Develop A Safety Plan
Safety plans are intended to optimize victim/survivor safety at every stage.
- Detail plans in case of dangerous situations or changes in the relationship, such as breaking up
- Identify safe friends and safe places
- Identify the essential items to take should one need or decide to leave home
- Include information about local domestic violence resources and legal rights
- Build on what a survivor is already doing to survive
Survivors are the experts in their own situation and some of the information or suggested steps provided here may not be relevant to an individual survivor. The sample safety plans should be adapted as needed. In addition, it may be helpful to start this process with an advocate.
Safety plans should start from the assumption that an abuser is dangerous and try to help the victim/survivor identify the circumstances under which the abuser typically becomes violent and how the abuser may react to help seeking strategies.
- Change locks on doors and windows.
- Install a security system — window bars, locks, better lighting, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
- Teach the children to call the police or family and friends if they are snatched.
- Talk to schools and childcare providers about who has permission to pick up the children.
- Find a lawyer knowledgeable about family violence to explore custody, visitation and divorce provisions that protect you and your children.
- Obtain a restraining order. (Our staff is available to help you write and obtain a protection order)
If you are leaving the abuser, consider the following:
- How and when can you most safely leave? Where will you go?
- Are you comfortable calling the police if you need them?
- Who can you trust to tell that you are leaving?
- How will you travel safely to and from work or school or to pick up children?
- What community and legal resources will help you feel safer? Write down their addresses and phone numbers, and keep them handy.
- Do you know the number of the local shelter?
- What custody and visitation provisions will keep you and your children safe?
- Is a restraining order a viable option?
- Open a savings account in your own name. Give the bank a safe address, like a post office box or your work address.
- Leave money, an extra set of keys, and copies of your important papers with someone you trust. You may need to leave home fast, and you’ll need these things later.
If you are staying with the abuser, think about:
- What works best to keep you safe in an emergency.
- Who you can call in a crisis.
- If you would call the police if the violence starts again. Can you work out a signal with the children or the neighbors to call the police when you need help?
- If you need to flee temporarily, where would you go? Think though several places where you can go in a crisis. Write down the addresses and phone numbers, and keep them with you.
- If you need to flee your home, know the escape routes in advance.
- Have the following available in case you have to flee:
- Important papers such as birth certificates, social security cards, marriage and driver’s licenses, car title, lease or mortgage papers, passports, insurance information, school and health records, welfare and immigration documents, and divorce or other court documents
- Credit cards, bank account number, and ATM cards
- Some money
- An extra set of keys
- Medications and prescriptions
- Phone numbers and addresses for family, friends, doctors, lawyers, and community agencies
- Clothing and comfort items for you and the children
Before and during an attack do the following:
- Stay close to a door or window so you can get out if you need to.
- Stay away from the bathroom, the kitchen, and weapons.
- Practice your escape. Know which doors, windows, elevator, or stairs would be best.
- Have a packed bag ready. Hide it in a place that you can get to quickly.
- Identify neighbors you can tell about the violence. Ask them to call the police if they hear signs of domestic violence coming from your home.
- Have a “code word” to use with your children, family, friends, and neighbors. Ask them to call the police when you say that word.
- Know where to go if you have to leave home, even if you don’t think you’ll have to.
- Trust your instincts. Do whatever you have to do to survive.
WORKPLACE SAFETY PLAN
At work, you may want to:
- Save any threatening emails or voicemail messages. You can use these to take legal action in the future, if you choose to. If you already have a restraining order, the messages can serve as evidence in court that the order was violated.
- Park close to the entrance of your building, and talk with security, the police, or a manager if you fear an assault at work.
- Have your calls screened, transfer harassing calls to security, or remove your name and number from automated phone directories.
- Relocate your workspace to a more secure area.
- Obtain a restraining order and make sure that it is current and on hand at all times. Include the workplace on the order. A copy should be provided to the police, the employee’s supervisor, Human Resources, the reception area, the Legal department, and Security.
- Provide a picture of the perpetrator to reception areas and/or Security.
- Identify an emergency contact person should the employer be unable to contact you.
- Ask Security to escort you to and from your car or public transportation.
- Look into alternate hours or work locations.
- Review the safety of your childcare arrangements, whether it is on-site childcare at the company or off-site elsewhere. If you have a restraining order, it can usually be extended to the childcare center.
Remember, you cannot stop your partner’s abuse; but you can find help and support for yourself. No one deserves to be abused.
SAFETY AND MY EMOTIONAL HEALTH
The experience of being abused and verbally degraded by partners is exhausting and emotionally draining. The process of building a new life for myself takes much courage and incredible energy.
