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Meet with the person being abused and ask what he or she needs for physical and emotional safety, and spiritual well-being.  Consider bringing in an advocate from a local domestic violence or sexual assault program to work with you.


Initial Assessment

  • Is the person in immediate danger? Has there been an acute battering/assault incident? Is he or she injured? Does he or she need immediate medical attention? (Victims of abuse often minimize the severity of their own injuries and of threats made against them.)

  • Encourage seeking medical help, both for health reasons and for documentation purposes. If there are any visible injuries, ask the abused person if you can take photographs. Document non-visible injuries or health effects--such as internal pain, headaches, fatigue, or depression.

  • If the person is not in immediate danger, what types of support does he or she need now? What types of support might he or she anticipate needing? Assess current and potential dangers.

  • Is the person aware of the legal options? Explain the person's right to report the abuse, file a restraining order, and pursue criminal and/or civil remedies. Explain how these options may offer protection.  Refer to local domestic violence agencies.

  • Does the person have a safe place to live? If not, help find temporary housing in a local shelter or through another congregant, or provide a hotel voucher.

  • Does the person need to relocate? If his or her whereabouts must remain confidential, discuss ways to do this and how the congregation can support the person.

  • Are there children involved? Are they safe? Is there child abuse that needs to be reported to Child Protective Services? Explain that you are a mandated reporter of child abuse. Encourage the person to report the child's abuse him or herself. Let him or her know about legal protections (such as temporary custody orders) to protect the children from further harm.

  • Does the person have food, money, and transportation? Assess what other immediate needs could be met by the congregation, or by local resources.


  • Let the person being abused know that you are there for support, regardless of what he or she decides to do. Also encourage and discuss confidential counseling options such as a local domestic violence program, rape crisis center, support groups, and therapists trained in abuse prevention.

  • Discuss and write down safe options for obtaining important documents or belongings that may be in possession or proximity of the abuser.

  • Discuss and write down ways to protect oneself from being followed and/or found by the abuser. This includes plans for school, work, children's activities, attending community events, etc.

  • Ensure that the abuse survivor can safely participate in the spiritual life of the community. Develop a congregational safety plan that ensures the abuser will not attend any services, classes, or other events that the survivor(s) might attend.

  • Develop a system to monitor the situation over time, so that the ongoing and/or changing safety needs are addressed.

  • If the person is continuing to live with the abuser, discuss exit plans for self, children, other household members, and pets should violence erupt.

  • Most importantly, ask the person what his or her needs are, and how the congregation might be able to help. He or she is the best expert.

Checklist - What you should take when you leave


  • Driver's license

  • Children's birth certificates

  • Your birth certificate

  • Social security card

  • Welfare identification


  • Money and/or credit cards

  • Bank books

  • Checkbooks

Legal Papers

  • Your protective order

  • Lease, rental agreement, house deed

  • Care registration and insurance papers

  • Health and life insurance papers

  • Medical records for you and your children

  • School records

  • Work permits/green card/visa

  • Passport

  • Marriage license

  • A separation agreement, divorce papers

  • Custody Papers


  • House and car keys

  • Medications

  • Small sellable objects

  • Jewelry

  • Address book

  • Phone card

  • Pictures of you, your children, and your abuser

  • Children's small toys

  • Toiletries/diapers

  • Change of clothes for you and your children

  • For more information about your options and legal rights

  • Contact an advocate at a shelter or your local court. Fill in phone numbers of services in your area.

Battered Women's Shelters



Emergency __________________
Local Police __________________
State Police __________________

District Attorney's Offices


Other important numbers

National Domestic Violence Hotline
Rape crisis center _______________
Teen hotline___________________
Women's center ________________
Disabled abuse hotline ____________
Elder abuse hotline ______________
Child abuse hotline ______________

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