it is often hard to clearly identify options that are available. It is helpful to prepare and plan in advance to face such situations. The information provided below was obtained through the Kansas Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence (A Comprehensive Plan to Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence in Kansas), and adapted to suit the Sri Lankan context.
Safety During a Domestic Violence Incident
- Go to an area that has an exit. Not a bathroom (near hard surfaces), kitchen (knives), or near weapons or implements such as axes.
- Stay in a room with a phone or always keep your mobile phone with you. Call 119 or 011 2444444, a friend or a neighbour, if possible. Inform them if there are weapons in the home. Have these numbers on speed dial.
- Know your escape route. Practice how to get out of your home safely. Visualize your escape route.
- Know where you’re going. Plan where you will go if you have to leave home, even if you don’t think you’ll need to.
- Have a packed bag ready. Keep it hidden in a handy place in order to leave quickly, or leave the bag elsewhere if the abuser searches your home.
- Devise a code word or signal. Agree on a code word to inform others when you are in danger. Tell your children, grandchildren, neighbours or friends to call the police when they get the code word or signal.
- Trust your judgment. Consider anything that you feel will keep you safe and give you time to figure out what to do next. Sometimes it is best to flee, sometimes to placate the abuser – anything that works to protect yourself and the children.
Safety in Your Own Home If the Abuser Does Not Live With You
- Upgrade your security system. Change the locks on doors and windows as soon as possible. Consider a security service, having someone to stay with you, window bars, better lighting, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
- Have a safety plan. Teach your children or grandchildren how to call the police or someone they can trust. Have a secret code word that you and your children agree on – to communicate trouble and for the people who are allowed to pick up the children.
- Change your phone number. Screen your calls if you have an answering machine or caller ID. Save all messages with threats or those that violate any orders. Contact your phone company about getting an unpublished number.
- Talk to neighbours and landlord. Inform them that the abuser no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see the abuser near your home.
- Get legal advice. Find a lawyer knowledgeable about domestic violence to explore custody, visitation and divorce provisions that protect you and the children. Discuss getting an interim protection order as an option. Contact an organization that provides domestic violence victim-survivor support services.
Safety and Emotional Health
- Get support. Contact an organization that provides domestic violence victim support services. Click for Service Providers.
- Call a domestic violence crisis help-line (WIN 0114718585) to identify your options and services that you could access.
- Call the Women’s Help Line (1938)
- Do what is safe for you. If you have to communicate with the abuser, arrange to do so in the way that makes you feel safe whether by phone, mail or in the company of another person.
Safety and Your Children
- Tell schools and childcare. Let them know who has permission to pick up the children and give them your code word. Discuss with them other special provisions to protect you and your children. Provide a picture of the abuser if possible.
- Find a safe place to exchange the child/ren for visitation. Some organizations have specific locations just for this purpose, consult the organization that you seek help from.
Safety on the Job
- Tell somebody you TRUST. Decide whom at work you will inform of your situation, especially if you have an Interim Protection Order or Protection Order. This may include office security if available. Provide a picture of the abuser if possible.
- Screen your calls. Arrange to have someone screen and log your telephone calls if possible.
Make a safety plan. Create a safety plan for when you enter and leave your work place. Have someone escort you to your vehicle or other transportation.
- If you and the abuser work at the same place, discuss with your supervisor your options regarding scheduling, safety precautions, employee/family benefits.
Safety Tips on Trafficking
In Sri Lanka trafficking and exploitation can often take places when men and women seek employment opportunities and a better life in the city or in a foreign country. It is therefore important to take precautions and:
- Check if the job agency you approach is registered. The names of registered agencies are available at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment or call 011 2879900
- Check the credentials of the person who approaches you to give you a job. Find out if the sub agents work for licensed agencies
- Go with a member of your family or a friend when you go to meet the agency officials
Sign the employment contract in the presence of an official of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.
- Read the document before doing so.
- Get details about the employer such as name, address, telephone number from the agency
Register at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment. Registration is compulsory and carries an insurance cover
- Registration is required even if a relative or a friend from abroad finds you the job
- Leave details of registration with your family or friends
- Check whether the ticket, visa and other travel documents are in order
- Do not give your passport, national identity card even to your boss
- Always keep photocopies of your passport, national identity card, a copy of the employment contract and any other important document with you at all times
- Before travelling abroad note down the telephone number and address of the Sri Lankan Embassy in that country. Contact them in times of emergency
- Go with a family member direct to the airport. Do not go only with the sub agent or intermediary
- If you have any problems or questions check with the SLBFE counter at the Bandaranaike International Airport
For more information contact Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Hotline at 1989 (+94 112879900) and/or check the
When Going Out
- Ensure that when you go out for events, especially parties, you go out with people you trust.
- When you go out to a party, musical show or public event with a group of friends, arrive together, watch out for each other and leave together.
- Do not leave your beverage unattended or accept a drink from a stranger or open counter.
- If you go out with someone you do not know very well, inform a close friend about your plans and where you hope to go out for the evening.
- Always have extra money to get home. Have a plan for someone you can call if you need help.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Do not allow yourself to be isolated with a person you do not know or trust.
- It is recommended that you walk only in lighted areas after dark.
- If you are driving or going with friends in a private vehicle, ensure that the doors are locked from the time you get in until you reach your destination.
- Be alert when traveling by cab (cars or vans) or three wheelers (tuk tuk).
- Try to always have directions to your destination, if the driver (cab or three wheeler) takes routes that are dark, lonely, or unfamiliar speak up and inform him to turn back. If he does not stop immediately dial 119 the police hotline or a reliable family member or friend and ask for help.
- Have emergency numbers such as family, friends and the police hotline 119 on speed dial.
- If you have a smartphone, you can install the 2six4 personal safety mobile app that will add safety and protection.
Source: Safe Help Line, https://www.safehelpline.org
Communicating with Others
- When you are with someone, communicate clearly to ensure he or she knows your limits from the beginning. Both verbal and nonverbal (body language) communication can be used to ensure the message is understood.
- You have the right to say “No” even if you:
- First say “Yes,” and then change your mind
- Have had sex with this partner before
- Have been kissing such person
- Are wearing “provocative” clothing. Remember the way you are dressed is NOT an invitation for sex or abuse!
- If you feel uncomfortable, scared or pressured, act quickly to end the situation. Say “Stop it” and leave or call for help.
DUTIES OF A POLICE OFFICER RECEIVING INFORMATION
- To record the information that is given in the language of the victim-survivor/informant, ensure that the informant reads and understands what is recorded and signs it.
- If the officer is unable to record the information in the language of the victim-survivor/informant, the complaint can be made in writing.
- If the victim-survivor/informant is unable to provide the information in writing, the officer should record it in Sinhala or Tamil and read or if necessary translated to the victim-survivor/informant in a language that s/he understands before the record is signed.
- Whatever information that is written down by the police officer must be read to the person providing the information and signed by the informant.
- This information should be included in the Information Book without undue delay.
- If the police officer who receives the information is not himself the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station, s/he has to report it to the OIC
How Do You Report a Crime?
- You can report a crime to the nearest Magistrate, Police Station or Grama Niladhari.
- The information can be given in Sinhala, Tamil or English and can be made orally or in writing.
The Reporting Process in Cases of Sexual Violence such as Rape, Incest, Sexual Harassment or Grave Sexual Abuse
- In the event of physical violence, obtain a medical examination as soon as possible from an authorized medical officer. The medical officer has a duty to collect hair, body fluids, fibers and other evidence, if any. Medical officers have a duty to report any incident of serious physical injury to the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) and Police.
- Make a complaint to the nearest police station.
- Inquire whether the police station has a Women and Children’s Desk or ask for a woman police officer if you prefer speaking to a woman instead of a male constable. Make sure all details of the incident are covered.
- Ensure that you read the statement before signing it.
- In addition to taking a statement, police will collect physical evidence and take statements from witnesses if there are any.
- The police interview may take several hours, depending on the circumstances of your case. Some questions may be intrusive, and the officer may go over the details of the incident several times. The extensive questioning is often justified by the need to get every detail down precisely, to make the strongest possible case against the perpetrator.
- It helps to write down every detail you can remember, as soon as possible, so you can communicate the details to the police.
- Certain organizations provide support through the reporting process. They can clarify your doubts and questions and, if necessary some organizations will accompany you to the police station and hospital. Click for Service Providers.
Time Limit to Report to the Police
- In cases of sexual abuse it is always advisable to report the incident as soon as possible so as not to lose any evidence and to assist further investigation.
- If you are unsure of what happened constitutes a crime, report it first and clarify the matter with the police or any support organization. Please click for Service Providers.
- Twenty (20) years is the maximum legal time limit given to report a crime
COMMON REASONS WHY WOMEN AND GIRLS HESITATE TO REPORT VIOLENCE
- They do not recognize it as abuse
- Its acceptance as a common occurrence
- An environment that does not encourage complaints
- The common practice of blaming victims/survivors rather than the perpetrator
- Fear of safety to self and family
- The fear of making matters worse – escalated violence
- Fear of not being believed, ridiculed
- Fear of harm to one’s reputation and family
- Fear of losing one’s job in the case of sexual harassment in workplace
- Lack of awareness about legal relief
- Being dependent on the perpetrator
- Being related to the perpetrator or in a close relationship
- Not knowing if what happened constitutes an offence or crime