Modern Family Matters

Important Safety Tips When Exiting an Abusive Relationship

February 21, 2024 with Jennifer Brissenden Season 1 Episode 128
Modern Family Matters
Important Safety Tips When Exiting an Abusive Relationship
Show Notes Transcript

We sit down with Private Investigator, Jennifer Brissenden, to discuss important safety tips to be aware of when you're planning on leaving an abusive relationship. In this podcast episode, Steve and Jennifer discuss the following:

  • Abuse Can Happen To Anyone, Regardless Of Someone’s Education, Profession, Neighborhood, Age, Gender. 
  • Recognizing Abuse In A Relationship Can Be Difficult.
  • Steps That Will Help Keep You Safe While Preparing To Leave Or After You Leave. 
  • Leaving Is The Most Dangerous Time For Someone In An Abusive Relationship.
  • Knowing When To Go. 
  • Things You Can Do To Help You Stay Safe While In An Abusive Relationship.
  • Making A Plan For When You Will Leave
  • The Importance Of Safe Phones And Computers.
  • Safety Planning To Keep You And Your Children Safe. 
  • The Essential Things To Take With You.

If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys, please call our office at (503) 227-0200, or visit our website at

To learn more about how Jennifer can help you, you can visit her website:

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such.

Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast devoted to exploring family law topics that matter most to you. Covering a wide range of legal, personal, and family law matters, with expert analysis from skilled attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcast provides answers, clarity, and guidance towards a better tomorrow for you and your family. Here's your host, Steve Altishin.

Steve Altishin  0:32  
Hi, everyone. I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships at Pacific Cascade Legal, and today we have private investigator, Jennifer Brissenden, to discuss important safety tips to be aware of when you're planning on leaving an abusive relationship. So Jennifer, before we started on this topic, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be what you are now?

Jennifer Brissenden  0:53  
Yes, Steve. My name is Jennifer Brissenden, I left my career in law enforcement and forensic mental health last year. I spent 12 years doing that, the last nine of those 12 years I worked specifically within domestic violence and sex trafficking. And I took a little time off last year and decided I wanted to be my own boss and open my own private investigation company. I do a variety of work, but my specialty, and my focus is definitely related to intimate partner violence.

Steve Altishin  1:34  
This is perfect. This is a perfect topic for us. So before we get into some of the tips, can we just kind of start talking a little bit about what we mean by domestic violence and recognizing abuse?

Jennifer Brissenden  1:50  
Sure, absolutely. I think abuse looks a little bit different in every relationship. And it comes on a little bit different in every relationship. I think we could spend an entire day talking about some of the early warning signs or signs that you can look for with with friends, family loved ones. But I think today when we're talking about domestic violence, I want to kind of encompass all aspects of it. Talk about physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual coercion, or abuse, financial abuse, and a big big one today that we're seeing more and more of is online and digital stalking and harassment. So that I think is becoming a bigger and bigger component. So the umbrella when I use the phrase domestic violence, or intimate partner violence is very broad.

Steve Altishin  2:43  
So when to go is always a difficult thing. And, you know, we see that in our clients, it's like, you know, when to say, this is enough, I need to get out. Yeah, how can people know or, or when should they, you know, at some point, end up saying, Okay, I gotta get out of this?

Jennifer Brissenden  3:05  
I think that because every case is so individualized. That is a really difficult question to answer. I think that being planful, being mindful, having very clear plans, and taking very clear steps, when you're starting to think about getting out of it. I do want to if we can, though, back out for a minute, just because I really can't have this conversation about domestic violence without at least having a brief discussion about the stigma that our society attaches to it. I think that there is so much shame that survivors experience, particularly people who come from all to do families, you know, have a high level of education are in a poor important role in society. And we hear so often, and I'm not judging this because I've been guilty of it. I spent the first three years of my career guilty of using the phrase, why doesn't she leave? Why doesn't she just pick up and leave? And there are so many intricacies and so many reasons why people don't leave and can't leave. More importantly, I don't think that this is a life anyone chooses to stay in. So I just kind of want to put that out there first, that this impacts everyone, every socio economic status, every gender, you name it, it's widespread. Domestic violence doesn't discriminate.

