If you’re in a violent or abusive relationship, what can you do to keep yourself safe?
For some survivors of domestic violence, developing a safety plan ahead of time is helpful to have in case there is another abusive episode, or for when the survivor is feeling especially vulnerable or overwhelmed. Safety planning is difficult while in the midst of a crisis; this is why it is helpful to be proactive and make a plan while not in an emergency situation.
Every safety plan is different, and must be tailored to the survivor’s lifestyle. This may mean the safety plan changes over time.
Safety planning can include (but certainly isn’t limited to):
- Identifying your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess danger to yourself and your children before it occurs.
- Trying to avoid an abusive situation by leaving. This isn’t always possible.
- Identifying safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.
- Don’t run to where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
- If violence is unavoidable, knowing how to best protect yourself; 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 know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest pay phone is located. Know the number for Solutions Center’s 24-hour crisis line. 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.
- Teaching the children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house. Help the children to understand that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.
- Practice how to get out safely. Practice with the children.
- Plan for what you will do if the children tell the partner of the plan or if the partner otherwise finds out about the plan.
- Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
- 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 to strangle.
- Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
- Call Solutions Center periodically to assess your options and get a supportive understanding ear.
- Safety planning also includes developing a way to leave for good.
- Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.
- Know where to go to get help; tell someone what is happening.
- If there is an injury, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened. Ask that they document the visit.
- Plan with 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 them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
- Contact Solutions Center and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis.
- Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible.
- Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college as you can.
- Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money to keep it hidden. Hide an extra set of car keys. Pack extra clothes for yourself and your children to keep somewhere else.
- If the day comes that you decide to leave, you can request a police escort.
- However, if you need to sneak away, you must be prepared, and make a plan for how and where you will escape quickly.
- Make sure you have important numbers and documents that you will need moving forward.
If you are unsure how to develop your safety plan, Solutions Center can assist you.