Safety plan for domestic violence situations
A violent relationship puts you and your children at risk for injury and even death. Developing a plan will help provide for your safety and the safety of your children. A good safety plan considers which steps to take if you choose to stay in the relationship or if you choose to leave.
Steps to take if you are in the relationship:
- Contact a local advocacy group for support, information, and advice on how to stay safe. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at The National Domestic Violence Hotline toll-free 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233), or see the Web site at www.ndvh.org for the nearest advocacy program. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in English, Spanish, and other languages. Also, see the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's Web site at www.ncadv.org/resources/state.htm to find the program nearest to you that offers shelter and legal support.
- Make a list of people you can call in an emergency and places you can go. Memorize important numbers. Teach your children how to call for help in an emergency.
- If you or your children are in danger, leave immediately.
- Consider telling neighbors about the violence, and ask that they call the police if they hear loud noises coming from the house.
- Establish a code word or sign that can be used to alert family, friends, teachers, or coworkers when to call for help.
- Teach your children not to get in the middle of a fight.
- When an argument occurs, go to a safe room. Avoid rooms with no exits such as closets or bathrooms, or a room such as the kitchen with objects that can be used as weapons. Also, keep your children out of these unsafe rooms.
- Keep change with you at all times to make emergency phone calls.
Steps to take when preparing to leave:
- Contact a local advocacy group for information about how and where to go, what kinds of legal help you can expect, and what other social services are available, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233), or see the Web site at www.ndvh.org.
- Put together a suitcase with items to take when you leave. This should include duplicate car and house keys, clothing, money or charge cards, and important papers, including Social Security cards and birth certificates for you and your children, your marriage license, leases or deeds in your name or both your and your partner's names, insurance policies, and any photos or police or medical reports that document past incidents of abuse. Hide these items in a place (possibly outside of your house) where they will not be discovered.
- Open a savings account and obtain a credit card and a telephone card if it is possible to do so secretly.
- Keep change with you at all times for phone calls. Remember that any long-distance calls or calls you have made on a telephone card before you leave can show up on statements and point your abuser in your direction.
- At work, tell your supervisor and the human resources manager about your situation. Discuss scheduling options and other safety precautions to provide for your well-being. Give a recent photo of the abuser to your human resources manager, and if possible, ask to prohibit the abuser's access to your workplace.
You can ask a police officer to be present at your home when you leave or when you need to collect clothing or property from your home.
After you have left, you may have to take extra measures to stay safe. Your local advocacy group can help you get in touch with legal and social services in your area. This group may also provide information on counseling and support groups that can help you recover emotionally from your abuse.
Contact the police to obtain a restraining order if you are no longer living with a violent partner and he or she continues to pursue you, threaten you, or act violently toward you. If you are no longer living with a violent partner:
- Change your phone number.
- Use caller ID.
- Use the prerecorded message on your telephone's answering machine or have a friend record your message for you.
- Never include your name, address, or phone number in your prerecorded message.
- Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries, or other incidents involving the abusive person.
- Change your locks, if your former partner has a key.
- Avoid staying alone.
- Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner.
- If you have to meet your partner, do it in a public place. Have someone else go with you if possible.
- Change your routine. Don't take the same route home from work or park in the same spot every day.
- Change your emergency phone contacts at work and at your children's school.
Last Updated: January 20, 2010
Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS