In our previous post, we shared an excerpt from our eBook What You Need to Know About Domestic Abuse (available for download here), outlining some of the warning signs of an abusive or violent relationship. The next (and most important) excerpt is The Safety Plan. The Safety Plan has a few sections, including a list of what to take with you if you need to leave, safety while at home, safety at work, and emotional health. Here we share the first half of the safety plan outlining the best way to be safe in your home, and how to be prepared in case you should have to leave quickly.
The Safety Plan
Everyone who has been or might become a victim of domestic violence must have a safety plan for protecting themselves and their children from harm at the hands of the abuser. Here is an outline for what should be covered in a good safety plan. Print it out and leave it in a place where the abuser will not find it, or with a friend or other third party if there is no safe place in the home:
PHYSICAL EXITS FROM THE HOME:
Identify in advance the ways you can safely leave the house quickly if you need to, meaning which doors, windows, elevators, stairwells or fire escapes you will use.
LIST OF LOWER RISK PLACES IN THE HOME:
If you sense an argument or abuse coming, have a plan to move to places in the home where you have an escape route and where the abuser does not have access to things to use as weapons. For example, you may need to avoid confrontations in the bathroom or bedroom (which can be traps with no exit) and the kitchen (knives and other potential weapons available).
PLAN FOR HEADING OFF POTENTIALLY VIOLENT SITUATIONS:
Domestic violence in a home often follows particular patterns, sometimes involving the use or abuse of alcoholic beverages or drugs. If you or your partner uses alcohol or drugs, you can enhance your safety through planning. For example, you might try to arrange for alcohol or drugs to be used only in the presence of people whom you trust to intervene or call the police if your safety is at risk.
PREPARING FOR WHEN YOU HAVE TO LEAVE (Better safe than sorry):
Even if you are not planning to leave, you might have to leave quickly without much warning or opportunity to prepare, so take time now to prepare for the possibility. Make a list of things you may wish to take with you when you leave. Make sure you can get them if you need to leave in a hurry, either by identifying a safe place to put them, or by leaving them with a trusted friend or relative. Examples of what to take include:
RESOURCES OUTSIDE THE HOME:
You may feel very much alone, but you have resources outside the home. Here are some steps to take to help assure your safety outside the home.
PEOPLE TO TELL:
Every victim of domestic violence or abuse should consider telling someone about the situation to help assure their safety. Your best source of advice is likely the local domestic violence hotline or agency, but there are other resources too. Consider telling a trusted relative or friend and sharing your safety plan with them. If you have a neighbor you trust, ask that person to call the police if the person hears suspicious noises from the home. Develop a code word to use with trusted relatives or friends so they will know to call the police if you telephone with the abuser beside you listening to what you say.
TEACH THE CHILDREN:
Teach your children how to use the telephone to contact the police and the fire department.
LIST OF SAFE HAVENS:
Develop a list of places to go if you have to leave your home. Have a backup place in case your first choice is unavailable. Consider leaving copies of keys and important documents with trusted friends or relatives, as well as extra clothes for yourself and children.
Identify the locations of public phones that you can use, like the phone in the a hotel lobby, or even a gas station. Keep in mind that landline and cell phone telephone calls can be tracked through billing records and otherwise. Borrow a phone when you need to make a call because that is nearly impossible to track. If using a phone that you don’t want the person you are calling to be able to call you back on, key code *67 before dialing will block your number from showing up on caller ID.
SAFETY THROUGH AN ORDER OF PROTECTION:
Every state has a procedure under which people at risk of domestic violence or abuse can obtain a court order keeping abusers away from them. Check with your local police department, court or battered women’s shelter regarding the procedure in your area. If you obtain a court order of protection, keep a copy with you and consider informing your employer, neighbors and others in your vicinity of the order so that they can let you or the police know if they see the other party following you or near your home or workplace. Call the police if you believe the other party has violated the order. Make sure you understand what the order covers and when it expires. Most orders can be renewed upon a proper request, so find out from the court what the procedure is for renewing it if you need to do so.
SAFETY MEASURES FOR PROTECTION WITHIN THE HOME
After separating, the victim may be at risk that the abuser will attempt to break into the home. Here are some steps to take to help protect against an intruder:
Again, often the best starting point for advice on how to deal with all aspects of your situation is the local domestic violence project, shelter or similar agency for your area. If you don’t know how to find them, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) for a referral to your local agency.
To read and/or download the whole eBook, click here.
The Family Community Team