Develop a Safety Plan

Develop a Safety Plan

Safety plans are intended to optimize victim/survivor safety at every stage. Safety plans:

  • Detail plans in case of dangerous situations or changes in the relationship, such as breaking up
  • Identify safe friends and safe places
  • Identify the essential items to take should one need or decide to leave home
  • Include information about local domestic violence resources and legal rights
  • Build on what a survivor is already doing to survive

Survivors are the experts in their own situation and some of the information or suggested steps provided here may not be relevant to an individual survivor. The sample safety plans should be adapted as needed. In addition, it may be helpful to start this process with an advocate.

Safety plans should start from the assumption that an abuser is dangerous and try to help the victim/survivor identify the circumstances under which the abuser typically becomes violent and how the abuser may react to help seeking strategies.

See the following Safety Plan resources for more information:

Personal Safety Plan

Personal Safety Plan courtesy of the Futures Without Violence.
If you had the perpetrator evicted or are living alone, you may want to:

  • Change locks on doors and windows.
  • Install a security system — window bars, locks, better lighting, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
  • Teach the children to call the police or family and friends if they are snatched.
  • Talk to schools and childcare providers about who has permission to pick up the children.
  • Find a lawyer knowledgeable about family violence to explore custody, visitation and divorce provisions that protect you and your children.
  • Obtain a restraining order.

If you are leaving the abuser, consider the following:

  • How and when can you most safely leave? Where will you go?
  • Are you comfortable calling the police if you need them?
  • Who can you trust to tell that you are leaving?
  • How will you travel safely to and from work or school or to pick up children?
  • What community and legal resources will help you feel safer? Write down their addresses and phone numbers, and keep them handy.
  • Do you know the number of the local shelter?
  • What custody and visitation provisions will keep you and your children safe?
  • Is a restraining order a viable option?
  • Open a savings account in your own name. Give the bank a safe address, like a post office box or your work address.
  • Leave money, an extra set of keys, and copies of your important papers with someone you trust. You may need to leave home fast, and you’ll need these things later.

If you are staying with the abuser, think about:

  • What works best to keep you safe in an emergency.
  • Who you can call in a crisis.
  • If you would call the police if the violence starts again. Can you work out a signal with the children or the neighbors to call the police when you need help?
  • If you need to flee temporarily, where would you go? Think though several places where you can go in a crisis. Write down the addresses and phone numbers, and keep them with you.
  • If you need to flee your home, know the escape routes in advance.
  • Have the following available in case you have to flee:
    • Important papers such as birth certificates, social security cards, marriage and driver’s licenses, car title, lease or mortgage papers, passports, insurance information, school and health records, welfare and immigration documents, and divorce or other court documents
    • Credit cards, bank account number, and ATM cards
    • Some money
    • An extra set of keys
    • Medications and prescriptions
    • Phone numbers and addresses for family, friends, doctors, lawyers, and community agencies
    • Clothing and comfort items for you and the children

Before and during an attack do the following:

  • Stay close to a door or window so you can get out if you need to.
  • Stay away from the bathroom, the kitchen, and weapons.
  • Practice your escape. Know which doors, windows, elevator, or stairs would be best.
  • Have a packed bag ready. Hide it in a place that you can get to quickly.
  • Identify neighbors you can tell about the violence. Ask them to call the police if they hear signs of domestic violence coming from your home.
  • Have a “code word” to use with your children, family, friends, and neighbors. Ask them to call the police when you say that word.
  • Know where to go if you have to leave home, even if you don’t think you’ll have to.
  • Trust your instincts. Do whatever you have to do to survive.

Workplace Safety Plan

Workplace Safety Plan courtesy of the Futures Without Violence.
At work, you may want to:

  • Save any threatening emails or voicemail messages. You can use these to take legal action in the future, if you choose to. If you already have a restraining order, the messages can serve as evidence in court that the order was violated.
  • Park close to the entrance of your building, and talk with security, the police, or a manager if you fear an assault at work.
  • Have your calls screened, transfer harassing calls to security, or remove your name and number from automated phone directories.
  • Relocate your workspace to a more secure area.
  • Obtain a restraining order and make sure that it is current and on hand at all times. Include the workplace on the order. A copy should be provided to the police, the employee’s supervisor, Human Resources, the reception area, the Legal department, and Security.
  • Provide a picture of the perpetrator to reception areas and/or Security.
  • Identify an emergency contact person should the employer be unable to contact you.
  • Ask Security to escort you to and from your car or public transportation.
  • Look into alternate hours or work locations.
  • Review the safety of your childcare arrangements, whether it is on-site childcare at the company or off-site elsewhere. If you have a restraining order, it can usually be extended to the childcare center.

Remember, you cannot stop your partner’s abuse; but you can find help and support for yourself. No one deserves to be abused.