No truer words need be heeded by a potential victim assistant. Because what it takes to really help a victim is to be her assistant; hero comes later, much later. You need to be her silent partner ready to step in with finances, resources, disaster recovery strategies….
The friend, the one resisting all efforts to “get her out!”, isn’t resisting at all. When she tells you she can’t, she probably actually can’t.
If only it were that easy to just call a shelter or helpline. If only it were that easy to just research tanif, medicaid, and food stamp eligibility, and housing and employment resources, or just shop for a nice dress with no blood stains that she can change into in the backseat of her car, in the back row of a parking lot, at an out-of-town lawyer’s office.
When she tells you she can’t, she really can’t. She’s monitored, restricted under specific rules, and under constant threat of attack. When she tells you she can’t, she can not and she may not.
But you can.
You can get the storage unit in your name so she can take bits and pieces to start over, photographs, precious pieces, and records and certificates. You can hide the money she takes in $5 cash-back increments by using it to buy money orders (money orders go in her go-box, receipts stay with you).
You can purchase and maintain the pay-as-you-go cell phone and give her a secret code in cases when she needs you to call the police for her. Police reports are vital. The single most under-reported crime relies heavily on reports of the crime.
You can call shelters and find out about intake processes and resources, and others near (or far) so there’s a good list of numbers to have a better chance of finding one with a bed available when it’s go time. But be prepared, shelters fill and empty in waves. It may take a day or two, depending on how far you are willing to drive. You may have to take the victim into your home, or put her in a motel room, enough out-of-town, so she can get an hour of sleep.
You can go to the local social services office and get the applications she’ll need to fill out for cash assistance, food stamps, housing, medicaid, and the peace of stability of resources.
You can gather the documents, organize, copy, and check, double-check, and re-check to be sure it’s all there: the birth certificates, marriage certificates, police reports, restraining orders, phone numbers and directions to get into a shelter, among others.
You can retain a lawyer, or gather resources for legal aid and court advocates. Shelters often have court advocates, or volunteer paralegals or lawyers who help with pro se (independent of legal representation) filings. Calls to legal services through domestic violence coalitions can provide avenues for research, and sometimes answer questions. Police officers and free-consultation lawyers can provide some insight to laws and legal processes from injunctions to divorce motions.
You might need to keep a full tank of gas in your car, only to get called off at the last turn. You might need to use your name to help her hide. You might get motivation with little action. It takes time, patience, and absolute secrecy.
You might need to put yourself on the line to save a life, a life worth the investment.