A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that can help you stay safe and avoid dangerous situations when in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Whether you are staying in a relationship, planning to leave, or have already left, it is important to create a personalized safety plan to help you stay safe. Below are some ideas to consider for your safety plan, but we recommend talking to our trained advocates to create a plan specific to you and your situation. Our trained advocates can help you create a personalized safety plan when you call our 24/7 hotline at 1-888-988-4932.
Safety During an Argument
- Stay in an area with an exit and avoid letting the other person get between you and the exit. If you are not in a room with an exit, try and move to that area when an argument begins
- Avoid rooms with weapons, such as the kitchen
- Consider telling trustworthy friends or neighbors about the abuse. Ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent noises.
- Establish a code word or signal to use with your family, friends and neighbors when you need them to call the police
- Teach your children how to get out and get help when violence occurs and instruct them to not get involved. Consider a code word for them.
Safety When Preparing to Leave:
- Prepare an escape bag. Review the list of items to pack below and prepare your bag. Hide the bag well but somewhere you can get to quickly if needed. Consider asking a neighbor or friend to keep it at their house. If your abuser discovers the bag, call it a “hurricane bag” or “fire bag”
- Open a bank account and/or credit card in your name only
- Turn off the GPS on your phone. Your cell phone provider or an electronic store can look at your phone to ensure the GPS is off and there is no other location tracker
- If you think your abuser may be tracking your car, you can have it checked for location tracking devices
- Identify places you could go to be safe, even if you don’t currently plan on leaving. These can be friends houses, a police station, or a shelter
- Think about how you can leave and when without raising suspicion, such as when taking out the trash, walking the pet or going to the store
- Think about how you could take your children with you safely. There are times when taking your children with you may put all of your lives in danger. You need to protect yourself to be able to protect your children
- How to get out of your home safely. Practice ways to get out
- Keep your car gas tank at least half full if you can
- Plan your route and know what “safe” places are on it (police stations, hospitals, etc.)
- Have important phone numbers with you, including the police, hotlines, friends and SAFE in Hunterdon
- Go over your safety plan often
What to take
- Your children (if it is safe)
- Money, checkbooks, credit cards
- Keys to car, house, work
- Extra clothes
- Important papers for you and your children
- Birth certificates
- Social security cards
- School and medical records
- Driver’s license and car registration
- Welfare identification
- Passports, green cards, work permits
- Lease/rental agreements, mortgage payment book
- Unpaid bills, insurance papers
- Restraining orders, divorce papers, custody order
- Address book
- Pictures, jewelry, and other things that mean a lot to you
- Items for your children (toys, blankets, etc.)
Safety After Leaving
- Consider getting a restraining order against your abuser. Keep a copy with you at all times. Give a copy to the police, people who take care of your children, their schools and your boss
- Change the locks on your house. Consider putting in stronger doors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a security system and outside lights
- Tell friends and neighbors that your abuser no longer lives with you. Ask them to call the police if they see your abuser near your home or children
- Tell people who take care of your children the names of people who are allowed to pick them up. If you have a restraining order protecting your children, give their teachers and babysitters a copy of it
- Tell someone at work about what has happened. Ask that person to screen your calls. If you have a restraining order that includes where you work, consider giving your boss a copy of it and a picture of the abuser. Think about and practice a safety plan for your workplace. This should include going to and from work
- Not using the same businesses that you did when you were with your abuser
- Be conscious of places the perpetrator frequents (work schedule, favorite places to go, etc.)
- Plan what you would say and do if you came into contact with him or her
- Who you can call if you need support or help.
- Establish a safe way to communicate with your abuser if you must
- Go over your safety plan often
WARNING: Abusers try to control their victims’ lives. When abusers feel a loss of control, such as when victims try to leave them, the abuse often gets worse. Take special care when you leave. Continue to be careful even after you have left.
Safety with Technology
If an abuser has access to your email account, he or she may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail. If you believe your account is secure, make sure you choose a password he or she will not be able to guess.
If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing email messages, they may be printed and saved as evidence of this abuse. Additionally, the messages may constitute a federal offense. For more information on this issue, contact your local United States Attorney’s Office.
Internet Browser History
An abuser can read your computer’s history or cache file (automatically saved web pages and graphics), and be able to see information you have viewed recently on the Internet. You can clear your history or your cache file in your browser’s settings, however this may not completely hide your tracks. The safest way to find information on the Internet is at a local library, a friend’s house or workplace.
Copyright American Bar Association