Steve Altishin  4:27  
No, and that kind of actually, to me, also kind of folds into the getting out part. It's hard to get out because if you're embarrassed or you think, I can handle this, or all of those sorts of things, but before actually walking out the door, if that's the literal way you go, are there ways you can start to get ready to leave?

Jennifer Brissenden  4:54  
I think there are a lot of ways. Oh boy, let's go through them one by one. documenting everything that you can. And I know that sometimes that's difficult, it's overwhelming. And when I say document, everything I am talking about, if you've been physically abused, documenting your injuries, taking photographs, having those date and time stamped, our judicial system is very much, if there's no perfect didn't happen, it's a court system is not going to go with he said, she said, if you can audio record times that you're being yelled at, if you can get photos of damaged property, or a hole in the wall, screenshots, you know, threatening text messages, voicemails that have maybe been left. And once you have that evidence, I encourage everybody, everybody to send it to somebody safe, have, identify somebody that you can put in charge of that evidence, send it to them, and then immediately delete it. If an abuser knows that you're documenting this, you're putting yourself at further risk. So I would say just ask that person, hey, I'm gonna send you stuff, when I send you things, please put it on a thumb drive and just save it, you don't need to respond to me, just so you know that that that information is kept safe somewhere. I think that's one of the things that you can do. safety planning around the financial aspect, domestic violence for abusers, it's all about power and control. And that's not just physical sexual control that oftentimes spills over into finances. I've spoke to many women who they have no control of the money. They're not allowed to go grocery shopping by themselves. So it can be really difficult, but we know what takes money to leave, if you're going to go out and try and provide for yourself and or your children. You need money to do it. So saving everything you can if you do get to go to the grocery store by yourself, take out $5 or $20 Cash, if you can keep that somewhere safe. Just save, save, save save every penny, because there are going to be things that that you need that money for when you do ultimately decide to leave or as you're taking steps to leave. Does that make sense?

Steve Altishin  7:13  
Yeah, makes absolute sense. You talked about a safe person that you can deposit stuff with. Which gets me to the whole idea of, before you actually walk out and you're communicating with someone, can that be unsafe?

Jennifer Brissenden  7:30  
It can be extremely unsafe. When you're dealing with someone who wants power and control over you and is monitoring your activities, it's highly likely that they're monitoring your text messages, your phone records, your emails that are going in and out your social media. So that communication can be dangerous. If you're using your own devices to communicate. Thank you for leading me into one of the other things that you can do purchase a burner phone, if you can 711, Walmart, wherever you want to go buy just the cheapest phone that you can. I think a lot of people make the mistake because they want to be able to retrieve information, registering that phone, putting it in their name, connecting it to a recovery phone, or recovery email, don't do that. If your accounts are being monitored, you don't want that showing up. So be willing to recognize if that phone goes missing, that phone goes missing, not the end of the world. It's not worth jeopardizing your safety for keep your phone off Wi Fi. If you have a burner that you're hiding at the house, keep it off Wi Fi, that device will show up on your Wi Fi and he and I know I keep saying he and she I know that this is across all all groups all you know, all varieties of heterosexual relationships, etc. So that's just for simplicity. That burner phone. I know we had that like Federal Emergency Broadcast thing come about recently. Do you remember that that goes out to burners also. So that brought up an interesting point that if you're not using that, keep it shut off. The last thing you want is to have that thing hid under your bed mattress and suddenly at 3am. You have an alarm going off. So I think yeah, you have to be very careful, digitally. I know when you and I spoke you brought up a really important point of using public computers, if you can public wi Fi's going to your local library to be able to communicate with attorneys or advocates or whoever it is that you're involved with, I think is a really good idea. And I know it's not always possible right there. There are situations where someone has so much control over you that you can't go anywhere without their knowledge, but if you can I think that that's a really good option for folks.

