A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to reduce risks in various situations. The kind of safety planning you will do depends on your life circumstances and individual needs, and will change over time. It can be hard when you are scared or in crisis to think clearly. Creating a safety plan can help you protect yourself in those moments.
Remember that you can call our 24-hour Helpline to get help in creating your safety plan.
Here are some common situations in which having safety plans will be important:
When living with an abusive partner
- Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger to you and your children before it occurs. Trust your instincts and judgment!
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons (even kitchen knives), and there are 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 possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. This could include having emergency 911 phones hidden in your home. If your life is in danger, call 911 for the police.
- Tell trusted friends and neighbors about your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.
- Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the room or house.
- Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.
- Plan for what you will do 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 away and as inaccessible as possible.
- Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. If possible, keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked, for quick escape.
- Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used to strangle you.
- Create several realistic reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
- 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 you are pregnant
- If you are in a home with stairs, try to stay on the first floor at times when violence is likely to occur.
- Doctor or midwife visits can be an opportunity to discuss what is going on in your relationship and get help.
- If your partner goes to these appointments with you, try to find a moment when they are out of the room to ask your care provider (or even the front desk receptionist) to come up with an excuse to talk to you one-on-one.
- If you’ve decided to leave your relationship, a health care provider can become an active participant in your plan to leave.
- If possible, take a women-only prenatal class, giving you an opportunity to speak to the class instructor about your situation.
If you are planning to leave
- Establish your independence. Open savings and credit card accounts in your name only, and instruct institutions that your partner is not to have access.
- Leave money, extra keys, copies of important documents, extra medicine and clothes with someone you trust so you can leave quickly. Here’s a checklist for a more detailed list of items to take.
- Determine safe people you can stay with at any time, and who can help you leave.
- Review and rehearse your safety plan.
Remember, your partner may monitor your texts, emails, and internet activity. If you are planning to flee to a particular location, don’t look at classified ads for jobs and apartments, travel reservations, etc. for that place on any device that could be monitored. It’s safer to use a computer at the public library, your job, or at a trusted friend’s house.
Because violence could escalate when you leave, call New Beginnings’ 24-hour Helpline to get support and help with planning for your safety. Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures of injuries. If possible, keep a journal of all violence incidents, noting dates, events and threats made and make sure to keep your journal in a safe place. It would help to know where you can go to get help from someone outside the situation, who will trust what is happening to you. If you are injured, go to a doctor or emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit. Finally, plan with your children and identify a safe place for them, like 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.
*Adapted from guidelines by the Domestic Violence Resource Center.
After you leave
General Safety tips
- If you have a Protection or Restraining Order, keep a copy of it with you at all times. Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have an Order in effect.
- Alter your routines: use different stores and social spots, change your travel routes or methods.
- Reschedule any appointments your abuser is aware of.
- Change your phone number and arrange for your phone number to be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your ex-partner or anyone else will be able to get your new number.
- Consider renting a post office box or use a friend’s address to receive mail.
- If possible, alert your new neighbors and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
- Rehearse what you would do if something happened while you are out and about, such as picking safe places to go in areas you frequent, informing the bus driver, etc.
- Create a safety routine when you arrive home: checking your home and property, checking in with someone to let them know you are safe, etc.
At your workplace
- Check to see if your workplace has a policy and procedures for supporting domestic violence survivors. Decide who at work you will inform of your situation, including building security.
- Provide relevant co-workers a photo of your abuser for quick identification and copies of any Protection or Restraining Orders. Instruct them to call 911 if they see your abuser in the vicinity or if your abuser tries to contact you at work.
- Develop a system for screening your telephone calls.
- Depending on your job, you may be able to alter your work hours, relocate your office or workstation, or transfer to another site.
- Devise a safety plan for leaving work, such as exiting through the back door, having co-workers walk with you, etc.
- Alter your route coming and going from work.
At your children’s school
- Alert school authorities of the situation and provide them with copies of any Protection or Restraining Order involving your children. If there is a Protection Order in place, instruct them to call 911 if they see your abuser in the vicinity.
- Inform school authorities if your parenting plan mandates that the abusive parent should have limited or no access to your children.
- Identify a trusted friend or family member who can pick your children up at school and take care of them if needed, and inform the school.
- Change the route you take to bring your children to school. Or, change the bus stop your children use.
- Consider transferring your children to a new school.
If your partner has moved out
- Discuss and practice a safety plan with your children for when you are not with them.
- Change the locks on your doors. Landlords are legally obligated to change locks within 24-hours if you have a court order excluding someone on your lease from your apartment.
- Install locks on your windows. If you are a renter, check with your landlord first.
- Discuss other safety measures with your landlord, such as motion sensitive lighting around the property.
- Discuss removal of your partner from your lease with your landlord.
- Consider whether to break your lease. Domestic violence survivors who are being stalked can end a lease if they have a valid Protection Order, or a record of reporting the incident to a “qualified third party” such as law enforcement, medical providers or domestic violence advocates in a community program such as New Beginnings.
For more information about landlord/tenant issues for domestic violence survivors, here is some helpful information.
If you have ongoing contact because of your children
- Consider any of the items in the other lists that apply to your situation.
- Avoid pick-ups and drop-offs at your home or your ex-partner’s home. Meet in a public place such as a restaurant, bank, or other area with lots of cameras, or even near a police station. If possible, bring friends or family with you.
- If realistic, limit your contact to that which is necessary for the well-being of your children and arrangements you need to make for them. This can include things like arranging separate meetings with your child’s teachers, limiting your contact to email, dropping your children off at school and having your partner pick them up at the end of the day, or other strategies.
- Protect your emotional health by planning centering activities before an exchange, and fun activities when you have your children back.
- Remember that children can be used to monitor your actions and whereabouts or be the pretext for continuing abusive legal actions. An abusive ex-partner could also attempt to undermine your relationship with them. If possible, avoid placing your children in the middle, and seek support for helpful ways of talking about the abuse and strengthening your relationship with them.
Emotional safety for any point along your journey
- Create affirmations or other ways of reminding yourself that you have value.
- If possible, seek out family, friends, and co-workers who appreciate you, and are willing to listen to and support you.
- Identify a goal, however small, that you can work toward.
- Create a peaceful space for yourself—even if only a corner of a room with some objects you love or an area of a park or garden—where you can retreat to take care of yourself.
- Breathe deeply and focus on the sights, sounds and sensations you are experiencing in calm moments to ground yourself and stay connected to your body and surroundings.
- Find at least a few minutes each day to exercise, read, practice art or do something else that reflects who you are and brings you joy.
- Seek support through New Beginnings 24-hour Helpline and other services.