Violent incidents can happen suddenly in an abusive relationship. You can make a plan ahead of time that can help keep you safe. Because violence can occur at unexpected times, it is a good idea to make a safety plan for all of the possible places or situations where you could be in danger. Below are some suggestions for what to include in a safety plan.
You have the right to live free of abuse in your relationship.
Planning ahead can help in crucial ways when a violent situation erupts. Practice how to get out of your home safely—know which doors, windows, elevator, or stairs would be the best escape route. Pack a bag with all vital documents (restraining order, birth certificate(s), social security card(s), etc.), a change of clothing, extra keys, or anything you might need if you were fleeing your home. Know where you could go if you were forced to leave your house quickly. Find a neighbor who you can talk to about the violence, and ask them to call the police if they notice a disturbance coming from your home. You can also create a code word or phrase that means you are in danger and share it with your family, friends, and the neighbor who knows what is going on.
When the altercation is happening, try (if you can) to move into a room that has access to an exit, and limited access to objects that could be used as weapons. Trust your instincts and use your judgement to keep yourself safe. The most important thing to do in a violent situation is to call 911 as soon as you can. Of course, you may not be able to call the police yourself—this is why it is advantageous to establish a way to signal you are in danger to someone you know who can call 911 for you.
When you are ready to leave know where you can stay and who could lend you money if you need it. Always try to take your children with you, or make arrangements ahead of time for them to stay with someone you know who will keep them safe. It may be helpful to leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents, and extra clothes with someone you trust. Opening your own savings account is a great way to increase your independence and save up extra cash for incidental expenses when you are fleeing.
It is a good idea to meet with a domestic violence advocate and review your safety plan—they can help you brainstorm more ways to keep you safe. When you are leaving, keep the phone number for the shelter close at hand.
Leaving your abuser can be one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship. Planning ahead can make all the difference. Below is a checklist for items you may need when you leave:
Once you have left your abuser, establish your home or the location where you are taking shelter as a safe place. Tell your neighbors and landlord that you do not want your abuser at or near where you are staying, and they should call the police if they see him or her. Find a safe place where you are living for your children to hide in case they are alone when/if your abuser shows up at your residence. Practice with your children what they should do in that situation. It is also important to make sure your children’s school and/or daycare provider knows who is allowed to pick up your children.
Changing all locks and adding locks to any doors or windows that are not secured is a very important step in making your residence a safe place. You can also add a peephole to your front door (if not already installed) and increase outdoor lighting around your home. Lastly, changing your phone number cuts off contact with your abuser, further strengthening your safety.
A restraining order is a great way to let officers of the law know that your abuser cannot come near you. Make copies of the restraining order so you can keep a copy with you and others in your car, at work, at friends’ and families’ houses, or anywhere else you might be. Make sure you tell everyone you know that the restraining order is in effect.
If your abuser ever violates the terms of the restraining order, call the police immediately! However, also try to think of other ways you could keep safe in case the police cannot respond right away.
Finally, try to avoid places where your abuser frequently goes.
Make sure at least one person at work who you trust knows about your situation. Give a picture or a description to security staff at your building. Screen your calls at work, or ask a coworker to do so for you.
Create a safety plan for when you are leaving work. Try to walk with someone to your car or the bus stop. If you must walk home, do not walk the same streets every day. Think of what you could do if something happened on your way home.
Leaving an abusive relationship is extremely difficult, and so you must do all you can to strengthen your self-esteem and keep your spirits up during this time. Think positive thoughts about yourself and be confident when you assert your needs to others. You can also read books, articles, and poetry that give you feelings of peace and strength. Support groups are a great way to keep on the positive path and talk about your feelings openly.
If you are thinking about returning to a potentially abusive situation, call someone you feel safe talking to or share your feelings with your support group. You may have more options than you know.
Domestic violence can affect couples of all ages. If something about your relationship doesn’t seem right to you, discuss it with someone you trust. You can also contact a domestic violence advocate or a police officer and talk to them about your situation. They can help you determine if there is abuse, and then what your options are if you are in an abusive relationship.
You should never have to feel afraid of your partner. No one is allowed to touch you without your permission and you are allowed say “no”.
If you would like to talk to a domestic violence advocate, please call our Support Line: (707) 443-6042.