Create a Safety Plan
While you cannot control the abuser's violence, you can control how you respond to it. Whether you decide to stay in the relationship, call the police or get a restraining order, a safety plan is an effective tool to increase your safety and protect yourself from future harm. A safety plan should be practical and specific. It can help you avoid dangerous situations and know the best way to react when you are in danger.
What should I do if I am still in the relationship?
If you cannot safely leave the abusive relationship, or are just not ready to leave, you should still think about what to do to keep yourself safe.
- Keep important phone numbers (police, domestic violence hotlines or shelters, family and friends) with you at all times. Always have a cell phone or change so you can make a phone call.
- Bring money when you go out so you can get away if you feel unsafe.
- Keep a journal of the abuse, including what happened to hurt or scare you and when it happened. Save any threatening or harassing e-mail messages, notes or letters the abuser sends. Be sure to keep all documentation of abuse in a place the abuser will not find it.
- Explain to as many people as you can trust that if they see anything happen, if you disappear, or if they think you may be in danger for any reason, they should call 911. People to tell include: roommates, friends, family, people at work or school. Think about developing code words with these people that you can use to signal that you are in immediate danger.
- Plan escape routes from places like school, home, the abuser's home and work.
- Become familiar with domestic violence, youth or homeless shelters that you can go to in an emergency. Know where the local police station and courthouse are located and their hours of operation.
- During an explosive incident, avoid going into rooms with possible weapons around, like a kitchen, or rooms where there are no exits.
- Try not to be alone in isolated public areas. Try to get a ride to school, or ask someone to walk or ride the bus with you.
- Find a safe or secret place where you can leave emergency money, keys and clothes.
- Join a support group for victims of dating and domestic violence.
- Make extra copies of important documents (such as, identification, health insurance, immigration papers, birth certificates and other records). Keep the originals someplace safe-where you can easily find them but the abuser cannot.
- Choose an email account password that the abuser will not be able to guess so that the abuser won't be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail.
What should I do if the relationship is over or I am leaving?
If you decide to leave the relationship, there are many things you can do to keep yourself safe. Look at all the safety planning suggestions for people staying in the relationship. They are just as important to do if you are leaving. Also, think about these other ways to keep yourself safe.
- Go to court to get a restraining or protective order. Give copies of the order to police, school, work or any other place where you spend time. Keep a copy with you at all times and know where to get more copies in case the original is destroyed.
- Tell family and friends that you are no longer in the relationship. Ask them to get help if they ever think you are in danger.
- Change your school schedule so that you and the abuser do not have classes together. Try to arrive and leave school at different times.
- Change your work schedule so that you and the abuser are not scheduled to work at the same time or in the same location.
- If you have children, tell their school or day care who has permission to pick up the children. Also, teach the children who to call and how to call for help if they are taken or are in danger.
- Screen calls and/or change your phone number to an unlisted number.
- Avoid going to places where the abuser might look for you.
What should I take with me if I have to leave home quickly?
You might need to leave the house quickly at some point. It helps to think ahead about whether you should take any of these things with you:
- Identification, including social security card, driver's license, passport or other picture identification card.
- Keys, money, public transportation tokens/cards, a change of clothes.
- Cell phone or change to make phone calls and address book.
- Any papers you need for school or work. Other important documents, such as your children's birth certificates and immunization records, welfare identification, car registration and insurance papers.
- Children's favorite toys and/or blankets. Photos, jewelry and other things with sentimental value.
- Anything that might give the abuser an idea of where you are going.
- A photo of the abuser so the police can identify the abuser.