To conserve my emotional energy and to avoid hard emotional times, I can do some of the following:
- If I feel despair and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can call ____________________before making a decision.
- I can use, “I can” statements with myself.
- I can remind myself daily of my best qualities. They are_____________________________.
- I can read _________________ to help me feel stronger or better.
- I can call ______________, __________ and _________________ as other resources to be of support to me.
- I can attend workshops and support groups at the domestic violence program or ___________________ to gain support and strengthen my relationships with other people.
- Other things I can do to help me feel stronger are: ________________________.
SAFETY AND TECHNOLOGY
Partners sometimes use technology as a means of controlling or monitoring their partner.
Here are some steps I can take to protect myself:
- I will set up a new, private e-mail address. This e-mail address will not contain my name or birth date, or other words that would identify me.
- I will regularly delete received and sent e-mails, and clean out the Deleted Items folder or purge my deleted e-mails in my e-mail account.
- I will try to use a private computer or one that my partner does not have access to, like one at a public library, community center, or Internet café. A nearby public computer is located at _______________________.
- If I use a computer my partner does have access to, I will look up how to clear the history of websites I have visited on www.stoprelationshipabuse.org. I will also empty the Recycle or Trash bin on the computer to erase documents.
- I will change the privacy settings on my Facebook account to restrict access to my page.
- I will not store my passwords if my web browser is capable of doing so. I will change my passwords often and use different passwords for different sites. I will use passwords with both letters and numbers so they are harder to guess.
- I can contact the courthouse where I am involved in litigation to request that my online court records be kept confidential. My courthouse’s telephone number is _______________________. I will do a Google search of my full name in parentheses and take steps to change any pages that offer private information about me.
- I can set up a new telephone number by calling my telephone company at _______________________. I can also call a local hotline to learn about donation programs that provide new cell phones or pre-paid calling cards for victims of abuse or stalking. If there is a baby monitor in the house, I will turn it off when making calls that I do not want overheard.
- I will make sure that my telephone and address are unlisted by calling my telephone company.
- I can set up a private P.O. Box where I can receive mail and request that my mail be sent to this new address. I will have my phone bill be sent to this new address. I will try to keep my residential address out of the national database.
- If I think my partner has set up a Global Positioning System in my car or purse, I will contact the police to see what I can do.
SAFETY DURING AN ASSAULT
There are a number of things to do to increase safety during violent incidents.
I can do some or all of the following:
- If I decide to leave, I can get out of the house/ dorm by ___________________________. (Practice how to get out safely. What doors or windows will you use?)
- I can go to ________________________.
- In order to be able to leave quickly, I can keep my purse and vehicle key ready by putting them:_________________________________.
- I can tell _______________________, (neighbors) about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from the house/dorm room.
- I can use _________________ as my code word with my family/friends when I am in danger, so they will call for help.
- When I expect an argument, I can try to move to ___________________________, a space near an outside door that has no guns, knives or other weapons (usually bathrooms, garages and kitchen areas are dangerous places).
- I can call the police when it is safe, and I can get a protective order from the court.
SAFETY WHEN PREPARING TO LEAVE
Leaving must be done with a careful plan to increase safety. Perpetrators often strike back when they believe their partner is leaving the relationship.
I can do some or all of the following:
- So I can leave quickly, I can leave money, an extra set of keys, extra clothing and important documents with ______________________________________.
- I can open a savings account to increase my independence by_________________.
- I can check with ________________ and ___________________ to see who would be able to let me stay with them or lend me some money.
- The National Domestic Violence hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). By calling this free hotline, I can get the number of a shelter near me. If there is a Sexual Assault/Relationship Abuse Office on campus, I can call them to assist with safe housing relocation.
- I can rehearse my escape plan.
- I can plan to break up in a public place and will stay with _____________________ after.
- Other things I can do to increase my independence:
Checklist – what you may want to take with you, if it is safe to do so:
- Address book
- Credit cards
- Social Security Cards
- Keys (house/car/work)
- Welfare identification
- Driver’s license/vehicle registration
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Checkbook, ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) card, and other bank books
- Work permit
- School and vaccination records
- Divorce papers
- Copy of protective order
- Pets (if you can). Call your local animal shelter to ask about temporary animal housing.
- Photo Album
SAFETY IN MY HOME
There are many things that a survivor can do to increase safety in the home. It may be impossible to do everything at once, but safety measures can be added step by step.
- I can inform ___________________ that my partner no longer resides with me/is dating me and they should call the police if he is seen at my residence.
- I can change the locks on my doors and windows as soon as possible.
- I can tell my roommate(s) about the situation and __________________________________.
WITH A PROTECTIVE ORDER
Protective orders are available from the court. An advocate is available at the nearest domestic violence/sexual assault program to help you get one. Many perpetrators obey protective orders, but some do not. I understand that I may need to ask the police and the courts to enforce my protective order.
I can do some or all of the following to increase my safety:
- I can keep a copy of my protective order with me at all times.
- I can check with my local police department to make sure my protective order is on record with them. If not, I will give a copy of my protective order to them. I will also give a copy of my protective order to police departments in the community where I work and in those communities where I usually visit family or friends.
- I can tell my employer, my domestic violence program advocate, my closest friend, and ________________ that I have a protective order in effect.
- If my partner destroys my protective order, I can get another copy from the court house by calling _____________________.
- If my partner violates the protective order, I can call the police and report a violation, call my attorney, call an advocate at a domestic violence program and/or advise the court of the violation.
SAFETY ON THE JOB AND IN PUBLIC
Survivors must decide for themselves if and when to tell others about the violence. Friends, family and co-workers can help to protect me, and I need to consider carefully who to ask for help.
I can do any or all of the following:
- I can tell my boss, the security supervisor and _____________ at work of my situation.
- I can ask __________________ to help screen my telephone calls at work.
- When I leave work, I can walk with _______________________ to my car or bike. I can park my car where I will feel safest getting in and out of the car.
- When traveling home if problems occur, I can _____________________________.
- I can use different grocery stores, shopping malls and banks to shop and do business at hours that are different from those I used when residing with my abusive partner.
- I can also _________________________.
SAFETY PLANNING WITH CHILDREN
MESSAGES FOR CHILDREN
- You don’t need to keep secrets when you feel scared or sad.
- You are not to blame for the violence in your home.
- Identify escape routes from the house and where to meet outside.
- Identify an adult you trust and tell them when something is happening in your house.
- Anger and frustration are okay but violence is not.
- There are safe places for your mom to take you.
- It’s okay to feel mixed up about things.
- It is okay to like your dad and at the same time not like him when he is violent and hurting family members.
- Focus on keeping yourself safe when your dad hurts your mom.
- Don’t get in the middle of a fight.
- There are ways to call for help:
- Call the police (911).
- Go to your safe place you have planned about before.
- Go to a neighbor’s home.
- Keep your younger brothers and sister in a safe place.
From: Ganley, A., Schuster, S. Domestic Violence: A National Curriculum for protective
services. Family violence prevention fund, 1996
SAFETY PLANNING CHECKLIST FOR CHILDREN
Stay out of the fight.
- You may want to get in the middle of the fight to protect and help your parent, but this is not a safe thing for you to do. Your mom will want you to be safe.
- Stay out of the room where the fighting is happening.
Avoid getting trapped in a closet or the kitchen.
- You may feel like hiding, but if you go into a corner or closet, it may be hard to get out again safely. Try to find a safe place to hide in advance.
- Try not to hide in the kitchen where there are objects that can be used as weapons.
Find a phone in a safe place. Call 911 for help and stay on the phone.
- Use a phone out of reach or out of sight of the abuser.
- If you can’t reach a phone safely in your own house, go to a neighbor, relative, or friend you trust and ask if you can use the phone.
- Call 911 or your local police emergency number and stay on the phone until someone answers.
- Tell the dispatcher what is happening in your home and ask for immediate help.
- Give the dispatcher your address.
Escape to a safe place. Find a relative or neighbor and ask for their help.
- Think about which grownups you would feel safe talking to.
- Don’t give up if the first person you go to won’t help. Try another adult. Keep trying until you find someone to help you.
ABOVE ALL, REMEMBER, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!!!
SAFETY PLANNING FOR TEENS
- What adults can you tell about the violence and abuse?
- What people at school can you tell in order to be safe–teachers, principal, counselors, security?
- Consider changing your school locker or lock.
- Consider changing your route to/from school.
- Use a buddy system for going to school, classes and after school activities.
- What friends can you tell to help you remain safe?
- If stranded, who could you call for a ride home?
- Keep a journal describing the abuse.
- Get rid of any cell phones the abuser gave you.
- Consider changing any cell phone number, email address, etc. that the abuser knows so that the abuser can no longer contact you.
- Keep spare change, calling cards, number of the local shelter, number of someone who could help you and restraining order with you at all times.
- Where could you go quickly to get away from an abusive person?
- What other things can you do?