Having a safety plan is essential for every person in an abusive relationship regardless of whether they are planning to stay in the relationship or leave the relationship. Leaving, even temporarily, is the most dangerous time for a person who is the victim of domestic abuse.
Below are some safety tips for those currently experiencing power-based violence and/or planning to leave an abusive relationship. This list is by no means exhaustive and is not meant to replace a safety planning session with a trained advocate. JCADA offers free and confidential safety planning for individuals experiencing power-based violence, as well as their friends or family. We encourage people to call our confidential helpline 1-877-88-JCADA (52232) to speak with a JCADA professional.
Safety in Your Home
- Call a domestic abuse hotline for help with safety planning.
- Identify clues as to when the violence may occur – holidays, pay day, etc.
- Identify ways to keep safe when a situation escalates. Think through where to go and who may help.
- Have an escape route planned and practice it.
- If you have children, teach the children how to phone 911 and discuss a safety plan with your children for when you are not with them.
- Keep important numbers handy.
- Develop a signal with a neighbor, friend, or child that indicates help is needed.
- Leave an “emergency kit” with a friend including money, extra set of car keys, change of clothes, copies of important documents for yourself and your children and other items that you may need if you have to leave your home quickly.
- If you don’t already have a cell phone, get one, and make sure it is password protected.
- Inform your children’s school, daycare, etc. about who has permission to pick up your children.
Safety at Work
- Decide whom at work you will inform of your situation. This should include office or building security and your supervisor. Provide a picture of your partner if possible.
- Arrange to have an answering machine, caller ID, or a co-worker screen your calls at work.
- If you are in the process of obtaining a protective order, consider listing your place of work, as well as your home, to keep your partner off the premises.
- If you work for a company with several locations in the area ask if you can be transferred to another location. Also see if your work hours can be varied.
- Devise a safety plan for when you leave work. Have someone escort you to your car or bus and wait with you until you are safely on your way home. Also vary your route home as often as possible.
Planning to Leave
- Let someone you trust keep spare keys, money, documents (passports, birth certificates, lease, mortgage, insurance information, etc.), medications and other essentials for you and children.
- Open a separate bank account/credit card in your own name to establish or increase independence. Try to cut household expenses and put the money you save in your own account.
- Plan for a safe place to go with someone you trust.
- Have a back-up plan if the first one doesn’t work
- Get a post office box.
- Use the legal system and learn how it can help and what you need to do to provide for safety.
- If something feels like it is not safe, it probably isn’t.
- Keep a journal of harassing or stalking behavior if this is happening.
- In situations where contact with partner is necessary (i.e. custody exchange), arrange to meet in a public place.
- Report threatening behavior (i.e. being followed) to the police.
- Follow court orders.
Helping a Friend
- Listen with patience and compassion, not judgment.
- Let them know that you are concerned for their safety.
- Encourage them to make their own decisions and support them through this difficult process.
- Let your friend know is not their fault.
- Listen and believe what they tell you
- Acknowledge your friend’s feelings. Don’t tell them how they should feel.
- Use I-statements to share your feelings and what you are seeing or hearing. (e.g. “I felt really scared yesterday when I heard him scream at you.”)
- Do not judge or make victim-blaming statements like “You’re stupid to stay with him” or “Why do you let her treat you like this?”
- Do not put your friend’s partner down.
- Offer to help them find a counselor, teacher, or parent they can trust. Offer to go with them or be on the phone when they call.
- Never tell someone to leave a relationship.