Today’s blog post is a guest post from Hire A Helper. This is not a paid placement. We hope you find it useful, if you or a loved one need this kind of help.
Domestic abuse happens more than you might think, and for a lot of reasons, it’s a complex issue to address.
According to “DoSomething”, a wide-reaching non-profit organization in the United States, about a quarter of women around the world will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, and in fact, 85% of domestic abuse victims are women. It’s been estimated that half of all homeless women and children in the U.S. are fleeing domestic violence.
Victims are often left with nowhere to go due to emotional, social, and economic barriers for leaving an abusive relationship. For these reasons and more, it’s common for victims to stay in an abusive relationship when facing the alternative of living in a shelter or on the street.
Yet despite all this, some have discovered that oftentimes cyclical abuse can be stopped by simply solving for the economics of being able to afford a move.
The Movers Who Rescue Victims
Aaron and Evan Steed are co-founders of Meathead Movers, a brick-and-mortar chain that offers professional moving services. If you’re moving soon and you reside in California, they offer a variety of moving and storage services at the rate of 18,000 moves a year, which they claim makes them the largest independently owned moving company in the state.
But perhaps more impressive is that for domestic abuse victims, they offer these services for free.
Meathead Movers is one of a growing number of moving companies committed to helping victims of domestic violence move out of their abusive households at no cost.
After the California-based company was founded in 1997, frantic phone calls would come in from victims without financial means who were seeking to flee dangerous domestic violence situations, according to Dawn Ventura, Director of Marketing and Communications for Meathead Movers. They were pleas they couldn’t turn away, explained Ventura. “The brothers knew it was the right decision to get them out of there.”
The choice to provide moving services to victims for free was decided right away. It has remained their business policy for over 25 years.
Risks on the Job
Meathead Movers quickly found out there are more than financial risks when taking on this type of endeavor.
During one of their earliest rescue moves, the situation turned volatile when the alleged abuser of the victim came home in the middle of the move, Ventura told HireAHelper. “It was very scary for the (founders of Meathead),” she said. “Luckily, they were able to call law enforcement, who came to the scene and removed the abuser so that the move could be completed.”
After this experience, Meathead Movers decided to partner with a local shelter to make sure the victims and moving crew were safe and supported throughout the rescue process. In 2000, the company began its first official affiliation with a shelter called SLO Women’s Shelter.
“For the safety of our team and the victim, we only complete moves that the shelter partner has first had a chance to vet,” Ventura explained. The shelter determines the greatest need and works with the movers accordingly. “There is also always a shelter representative onsite throughout the move, and sometimes law enforcement, as needed,” she added. The company has since partnered with an additional seven shelters across California to help facilitate moves.
Though dangerous, this too remains far from the only challenge the company has faced over the years.
Back in 2008, during The Great Recession, Meathead Movers encountered what they described as “enormous” financial struggles. Ventura said that at one point, they thought they’d be closing their doors due to financial hardship. Even still, the company continued to offer free services to abuse victims. “We knew that it was our purpose and mission,” Ventura explained.
Today, Meathead Movers remains in operation after two decades of gradual growth and expansion, despite challenges. They have continued the policy of free rescues all throughout, and feel their success is proof altruism can exist within a successful moving business model.
As of 2022, they’ve helped relocate “hundreds” of domestic violence victims in the Southern Californian area for free.
A Moving Trend
Unfortunately, rescue services continue to be needed. No matter how many free moves Meathead Movers offers, as a localized chain, their reach covers only a small portion of victims of abuse. “In light of the growing cases of domestic violence, and on the heels of the national attention this free moving program has garnered, Meathead Movers is now encouraging businesses across the nation to step up and make an impact in their local communities as well,” Ventura said.
The good news is that many businesses have stepped up, including other moving companies.
In 2016, Meathead Movers launched the #MoveToEndDV campaign, challenging businesses to donate services for victims of domestic violence in their respective communities. Searching this hashtag still helps people find resources through social media. This trend has garnered the commitment of an increasing list of moving companies, as well as businesses in other sectors.
College HUNKS Hauling Junk and Moving — another store-run chain that offers professional moving services in dozens of cities across the U.S. — began offering its services for free during the month of October 2020 (which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month) in response to news reports of increasing domestic violence during pandemic lockdowns. Within the past year, College HUNKS has helped move more than 400 victims of domestic violence across the U.S., all at no cost to the victims.
How to Move Out Safely From a Domestic Violence Situation
There are multiple things to consider before you can safely remove yourself from an abusive situation.
Finding a moving company that can assist you in leaving an abusive household is incredibly helpful. But domestic abuse can be greatly helped just by beginning to plan. Here are what experts say are important steps along a successful path to freedom.
Call or email a professional helper for free.
First, know that you are not alone in your struggle. Every single day there is someone waiting for you to reach out.
Before you do anything, it’s useful to speak with a professional who can help you assess the situation and point you toward local resources. “Always, always, always contact your local shelter,” Ventura urged. “The resources that they offer are remarkable. And if there’s any way to call a domestic violence hotline, they are sure to help.”
You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or texting “START” to 88788. Its website also has a live chat option. Though if you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
Physically look at a calendar, imagine by which day you could realistically remove yourself, essential items, and potential children from your location.
