Following these suggestions is not a guarantee of safety, but applying them could improve your level of safety in an abusive relationship. For more information on creating a safety plan, contact advocates at your local domestic violence organization, such as Bright Future Foundation, or contact The National Domestic Abuse Hotline at www.thehotline.org.
Safety While in an Abusive Relationship:
Think about your home; identify the areas that are easiest to escape from and are free of potential weapons. Try to move to those areas during an argument. Avoid going to rooms like the kitchen where there are knives and other potential weapons and the bathroom that has hard surfaces and most likely doesn’t have a second exit.
Try to have a phone accessible at all times. Consider hiding a prepaid cell phone to use in emergencies.
Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help. Create a code word with friends and family in order to communicate to them that you need help.
Teach your 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.
If an abusive incident seems imminent, trust your judgment. Sometimes it is best to leave; sometimes it is best to placate the abuser.
Make a habit of backing your car into the driveway. Try to always have some gas. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and lock all other doors. Have a copy of the car key made and hide one in the car.
If leaving is not possible, try to move into safe areas of your home or make yourself physically smaller by curling into a ball and covering your head and face with your hands.
Safety While Preparing to Leave an Abusive Relationship:
Be aware that cellular phones can contain GPS tracking devices. If possible, plan to get a new phone and new service plan when you leave. Know that leaving an abusive relationship can be the most dangerous time for you.
Try to set aside money, even in small amounts. Start your own savings or checking account. Use the address of a trusted friend or family member when setting up the account.
Keep a written list of important phone numbers with you.
Have a packed bag ready. Keep it hidden in your home or leave the bag with friends, family, or at work if possible.
Items and documents to take:
- Birth and marriage certificates
- ID and Social Security Cards
- School and Medical Records
- Passports, green cards, work permits
- Protective order, divorce papers, custody orders
- Bank papers and credit cards
After Leaving an Abusive Relationship:
- If you have a protective order, always carry a copy with you. Make and keep copies for work, your car, and your home. Call the police and document when the protective order is broken.
- Consider letting friends, neighbors, and co-workers know about your situation and how they can help you stay safe.
- Try to carry a cell phone with you and program it to dial 911.
- Change your regular travel habits. Try not to frequent the same stores or businesses you did when with your abuser.
- If you need to conceal your new location, consider an address confidentiality program.
- Consider changing your locks or installing stronger doors.
- If the exchange of children is necessary, arrange a safe, neutral place to do the exchange.
- If your abuser comes to your home, you do not have to let him in. Keep the doors closed and locked, and call the police.