Safety And Planning Survivor Advocacy Center

Safety Planning

General Safety Planning Tips

  • Program 911 into your cell phone speed dial

iPhone tip: Call 911 immediately by tapping an iPhone power/right side button 5 times in a row. **Be aware that this will cause your iPhone to make a loud alarm noise!

  • Know and program into your phone the SAC’s 24-hour hotline number: (800) 456-1172
  • Avoid the kitchen, bathroom, and garage during arguments and escalations. These spaces contain potential weapons and hard surfaces.
  • Create a code word. It can be a code word between you and your children that means “get out” or one with your support network that means “I need help.”
  • Become familiar with safe places near you. Plan an escape route. Learn routes and commit them to memory.
  • Hide an extra car key and cash for emergency use.
  • Gather important papers and phone numbers. Store them or copies with a friend. Or take pictures of them on your phone.
  • Tell a friend or neighbor about your partner’s violent behavior.
  • Arrange a signal so a child, friend, or neighbor knows to call the police if needed.
  • Keep computer safety in mind. If you think someone might be monitoring your computer use, open an ‘incognito’ window in your browser and regularly clear your cache, history, and cookies. You could also use a computer at a library or friend’s house instead.

Safety Planning When Leaving your Abuser

  • Take your children with you.
  • Have ready an escape bag. Include clothes; medications; keys; cash; credit cards; important documents (for you and your children) like birth certificates, copies of bills, medical records, and social security cards; and your children’s favorite toys. If it’s discovered, call it a “hurricane bag” or “fire bag.”
  • Plan a destination. If you’re not going to stay with someone you know, call the SAC to help with housing (800) 456-1172.
  • Plan a route. Then plan a backup route. If you are driving, have a tank of gas filled at all times. If you rely on public transportation, know the routes and departure times. Many public transportation systems have mobile apps that update their schedules and arrival times.
  • Prepare your support network. Keep your support network in the loop. Let them know how to respond if your abuser contacts them searching for you.
  • Prepare an excuse. Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at unusual times or for existing situations that might become dangerous. Be prepared to use them in case you need to get away quickly.

Safety Planning with Children

Physical safety at home

  • Teach your children when, how, and who to contact during an emergency.
  • This can include trusted friends, family members, neighbors, local service providers, and more.
  • If possible, instruct them ahead of time to leave the home if situations begin to escalate and establish where they can go. Create the plan ahead of time with trusted people who your children can turn to during a moment of crisis.
  • Come up with a code word for when to leave the house in an emergency and make sure they know not to tell others what the secret word means.
  • Identify a room in the house that they can go to when they are afraid, and something calming they can focus on for comfort.
  • Instruct them to stay out of areas containing items that could be used to harm them, including kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Teach them that they should NOT try to intervene in moments of violence, even though they may want to protect their parents.
  • Plan for what you will do if your children tell your partner of your plan, and remember never to blame them for their responses to your partner’s abusive behavior

Planning for unsupervised visits

  • Create a separate safety plan for situations in which your children may spend unsupervised time with your abusive partner.
  • If your children are old enough, brainstorm with them ways that they can stay safe using the same model as you would for your own home. Help them identify where they can get to a phone, who they can contact, how they can leave the house, and where they can go.
  • If possible, give your children a cell phone to be used in emergency situations.

Planning for safe custody exchanges

  • Avoid exchanging custody at your home or your partner’s home. Meet in a safe, public place like a restaurant, store, or other area with visibility.
  • Bring a trusted friend or family member with you to make custody exchanges, or have them make the exchange on your behalf.
  • Find ways to schedule custody exchanges without interacting with your partner. One way of doing this is to arrange for your partner to pick your children up from school at the end of the day after you drop them off in the morning, or vice versa, to eliminate the chances of seeing each other.
  • Emotional self-care for you and your children is important to plan for before and after exchanges. Figure out an activity to do before the exchange to calm any nervousness you might be feeling, and something to focus on afterwards for yourself or your children, like visiting a park or other fun activity.

Safety Planning While Pregnant

  • Doctor’s visits can be an opportunity to discuss your situation. If you’ve decided to leave your relationship, a health care provider can become an active participant in your plan to leave.
  • If your partner goes to doctor’s appointments with you, try to find a moment when they’re out of the room to ask your care provider (or even the front desk receptionist) to help you by providing an excuse for them to talk to you one-on-one.
  • If possible, find a prenatal class that limits its attendance to those giving birth. This can be a comfortable atmosphere for discussing pregnancy concerns or allow you to speak to the class instructor one-on-one.
  • If you live in a home with stairs, try to spend your time on the first floor to avoid potential harm involving staircases. If violence becomes unavoidable and you’re unable to escape, assuming the fetal position and covering your stomach with your arms can help protect you and your pregnancy.

Safety Planning After You Leave

  • Change your locks and phone number if possible.
  • If possible, change your work hours and the route you take to get there.
  • Alert school authorities of the situation. If there is a protection order in place, provide a copy to the school. Designate who is and is not allowed to pick up your children from school. If possible, change the route taken to transport children to school; if necessary, consider changing your children’s schools.
  • If you have a protection order, keep a certified copy of it with you at all times, and inform friends, neighbors, and employers that you have a protection order in effect. If you move to a new state, register your protection order with the courts in your new state.
  • Consider renting a post office box or using a trusted friend’s address for your mail (remember that addresses are used for restraining orders and police reports — be careful who you give your address and phone number to). Your state may have an address confidentiality program to protect your privacy. Contact an advocate to see if your state has this program.
  • Reschedule appointments that your partner might be aware of.
  • If possible and necessary, use different stores and frequent different social spots.
  • Alert neighbors and work colleagues about how and when to seek help if they feel you may be in danger (if you feel comfortable doing so). Be clear about who you do or do not want them to contact, including law enforcement.
  • Tell people who take care of your children (if you are comfortable doing so) or transport them to/from school and activities. Explain your situation and provide them with a copy of your restraining order if you have one.

Safety Planning with Pets

  • Take steps to prove ownership of your pet. Have them vaccinated and licensed in the place where you live, making sure the registrations are done in your name. Take steps to have them changed if necessary.
  • If possible, avoid leaving pets alone with an abusive partner.
  • If your pet is microchipped, make sure your abusive partner is not listed as a contact.
  • If you’re planning to leave, talk to friends, family, or your veterinarian about temporary care for your pet if necessary. If that’s not an option, search for services that assist domestic violence survivors with safekeeping for their pets, or contact your local domestic violence shelter or animal shelter directly. For help finding an animal shelter, visit the Humane Society website.
  • If you decide to leave, bring extra provisions for your pets including food and medications, copies of their medical records, and important phone numbers.
  • If you’re thinking about getting a protective order, find out if your state allows pets to be included in such orders.
  • After leaving, consider changing veterinarians and avoid leaving pets outside alone to ensure their long-term safety.
  • If you’ve had to leave your pet behind with an abusive partner, consider seeking assistance from local services like animal control to see if they can intervene.