If for any reason you have an instinct (or proof) that your veteran is becoming aggressive
and/or violent, please take the following words to heart.  
Family Of A Vet cares and we
want to help keep you and your family safe.  Veterans can and do learn to deal with PTSD
(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and families can go on to lead happy, healthy lives
together.  However, the time before a Veteran seeks help can be especially dangerous.

When a veteran is becoming aggressive, it is time to get a plan in place.  You might not
need this plan, but if you ever DO need it, it’s there.

Establishing a Safe Word

Prior to creating a hiding place, establish a “safe word” with your kids for picking them up
from activities, school, or day care.  Make it something EASY to remember but not their
name.  I recommend a favorite character from a movie or something they really like.  This
“safe word” is between you and the kids.  Since you’re probably the one already picking
them up all the time, you don’t need to worry.  NO ONE picks up your child without the “safe
word”.  Even if Daddy’s sister Aunt Karen is on the authorized list, the kids MUST be
instructed not to leave with Aunt Karen unless she has the “safe word”.  Drill them on it
every single day.  They need to know that they NEVER leave with someone who doesn’t
have the “safe word”.  Let your spouse in on the “safe word” for now.  Change it if you feel
he is becoming violent and may try to harm the children or take them from you to use as

Hiding Locations for Your Children: Creating “Avalon”

If your children are able to get out of the house before an aggressive spouse arrives, by
ALL means, get them out.  If you know your veteran is aggressive after a night at the bar
with his friends, send everyone out for a sleepover.  It’s safer for them to be out of the
house, just in case.

That said, if your children are in the house and do not have a safe way out of the home
without coming into sight of your veteran, plan on creating an “Avalon”.  Avalon is a place
where your children can go and hide.  FOV briefly outlined this process in “Survival”.  Here
is the WHOLE process with age appropriate recommendations.

Avalon needs to be somewhere that is out of line of sight.  Closets, alcoves, and other
places children tend to hole up in a home are perfect for creating Avalon.  Avalon needs to
be near where your children play and/or sleep.  They should not have to go through your
bedroom or the main rooms of the house to get to Avalon.  The path to Avalon should not
cross the entry to the house if at all possible.   If you have more than one child, plan to
have their Avalon together if at all possible.  If you have several children, one child’s
bedroom may be equipped to be Avalon.  Another good location for Avalon is in multiple
story homes where the roof comes into the room.  There is typically a space between the
wall and the external wall that makes an “ideal” Avalon.  Believe it or not, your spouse can
help you build Avalon without knowing it or you can do it yourself.  All you need is a door,
some plywood for flooring, and the excuse that you need more storage space (and who

The next step is to “stock” Avalon.  Sleeping bags are great!  (Plus, they can go towards
the front to back up that “storage space” feel.)  If sleeping bags aren’t available, plan on
stashing some blankets and pillows.  If you have a small child and older children, make
sure to stock Avalon with diapers and wipes in the right size.  Include gallon size zipper
style plastic bags to seal the diapers and their stench.  The other absolute essential for
Avalon is flashlights and batteries.  It’s a small, enclosed space and they’ll need to see!

Next up: Food!  Remember we don’t want them leaving Avalon for ANY reason until they
get the “all clear”.  If you have small young children, equip Avalon with non-perishable
snacks such as crackers, fruit snacks, cookies, nuts, and dried fruits like raisins.  Juice
boxes are great beverage choices as well as bottles of water.  Keep in mind that packaging
that makes noise could draw attention to Avalon so repacking items in quiet zipper type
bags is a great idea!  For older kids, let them choose what to put in Avalon.  Just make
sure it’s quick preparation and non-perishable.  They may prefer a case of soda and
Doritos.  Go with your gut.

Paradise Found: Okay, here’s the time to throw out ALL the rules for activities.  Do they
like their handheld video games?  Have them store their games in Avalon or near their
beds so they can grab them in an emergency.  Keep extra batteries in Avalon for every toy
so there is NO reason to leave.  Have a little train nut?  Put some track in a box and some
trains to assemble.  My favorite Avalon activity?  Movie night!  Again, quiet is key.  A
portable DVD player with batteries (and extras!) with enough headphones for everyone
(headphone jack splitters are available at Radio Shack) is the absolute ideal.  It gives them
something to watch and something to block the sound.  Keep those headphones available
for handheld games.  CD players are another great option to block young ears from words
you’d rather not have them hear.

Okay, Avalon has been built.  Now for the trial runs.  Let your kids play in Avalon.  It’s fine.  
They need to be comfortable there.  You don’t want Avalon to be a scary place they only
go when trouble starts.  It’s their private place.  They should feel like it’s their special hide-
a-way from the entire world.

Last, but certainly not least, plan how they will know to go to Avalon and why they should
go.  Explain that Avalon is a safe place.  It doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) billed as a
place to "run away from Daddy."  It is simply a safe place for them to go in any situation
that they feel scared about.  If they feel afraid, they need to go to Avalon.  If they feel
threatened, they need to go to Avalon.  If Mommy and Daddy are fighting to the point that
they are frightened, they NEED to go to Avalon.  Then plan a way for them to come out.  
Figure out a safe word for them to leave.

Knowing Where to Draw the Line

It is never our intention to encourage divorce among Veteran families.  Our Veterans
deserve and need our help and support in order to learn to cope with PTSD and go on to
lead the happy, healthy lives that they deserve.  At the same time, it is unhealthy for you
and your children to live permanently in an abusive environment.  Each person's "line" is
different - the point at which you feel you must temporarily or permanently remove yourself
and your children from the abusive situation in order to ensure your own safety and future
happiness.  Avalon is a good, temporary solution for a short period of time.  The only
permanent solution is counseling and treatment for the Veteran and his or her family

For more help in creating Avalon or more tips on how to keep your children safe,
contact Family Of A Vet.  We are here to help in any way we can.

This article was written by our own Heather Hummert, the wife of an OIF Veteran & Purple
Heart Recipient.  If you would like to contact Heather directly, you can e-mail her at
Heather -at- FamilyOfAVet.com or

The following articles about dealing with Domestic Violence are also available on Family Of
A Vet:

What is Domestic Violence? - An article which covers the many different types of violence
which can occur within a home.

When Nightmares Become Real (Part 2): Creating an Escape Plan - This article will help
you work out a plan for use in case of an emergency Domestic Violence situation.  Again,
we are not advocating divorce!  But, if your Vet is becoming increasingly angry or violent,
you should for your own safety and the safety of your children, have a plan in place.

When Nightmares Become Real: Part 1

Creating a Safe Place for Children

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