Safety Planning

If you’re thinking about ending a relationship with someone who has been abusing you, or have recently ended one, you may have very mixed emotions and feel overwhelmed. At the same time, you are probably faced with making a lot of very hard choices.

Separating from an abusive person can mean increased harassment, and increased abuse. It often makes the abuse more unpredictable. While only the abuser controls the abuse, some careful planning might make this time easier and safer for you. That might mean planning for safety at home or planning for safety if you leave.

Call the hotline if you want help creating or thinking through a plan. Here are some ideas that others have used to get and stay safe. Call us to talk about how they might work for you, or what other ideas we might have. Remember, we’re always here to help.

If you’re thinking about leaving, consider doing these things:

  • Think about how you will leave.  Will you have to leave suddenly, or do you think you’ll have time to pack and make arrangements? Do you need to think about both plans?
  • Call the Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance hotline to talk about your safety plan and find out what services and shelter we offer. Keep the hotline number with you.
  • Make arrangements for a safe place to go and stay.
  • Leave money, extra car and house keys, copies of important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, photo ID, driver’s license and registration, children’s immunization records), important medications, and extra clothing with someone you trust. If you have to leave suddenly, you may not have time to gather these things.
  • Open a savings account in your name only. If it is safe to do so, see if your employer offers direct deposit, so your paycheck can go right into your account.

You should know the answers to these questions:

  •  What’s the safest time to leave?
  • What’s the best escape route if you have to leave suddenly? What door, window, staircase, fire escape will you use? Practice your route, and make sure your children know it too.
  • Where will you go, and how will you get there?
  • What will you need to take; where can you keep those things until you go?

You may be staying with your abuser for many reasons—fear, lack of money, or hope that the abuse will stop. Most of us want to have hope for our relationships. But thinking about your safety is a good idea in case things don’t turn out the way you hope they will.

Think about your safety:

  • Memorize emergency phone numbers.
  • Get a trac phone and keep it charged and with you.
  • Teach your children how to call the police and agree on a secret code that lets them know they need to.
  • Tell others you trust about your situation—friends, neighbors, landlord.
  • Give several neighbors a signal to watch for, so they can call police if necessary.
  • Seek legal advice. Learn about custody, visitation, and divorce laws that can protect you and your children if need be.

If the abuser has moved out, you may want to:

  • Do the things listed above and…
  • Change door locks and install window locks.
  • Make sure your children’s school, daycare, or summer camp workers know who’s authorized to pick the children up and agree on a code word. Provide a photo of the abuser, if you can.
  • Get an unlisted phone number; get a different cell phone.
  • Use an answering machine or voicemail to screen calls.

If you think you’re about to be assaulted, try to:

  • Stay out of the kitchen where weapons are easily found.
  • Avoid bathrooms, closets, and small spaces where the abuser can trap you.
  • Get to a room with a phone and call 911 or another emergency number you’ve memorized.
  • Go to a room with an exit.
  • Use your escape route.
  • If the police come, explain what happened and write down the officer’s name.

Talking to someone on the hotline can be helpful as you think through your feelings and your choices. We will not tell you what to do—only you know what’s best for you and your family. But we may have ideas you haven’t thought about, or thought possible.