Safety planning is a “harm reduction” strategy that empowers victims to consider their safety whether or not they are still in the abusive relationship or are thinking about leaving. This enables a victim to think about possibilities for staying safe on a daily basis. Each person should develop a safety plan that is tailored to their unique situation. Use the following information as a guide.
Safety At Home
- Plan an escape route. Do this just as you would think about a fire drill. Even if there are no immediate plans to leave, it helps to know the plan should it become necessary in an emergency.
- Think about where to go and who would help.
- Identify a support network. Who can be trusted to help carry out your plan? It is helpful to have someone to check in with on a regular basis.
- Develop a code word to use with the support person. A code word could help the support person know when assistance is needed from the police.
- As soon as children are old enough, they should be taught to dial 911. Make sure 911 is on speed dial with a sticker.
- Packing an overnight bag and leaving it at a friend’s house or in a place where the abuser will not find it is an option if it is not safe to return home. Again, safety is the first priority.
Safety During A Violent Incident
- Be aware of immediate surroundings. The kitchen is a room that has many weapons that are easily accessible. Other rooms to avoid are the bathroom (with only one likely exit and small windows) and the bedroom (or any rooms where weapons might be kept).
- Remember the planned escape route.
- If there has been a code developed with someone and there is time to call that person, make them aware that assistance is needed.
- Have the children call 911 or remind them of the escape drill.
Planning To Leave
- Think about where money can be kept so that the abuser will not be aware of it.
- If applicable, plan around the dates that you receive checks from your employer or government assistance. Make arrangements to have the checks sent to a different address or P.O. Box.
- If you have a joint bank account, think of ways to access that money so that it does not arouse suspicion (i.e. withdrawing large amounts of money at once).
- It is possible that there will not be any money available at the time you leave. Investigate what your options are in terms of getting to safety without having to pay.
- If you plan to use a car, make sure to keep an extra set of keys hidden.
- Decide if the car is the best alternative or whether it will be easy to track down. If you plan to use public transportation, plan how to get to there and identify what obstacles might present themselves, such as coordinating children’s schedules.
Documents and Other Materials
- Identify important documents to have available, such as Social Security cards, birth certificates, medical records, legal documents, and immigration documents.
- Decide which documents are crucial and which can be replaced later.
The Escape Route
- Know your escape route and practice using it.
- Think about options for safe places to go. Think about who can be trusted to know and/or help in the escape process.
- Plan a way to escape and alternative ways to reach your destination.
Safety After Leaving
- Only essential people should be contacted, such as employers, parents, and other loved ones who are aware of the danger. They should only be told essential information. The less they know, the safer it is for everyone involved.
- If there is a Restraining Order in place against your abuser, give copies to key people, such as your employer, school, neighbors, family, building management or other identified trustworthy people. Always keep a copy available.
- Change routines so that it will be more difficult to find you.
- Caution should be exercised around visitation and custody exchanging agreements.
- Remember that domestic violence often escalates after leaving and that leaving does not guarantee safety.
- Know which agencies can help in self-petitioning.
- Bring important documents such as birth certificates and police reports (which are helpful but not required).
- Know the law and resources that can help when there is uncertainty about legal status.
- Identify support networks that are language and culturally appropriate.
Call our SafeLink Domestic Violence 24-hour Hotline at 1-877-785-2020 for more information and referrals.