Planning for your safety is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your children. A victim’s decision to leave is one of the most dangerous choices she/he will make. The creation of a safety plan is something that all victims need no matter if they choose to leave or stay.
These safety suggestions have been compiled from safety plans distributed by state domestic violence coalitions from around the country. Following these suggestions is not a guarantee of safety, but could help to improve your safety situation.
Personal Safety While Living With an Abuser
- Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can predict danger to you and your children before it occurs.
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are exit points. Practice getting out, and make sure your children are familiar with the plan.
- Plan for what you will do if your children tell your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan, such as a quick escape.
- If you have to run from an abuser, do not run toward your children. Keep them out of harm’s way as much as possible.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target; dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
- If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and memorize numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest payphone is located. Don’t be afraid to call the police!
- Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.
- Teach your children how to get help! Instruct them to not get involved in the violence, but plan a code word to signal to them to get help or leave.
- Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked — for a quick escape.
- Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used against you. Abusers have been known to use items such as these to strangle or restrain victims.
- Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
- Call a domestic violence hotline periodically to assess your options and get a supportive understanding ear.
Preparing to Leave an Abuser
- Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.
- Know where you can go to get help; tell someone (or multiple people) what is happening to you.
- Contact your local battered women’s shelter and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis (like an emergency shelter).
- If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened. Ask that they document your visit.
- Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them (like a room with a lock or a friend’s house) where they can go for help.
- Reassure your children that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
- Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible.
- Acquire job skills as best you can (community college, online courses, software training, writing, social media branding, etc.).
- Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
General Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship
- You may request a police stand-by or escort while you leave.
- If leaving unexpectedly, ensure tracking software is disabled (GPS, social media, family sharing, etc.). Check the car for a tracking system (often under the car or built-in to the car’s Bluetooth.
- Be prepared with important documents and transportation (hide an extra set of car keys).
- Make a plan for how and where you will go.
- Pack an extra set of clothes for yourself and your children and store them at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house. Try to avoid using the homes of next-door neighbors, close family members and mutual friends.
- Ensure your escape plan can be carried out quickly and quietly.
- Put aside emergency money (as much as you can).
Take with you important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc., as well as other important items, including:
- Driver’s license
- Regularly needed medication
- Credit cards or a list of credit cards you hold yourself or jointly
- Pay stubs
- Checkbooks and information about bank accounts and other assets
If time is available, also take:
- Citizenship documents (such as passport, green card, etc.)
- Titles, deeds and other property information
- Medical records
- Children’s school and immunization records
- Insurance information
- Copy of marriage license, birth certificates, will and other legal documents
- Verification of social security numbers
- Welfare identification
- Valued pictures, jewelry or personal possessions
- You may also create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to relocate. Ask questions that require a call back to your house in order to leave phone numbers on record.
After Leaving the Abusive Relationship
If getting a restraining order and the offender is leaving:
- Change your locks and phone number.
- Change your work hours and route taken to work.
- Change the route taken to transport children to school.
- Keep a certified copy of your restraining order with you at all times.
- Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
- Give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools along with a picture of the offender.
- Call law enforcement to enforce the order.
If you leave:
- Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail.
- Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports.
- Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.
- Change your work hours, if possible.
- Alert school authorities of the situation.
- Consider changing your children’s schools.
- Reschedule appointments that the offender is aware of.
- Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
- Alert neighbors and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
- Replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors. Install security systems if possible.
- Install a motion-sensitive lighting system.
- Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.
- Tell people who take care of your children who can pick up your children. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order.
- Call the telephone company to request caller ID. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.
(Source: © 1998 by the National Center for Victims of Crime)