Advocates Against Family Violence

Safety Planning

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Creating a Personal Safety Plan

These safety suggestions have been compiled from safety plans distributed by state domestic violence coalitions from around the country. Following these suggestions is not a guarantee of safety, but could help to improve your safety situation.


Personal Safety with an Abuser (before and during abuse)

Ideally, you should do your best to stay in contact with some family, friends, and continue to work so that you have a support network for both emotional issues and financial needs. Of course when you are with an abuser these are two things that they try very hard to prevent so this may be very hard to do.

Try to avoid an abusive situation by leaving before actual physical abuse occurs, such as going for a walk or to a friend.s home when you realize the tension period building to dangerous proportions.  

Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and where there are always ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas. Don't run to where the children are as your partner may hurt them as well.

If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target; dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.

If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know the numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest pay phone is located. Know your local battered women's shelter number (582-9841 or 800-648-1277). Don't be afraid to call the police. The local Domestic Violence Organization may have emergency cell phones available on a .check out. basis. Or have a mental note of a friend.s home that you can run to for calling the police in the event of an emergency.

Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help. A sign may be the flickering of a front porch light

Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.

Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you nor they are at fault or cause the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to keep safe.

Practice how to get out safely, practice with your children, even if it is merely running through the process in your head and verbally with them or on your own.

Plan for what you will do/say if your children tell your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.

Keep weapons like guns and knives locked up and as inaccessible as possible.

Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. Keep the driver's door unlocked and others locked -- for a quick escape.

Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used to strangle you.

Getting Ready to Leave

Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures, etc. If needed, contact the shelter and get pictures taken there. At that time they can also begin a file for you so that the documentation is saved outside of your home. You may also wish to take pictures of any damage to the home from temper tantrums.

Know where you can go to get help; tell someone what is happening to you.  Understand that the local Domestic Violence Crisis Line is staffed 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if you only need someone to talk to or to help you with options that may be available within your area, a qualified staff person is always available to be there for you (582-9841 or toll free at 800-648-1277).

If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.

Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them (for example, a room with a lock or a friend's house where they can go for help). Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.

Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made if possible. You may want to keep this journal outside of the home so the abuser does not find it. Perhaps at a friend.s home or even in a Zip-Lock bag that is hidden within bushes in your back yard or a neighbor.s yard.

Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.

General Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship

You may request a police stand-by or escort while you leave; this does not mean that you have to press charges against your abuser, simply that you want to ensure a safe departure for yourself and family.

If you need to sneak away, be prepared. Make a plan for how and where you will escape.

Put aside emergency money as you can.

Pack an extra set of clothes for yourself and your children and store them at a trusted friend or neighbor's house. Try to avoid using next-door neighbors; close family members and mutual friends as those will be the first places an abuser would search.

Take with you (if possible) important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc., as well as other important items, including: Driver's license, regularly needed medication, hide an extra set of car keys, list of credit cards held by self or jointly or the credit cards themselves if you have access to them, and checkbooks and information about bank accounts and other assets.

If time is available, also take:

Citizenship documents (such as your passport, green card, etc.)

Copy of marriage license, birth certificates, will, and other legal documents

Verification of social security numbers

Valued pictures, jewelry, or personal possessions.

After Leaving the Abusive Relationship

If getting a restraining/protection order and the offender is leaving:

Change locks, buy additional locks and safety devices to secure your windows, and phone number.

Change your route taken to work and route taken to transport children to school.

Keep a certified copy of your restraining/protection order with you at all times! (When you change your purse it should be the first things that go back in it.) In the event that you need to call the police, they will not have a copy of it on hand, you need to provide that so that they know what you are saying is true and correct. At that point they would be able to act upon it.

Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining/protection order in effect and provide a copy if needed.

Give copies of restraining order to employers, neighbors, and schools along with a picture of the offender.

Call law enforcement to enforce the order EVERYTIME it is broken; Each time the abuser calls, writes, leaves a message on an answering machine or for you anywhere else in any alternate form, comes over, knocks on the door, goes to your place of work or to the children.s day care provider/school, emails, or even has a mutual friend deliver a message on the abuser.s behalf. Also make sure that you add these events to your journal, along with what action the Police Department took and/or anything they say to you.

Always remember that the abuser.s tactics may become more violent during time of separation. Never see what you are doing as something mean or negative to the abuser. Do not allow yourself to feel guilt over it. You are merely protecting yourself and your family from unwanted abuse, even if actual physical abuse is not involved. At this time it is no longer a personal issue between you and your abuser. You have made the decision to get out. It is now something that the abuser needs to deal with. Once you have gotten a restraining/protection order it is between the abuser and the Police Department. All you need to do is alert the Police when the abuser breaks the order in place. Time for promises and apologies are over, you have chosen to move to action, stick with your choices and try not to second-guess yourself or the choices that you have made!

If you leave the residence:

Consider renting a post office box, using the address of a friend for your mail, or signing up with Washington State.s Address Confidentiality Program (for more information on this program please contact your local Domestic Violence Organization . 582-9841 or toll free at 800-648-1277).

Be aware that addresses are on restraining/protection orders and police reports, however it is possible to have your address listed as confidential on the order. If you need more information about this, please contact your local Domestic Violence Legal Advocate for assistance at no cost to you (543-7676).

Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number as you do not want your abuser to find out. 

Reschedule appointments that offender is aware of.

Use different stores and frequent different social spots.

Install a lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to the house (motion sensitive lights).

Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.

Tell people who take care of your children which individuals are allowed to pick up your children.  Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining/protection order.

Call the telephone company to request caller ID. Ask that your phone be blocked so that if you call, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.

Create your own safety plan online by visiting