Steve Altishin  9:51  
You always hear this, I call it a trope, you know, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. But in this case, I mean, is it important, and it sounds weird, to practice leaving? 

Jennifer Brissenden  10:07  
Yes. Yes, I think so. I think our best plans are when we have it planned out in our head, we have all those little details, all those little important details that you might not need. But you might and it's better to have them versus not. I think one of the things too, I want to talk about is being ready to go not waiting for that explosive incident where you're like, oh, man, I gotta go. But I have to pack up all my stuff, what do I need, have a bag, if you're safe person can keep it have a to go bag, for lack of better words, that has a couple of days worth of clothing, copies of IDs, birth certificates, titles, financial paperwork, anything that you think you might need. Ideally, if you can take originals and save copies from the place that you're leaving, I think that's ideal. But you basically you want to prepare to leave. And imagine that you can never go back to our troops, the things you need that you want to get back to retrieve.

Steve Altishin  11:18  
It's such a great point, time after time after time, you know, clients will say, Okay, I got out of the house, but now they won't let me back. They changed the locks. I need this. I need that. And well, the legal process can do that. It's not a quick process. And it's not a cheap process. And and in respect of this, it's not necessarily a safe process to go back. Correct?

Jennifer Brissenden  11:46  
Correct. And even if you do go back, your stuff may now be gone. Yeah. Or it may be destroyed. Abusers don't like people leaving because it takes away the control and power. So yes, take everything with you.

Steve Altishin  12:01  
If we're past--sort of before you leave, but if we're not, let me know--but if we are, okay, you go out the door. Who do you want to inform, and who don't you want to inform? I mean, it's sort of like, okay, I'm in here now. Who do I reach out to? And we haven't really talked about kids. But I mean, kids could even be involved in this. But I mean, just who do I reach out to at this point and let know at least what happened?

Jennifer Brissenden  12:33  
That's a fantastic question. I think you should have code words or code phrases set up ahead of time, with whoever that safe person is in your life that you have identified, have the most nonsensical code figured out ahead of time, that says, hey, if I you know, send you a text that says I'm running out to buy a jar of pickles, you know, that I left, and you know, they know that you're gonna get in contact with them when you're in a safe place, or they know the plan ahead of time of where you're planning to go with you already know that I would not start calling everyone it is not sadly, it's not horribly uncommon for someone to leave, be in hiding, and tell someone who ultimately tells the abuser. Yeah, these guys can be very charming, very coercive, put on a great face to the world. And you don't know what story they're telling, like, Hey, I'm really worried about her mental health. She struggled with depression. I'm afraid she's suicidal. I need to check on her and suddenly, you're not safe again. So share this much information with the people or persons that you need to share it with.

Steve Altishin  13:51  
When you leave, you've got the burner phone probably still if you need it, but what about your phone or your laptop? Can they find you if you're moving around, and especially if you do anything on social media? 

Jennifer Brissenden  14:09  
Yes, you can find a lot of information through social media if you're savvy enough. If someone posts a picture on social media, depending on how location services are set up on your device, that information can be tracked back to location. There's so much technology wise now keyloggers spyware on computers and phones, GPS trackers, I, if I were in the position where I were leaving and was in a life threatening situation, I'm leaving everything of my regular devices behind vehicles can be included in that GPS trackers are everywhere now and cheap and easy. And all they've got to do is stick it on your car and suddenly they know everywhere you're going owing, which comes back to the Financial Peace, if you've saved some money, you can catch an Uber. Right? That's, although that could be tracked depending on how into your device they are that could potentially be tracked as well.

Steve Altishin  15:13  
These days, you know, people are buying, like those little iPhone trackers that you put in luggage, or you put on your keys, or you put somewhere. I mean, those are still going, they're still processing where you are.

Jennifer Brissenden  15:29  
Yeah, I think the theory that we're seeing here is leaving is dangerous. And for anybody watching this, who, you know, doesn't have any education or experience with Divi. It is dangerous. It is the most dangerous time you're taking an already violent situation. You're taking away the abusers power and control. And you're making that dangerous situation even more dangerous. It's frightening, it's frightening to leave.

Steve Altishin  15:57  
Are there things you can do to at least try to lessen the danger? Are there people or resources, that kind of stuff, that can can help, atleast to some extent, protect?

Speaker 2  16:13  
There are a lot of... I need to be careful how I say this... no, I don't. I'm just gonna say it--

Steve Altishin  16:19  
I like that.

Speaker 2  16:22  
I think that there are not near enough resources for domestic violence survivors, particularly for single women who don't have children, and for women who have older children, shelters are hard to get into. I think that there's a common misconception that oh, you can just leave and go knock on the shelter door. That's not, that's not realistic. I think if you are in a situation where you've, you've done all this planning, find an advocate, there are plenty of dv advocacy groups. If you've been working with police on criminal charges for anything, they have advocates available, that there are other resources like here in Portland, VOA has advocates that are free to access, they can also sit down and go over a lot of this safety planning stuff with you and tailor it to what you need. They sometimes have funds available to be able to put you up in a motel for a night or a couple nights until you can figure out something different. We also have some laws that can protect people if they know how to advocate for themselves around those. So for I'll give you a couple for instances, Oregon has employment related laws around domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims, where they've got to work with you. There are laws that protect you. So if you need to flee, you need a reasonable amount of time off work to safety plan for yourself and your family. That can be done. People are scared, I think to talk to employers oftentimes. But we spend a great portion of our lives at work. Those those people see us as much as families are able to see us owned depending on what kind of company you work for. If you're being stalked it would be really good for your employer to know what's going on. What are the risks? What does he look like? What does he drive? What else is out there? We have in Oregon, we have what's called an address confidentiality program. Are you familiar with that at all? I mean, that's quite a bit. So the state of Oregon has a program where if you have been the victim of violence, sexual assault, stalking, you can apply for a confidential address. It's incredible. You send them a police report that says hey, this happened, you get into this program, and you filter all of your mail, through this confidential address and Salem, and then they reroute it to you. They give you a little card to use. So even your driver's license address doesn't have to have your home address on it. It's a great way if you flee and relocate to keep your address hidden. Because it all goes back to everything's available online. As soon as one person has your address. Everybody has your address. 

Steve Altishin  19:19  
Yeah, that makes such sense. I mean, just the idea of you're on the, you know, Visa account, you're on the bank account, you're on the this and that account. And you know, some of the first things I'm thinking I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go there and I'm gonna put it in, I'm gonna change the address, so they're not sending stuff there. Well, I then need to find where that address is. 

Speaker 2  19:45  
Yep. It's a fabulous, fabulous program that I think a lot of people don't know. And it's completely free. So I know financial burdens. I think when people are leaving our super important to think about financial resources are going to be limited for folks. So the fact that there are some free things out there are nice. One of the other things that people can be aware of are set, and I'm not super familiar with them, but tenant landlord laws around victims of abuse, you are permitted to actually terminate your lease early if you need to, you are allowed to terminate the lease of your abuser. And meanwhile, keep yourself on the lease. You cannot be held responsible for damages that are caused, let's say he puts his fist through a while or breaks down a door. That's not your financial burden. So there definitely are some resources there that people can can ask about. 

Steve Altishin  20:45  
We're almost running out of time, but just fast forward a month, six months, I guess what my kind of question is, when is it safe? And I know, that's a crazy question, because it's all individual. But I mean, when you know, how long should your vigilance, keep applying? After you've got I mean, it's got I'm sure it's not like, okay, it's been a month, I can go back to just doing what I was. Right?