Some situations may require getting out of your home as soon as possible; but if you can help it, visualize the exit ahead of time.
Start by literally glancing at a calendar. Figure out the best times to pack up and leave, and where you already know you could stay once you’re out — even if it’s just temporary. Google nearby shelters and moving companies that may be able to help, even if you don’t plan on using them. Always explain your situation in private, and have a contingency plan in case your abuser shows up on move day.
Squirrel away some cash, if possible.
Though shelters and some moving companies provide their services for free, it’s still very helpful to have cash on hand when you move out. If possible, try to set up your own checking or savings account online or over the phone at a separate bank from your abuser so they can’t restrict access to the money.
Gather up your important documents and items into one portable place.
Start making copies of documents such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, insurance cards, health records, and anything else you’ll need as you transition to a new home. If you have extra car keys, medications, clothes, or evidence of domestic abuse (e.g., photos, police records), be sure to set those aside too. Store these items in a private place until you need them.
Prearrange school release permissions for any children you have.
If you have kids you can’t personally pick up from school, change the release privileges to a trusted friend or family member, so your abuser can’t pick them up.
Keep your activity private, as you may be being spied on.
It’s not unusual for abusers to monitor activity or even spy on their victims, so you should be very careful about leaving behind any evidence of your planning.
Avoid using your home computer for research and visit the public library or a friend’s house instead. If you can, get your own, private cell phone, since there are many apps that allow partners to surveil your phone activity and accounts. Always turn off your Bluetooth and location services inside apps like Snapchat or Messenger, and close all tabs and clear all browsing history after searching for resources. Also, get rid of or “lose” any compromised cell phone if you fear it may be monitored, or do a factory reset. But make sure you have a handheld device ready to call for help if things become dangerous.
On move day, act quickly and confidently.
If you know of any weapons in the home, lock them away ahead of time if possible, just in case. Change the login settings and security questions to your online accounts and turn off the GPS in your car. Though it is not always easy, attempt to follow through with your plan with confidence.
These Movers Offer Free Services to Domestic Violence Victims
Encouragingly, Meathead Movers and College HUNKS are only just the beginning.
Below is a non-exhaustive directory as a resource to help you or anyone you may know who is a victim. If you don’t see a company near where you live, search for movers in your area, or call a local company and ask if they have any connections or knowledge of a similar service.
Always Professional in Moving, Inc. (Gilbert, AZ)
Contact: 480-633-5555, firstname.lastname@example.org
Always Professional in Moving, Inc. is a family-owned and operated moving company in the Maricopa County of Arizona. They pledge to provide free moves to distressed victims in need of moving services in order to get away from domestic violence. Its owner, Bernadette Lavigne, is a victim of domestic violence and has made addressing the issue an important foundation of her company.
Aussie Moving (Santa Barbara, CA)
Contact: 805-273-8756, email@example.com
Aussie Moving provides full-service residential moving, as well as commercial moving and storage. The company pledges to provide free moving services to victims of domestic violence in coordination with a local shelter in Santa Barbara County.
Brown Box Movers (Denton, TX)
Contact: 972-953-MOVE (6683)
Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, Brown Box Movers offers a variety of services, from residential moving, to move in/move out cleaning, to junk removal. The company pledged these services to help those experiencing domestic violence in the area.
Einstein Moving Company, LLC (Austin, TX)
Contact: Choose a location and send a message
Einstein moving company has locations throughout Texas, including Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and more, and is able to complete statewide moves. The company pledges up to $2,000 per month worth of moving services to Safe Place in Austin.
Elite Moving Services (Newton, IA)
Contact: 641-275-9412, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elite Moving Services serves the entire state of Iowa. They pledged to offer three moves every month to domestic violence victims at no charge. Their free service includes the trailer, labor, and all moving equipment needed to move within 75 miles of the victim’s location.
Gentle Giant Moving Company (Somerville, MA)
Contact: (800) 442-6863
Gentle Giant is involved with several charities, including a strong alliance with charities involved with housing assistance and homeless prevention. Gentle Giant pledges to offer a free move to those in need of help getting out of a domestic violence situation.
Helping Hands Moving and Maids (Salt Lake City, UT)
Contact: (801) 562-0093 (Sandy), (801) 809-7800 (SLC), (801) 735-4144 (Provo) or send a message
You may recognize Helping Hands Moving and Maids from the show Extreme Makeover, or from its extensive charity work in Utah, as well as overseas. The company pledges its services to domestic violence victims in need.
Moving at Ease (Scottsdale, AZ)
Contact: 602-357-7459 or send a message
Moving at Ease is a family business that tailors its moving services to senior citizens and their families. It can accommodate local and long-distance moves. The company pledges to volunteer its time and resources to help those in need in the Phoenix metro area.
Parks Moving & Storage (Bellefonte, PA)
Contact: (866) 790-1560 or send a message
Parks Moving & Storage is a fourth-generation, family-owned business with locations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and State College, PA. It is a women-owned business, and the owner is also a victim of domestic violence. The company pledges to offer packing and moving services to victims and their affected family members who need them.
Veterans Moving America (Fort Worth, TX)
Contact: (817) 989-6362, booking@VMAFamily.com
VMA employs a 100% veteran workforce and self-identifies as a “values-based company”. It is partnered with SafeHaven to provide free services to victims of domestic violence.