Domestic abuse experts recommend that women in abusive relationships develop a safety plan if they are still living with an abuser, planning to leave a violent partner, or if they have already done so. The plan should cover all areas of their lives where the potential for abuse exists—including life at home, work, in transit.
The list that follows provides some general considerations as you make your own safety plan. Use it as a starting point. Your local women’s shelter, support group, or therapist may have guidelines that are more specific as well. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides a check list as well as the Domestic Violence Resource Center at: www.dvrc-or.org/safety-planning.
Make a list names and phone numbers of places where you can go for help. (Friends, relatives, women’s shelter, hospitals, houses of worship)
- Find a safe place to hide the list. (At your neighbor’s house, in the freezer, in a tampon box)
- Post emergency numbers by your phone. (Police, fire)
- Memorize important numbers
Keep all house and car keys out of sight
- Give extra house and car keys to neighbors, friends and relatives you trust
- Hide extra keys somewhere safe outside of the house
Protect your car from being immobilized
- If able, collect abuser’s set of keys to your vehicle
- Get a lock for the hood and gas cap
- If the hood can only be opened from inside the car, keep the doors locked at all times
- Park your car where the abuser will not look for it
- Keep an extra pair of glasses you need for driving in the car
Make your home safer
- Change the locks on your house (if you have separated and your partner has a key)
- Install locks on doors and windows
- Reinforce and repair any damaged windows and doors
- Obtain an alarm or dog
- Move to another residence
- Install a peephole in your door
- Never let the abuser into your residence
- Install outdoor motion detection lights
Inform neighbors, friends and relatives of the abuse
- Give friends, neighbors and relatives permission to call the police if they hear an altercation, or see the abuser near you after you’ve obtained an order of protection
- Do not give information to untrustworthy people or people who like and trust the abuser
- Talk with you neighbors and friends and ask if you can come to them in the middle of the night
- Set up signals with friends and family asking for help when in danger:
- Flicking lights on and off
- A password sentence that indicates something isn’t normal
- A curtain in a certain window is open or shut
- A plant that usually hangs in a certain window isn’t anymore
- Scream “fire”
- Knock on walls to neighbors apartment
Have a cell phone
- If you don’t have one, get one
- Download a DV app that allows you to notify friends and 911 if you are in danger. (https://www.whengeorgiasmiled.org/the-aspire-news-app/)
- Ask your local women’s shelter if they have safety cell phones – they can be used only to dial 911
- Change your phone number and make it unpublished
- Get caller id to screen calls
- Refuse to argue on the telephone
- Document your phone calls - It is legal to tape your own phone conversations
- Hide a cell phone in your home
Put aside some money for emergencies
- Open a personal account separate from the abuser’s in a different bank. Have all bank mail sent to a friend’s house or post office box.
- When purchasing groceries or other items, write the check for over the amount and put that money in your personal account.
- Friends or relatives may be willing to contribute some money to this account
- For cash, sell silver, jewelry or other items if you are able
- Hide some cash and travelers checks where they will be accessible to you in emergency
- Get a credit card just for emergencies, if possible
Keep important papers and documents prepared in case you must leave in a hurry
- This includes: birth certificates, marriage license, divorce decree, social security card, insurance policies, bank papers, stock accounts, bank mortgages, car title, paycheck stubs, driver’s license, etc.)
- Always carry your restraining order with you
- Keep important papers in a safe place
- Safety deposit box at your personal bank
- hidden with friends or relatives
- rent a locker at the YMCA, bus station
Protect your children
- Explain to your Children what is happening (even small children are affected by abuse and need to know what’s going on and what they should do if they see abuse or the abuser)
- Inform babysitter, schools, medical facilities, and parents of your child’s friends that the child should not leave with the abuser
- Don’t allow your children to go to the homes of people you suspect are sympathetic to the abuser (even if it’s your child’s best friend)
- Teach your children how to call the police–have a secret signal to tell them when
- Develop a safety plan to use when they are scared or when you give them the signal (Where to hide, when and how to leave, where to go for help)
Protect your children and yourself from the abuser’s weapons
- Hide or throw away all ammunition.
- Hide weapons or lock them away in the trunk of a car to which the abuser doesn’t have a key.
- Put knives in inaccessible places.
- If law enforcement is called, ask them to remove the weapon from your home.
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Know good places in your house to hide (Close to windows and doors for easy escape)
- Make an escape plan from each room in your home (Hide rope ladders in upstairs rooms)
- Make a “safe” room that has a lock on the door, a phone and from which you can escape the house
- Do not lock yourself into a small space such as a car or in a room with only one exit
- Be aware of your physical capabilities – can you outrun your abuser?
- If you are unable to drive away, lock yourself in a stranger’s car rather then your own
- Don’t count on a stranger’s help
- Know in advance where you will go if you need to leave your house
How to protect yourself before and during an assault
- Be aware of the abuser’s cues (Physical behaviors, circumstances) before the assault. Try to leave before the assault.
- Find a self-defense class in your area. Check it out, if it feels safe and fulfills your needs, take it
- Know ahead of time what you are capable of doing to defend yourself (i.e. gauging eyes, kick to knee or crotch, run, etc.)
- Keep your car keys with you at all times (and within reach at night) set off your car alarm if you need help
- Never pick up a weapon unless you are sure you will use it (The danger is that when you become afraid to use it, the abuser might take it and use it on you)
- Black pepper, chili powder, salt or hairspray in the eyes of the attacker can be effective.
- If all else fails, roll up in a ball and protect your head