Jennifer Brissenden  21:17  
I'll give you the according to research articles, answer that would tell you that you are at the highest risk for about a year. Well, is a really long time. Yeah, that's a really long time. I can also give you my practical answer based on how long I've been doing this work. And some of the severe cases that I've seen, the answer in some cases can be always, you should always be vigilant. And I think especially that's true if you have been the victim of stalking, stalking is kind of a whole different beast and, and a whole different mentality.

Steve Altishin  22:01  
No, that is absolutely true. Speaking of that, just quick, I'm gonna ask one more question. It kind of goes to that stalking thing. Would you ever, you know, in a particularly kind of bad situation or in certain situations, say, leave the state, I mean, go as far away as you can from this person? Because, I mean, even the craziest people maybe can't afford or are less likely to, you know, chase you through a couple of plane fares. Could it get to me where, hold on, I got cousins in New Jersey, and I'm just gonna go there for a while?

Jennifer Brissenden  22:46  
Forget New Jersey, we once bought a one way plane ticket, for a DV survivor to her home country, which happened to be Guam. Get on a plane and get out of here, 100%.

Steve Altishin  23:01  
That seems to make sense. I mean, ithat makes sense to me, because it seems to me that the person is going to go to the parents, the kids if they're, you know, older, the cousins and all of those, the best friends, work, school.

Jennifer Brissenden  23:16  
Mhm, daycares all the places that they know. Yeah. And depending on the severity of it, that could place your extended family at risk.

Steve Altishin  23:28  
Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, you talked a little bit on the on the on the playa is that they you know, you don't want to put them at risk. They don't want to be at risk. So you know, talking to them about it is not just helpful for maybe you but for them.

Jennifer Brissenden  23:48  
Yeah. And safety planning both, you know, the person experiencing the abuse and what if this guy comes into our offense? I have no more than a DV case right now we're we've done a lot of that. And they've said this business has completely changed their protocols on you know, people are no longer allowed to drop off packages without showing ID because he was stalking her and storing things to work. So there's, there's a lot that can be done. Once someone who's ready to say, You know what, I need help. You don't have to be ashamed of this because I know what happens to everyone. And I need help. And I have to put together a safe group that can help me.

Steve Altishin  24:23  
Right. Or at least change your delivery-- those delivery addresses live in that system forever.

Jennifer Brissenden  24:33  
Forever. Yes, yes, every system forever, which is why you got to start fresh start new. 

Steve Altishin  24:40  
Wow. Wow. We could talk for days for days, but we're totally out of time. I'm gonna ask you though. We gave so much information. You have so much more to give and you're a private investigator so you can help with some of this stuff. So how can people get a hold of you if they need to?

Jennifer Brissenden  25:02  
Well, I think the easiest is following whatever links you provide. And I say that only because I have an extremely long complicated last name. So I'm not going to spell out my email address for you. I own and operate Brissenden Investigations, spelled with a B, I'm out in Clackamas County. I'm on Google. So you should be able to Google that mostly phonetically correct and have it pop up.

Steve Altishin  25:27  
I like it. Like a lot of mine never pops up. Thank you for that. And we are encouraging people. If you have any questions, any need to get a hold of Jennifer, definitely, we can get you in contact with them. And we are now totally out of time. So Jennifer, thank you so much for being here today to talk about this. This was really an important subject you really gave what I like to call it nuts and bolts advice.

Jennifer Brissenden  25:58  
We'll get to the smaller bits another time. 

Steve Altishin  26:00  
There you go, I love going into the weeds. So everyone else, thank you for joining us today. If anyone has further questions on today's topic again, post it here, we can get you in touch with Jennifer. Until next time, stay safe, stay happy and be well.

This has been Modern Family Matters, a legal podcast focusing on providing real answers and direction for individuals and families. Our podcast is sponsored by Pacific Cascade Legal, serving families in Oregon and Washington. If you are in need of legal counsel or have additional questions about a family law matter important to you, please visit our websites at or You can also call our headquarters at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a case evaluation with one of our seasoned attorneys. Modern Family Matters, advocating for your better tomorrow and offering legal solutions important to the modern family.