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How to safely escape an abusive relationship

Domestic violence survivors say having a personal "safety plan" is important
Posted at 7:00 PM, Oct 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-25 19:00:07-04

LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WKBW) — The high-profile trial of Jonathon White, 28, in Erie County has put a spotlight on the horrors of domestic violence.

White was found guilty of attempted murder after he lured his ex-girlfriend to a location behind a Tim Hortons, poured gasoline on her and then set her on fire.

The victim, Jessica Cameron, 25, survived the blaze but was disfigured. Her emotional testimony in front of a jury was a key part of the trial.

The courtroom drama took place during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it has advocates for survivors reminding the public that there is help for people in abusive situations.

"When we have seen domestic violence homicides in Western New York, they have been during a breakup period," said Mary Brennan-Taylor, vice president of programs for the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier.

Brennan-Taylor said anyone in an abusive situation should put together a "safety plan" in case they need to leave.

While there are cases when a victim must leave unexpectedly, many situations have warning signs of pending trouble that will escalate. Those situations can involve verbal, emotional, financial and physical abuse. Often, abusers demean their victims and try to cut them off from their family and friends in order to control them.


The YWCA of the Niagara Frontier offers free, confidential counseling to women and children who fear they may be in an abusive situation. Counselors will help the victim develop a safety plan so they can leave if necessary. Housing can be provided by the YWCA.

  • Start collecting important documents, medical records, prescriptions, insurance information, drivers license, and important information about your children.
  • Don't collect these items in a way that will tip off the abuser. Instead, collect the items when the abuser is at work or away.
  • Store the items somewhere else - with a friend, a family member or the YWCA.
  • Never tell the abuser that you are leaving. Wait until the abuser is somewhere else to leave.
  • Make sure you get guidance from agencies dedicated to helping domestic violence survivors. The YWCA offers a 24/7 hotline at (716) 433-6716.
  • Guns in a home are a danger. Don't wait to get out if the abuser has access to firearms.
  • Once out, do not agree to meet with the abuser in a one-on-one situation!
  • If the abuser threatens to kill himself because they can't live without you, BEWARE! This is a huge indicator that more violence is possible and it could end in a fatality. According to Mary Brennan-Taylor, most often abusers don't just kill themselves; they want to kill their partner.

"If you are unsure whether you are in an abusive situation or not, chances are that you are," explained Mary Brennan-Taylor. People in these situations are encouraged to use the YWCA's free counseling service to develop an individual safety plan.

More information about the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier's crisis services can be found here.

The Family Justice Center of Erie County also has services to help domestic violence victims.