If you are in an emergency situation and you have to get out, it is best to have a plan ahead of time so that everything you need is taken care of. Below is a guide to making a plan if you happen to find yourself in an environment you must leave quickly.
Step 1: Safety During a Violent Incident (Use the following strategies even if you don’t think there will be a next time)
- Identify when your partner is going to start an argument
- Figure out a safe space to move so when an argument arises, you can get there (Avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, and kitchen, near any weapons or in rooms that don’t have a way out)
- Practice how to get out of your living situation. What doors, windows, elevators, stairwells, or fire escapes could you use?
- Keep your purse and car keys ready and decide a place to leave them so you can grab them quickly
- Tell someone you trust (who lives near you) about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my home or apartment
- Decide on a code word with your friends or family so they will know to call for help
- Figure out a few places you can go if you have to get out of your house or apartment
Step 2: Safety When Preparing to Leave (If you decide to leave the residence you share with your abuser you can use some of the following strategies to increase your safety. Violence often increases when a victim tries to leave a relationship)
- Designate a trusted individual with some money and an extra set of keys so you can leave quickly
- Keep copies of important papers (birth certificates, bank account numbers, check books, savings books, driver’s license, restraining orders, etc.) somewhere safe where you can locate them after you leave.
- Open a savings account or save a little money every week. Put it in a place that only you know about.
- Leave clothes with a trusted individual.
- Locate the closest Domestic Violence shelter to your house. Keep their phone number on hand.
- Locate the closest public telephone to your house or apartment
- If it is a payphone, keep change for phone calls with you at all times.
- If you use a telephone credit card, your partner can find out all the numbers you called.
- Check with a few people you trust to see if they will let you stay with them or loan you money when you need it.
- Set a time to sit down and review your safety plan with a trusted individual. (Do this on a regular basis)
Step 3: Safety in my own home or apartment (If you do not live with your abuser, you can increase your safety at home with some of the following strategies. Safety measures can be added step by step)
- Things you can do include:
- Change the locks on the doors and windows as soon as possible.
- Change the phone number to one that is unlisted and in a different name.
- Obtain a confidential post office box to keep your address confidential.
- Replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors.
- Install a security system that includes additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against the doors, an electronic system, etc.
- Install smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and buy fire extinguishers for each floor in my house or apartment.
- Install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my house or apartment.
- Tell a few trusted individuals that your partner no longer lives with you and they should call the police if the person is ever near your home.
Step 4: Safety with a Protective Order (If you have shared a residence with your abuser, it may be possible for you to get a protective order. You may need to ask the police and the courts to enforce the protective order. The following steps can help with the enforcement of my protective order.)
- Keep your protective order on or near you at all times.
- Give a copy of your protective order to the police department in the community where you work, where you live, and where your friends and family live.
- If your abuser breaks the protective order you can phone the police and report a violation, contact your attorney, call a shelter victim advocate, and/or tell the court of the violation.
- Inform your employer, friends, and others that you have a protective order in effect.
Step 5: Safety on the Job and in Public
- Inform your boss, the security supervisor, university administrators, etc. about your situation.
- You can use voice mail or ask the receptionist or a co-worker to screen my calls at work.
- Come up with a plan for when you leave work.
- Come up with a plan in case problems occur when you are driving home.
- If you use public transportation, make a plan for that situation.
- You can use grocery stores, banks and shopping centers different than those you used when you were with your abusive partner.
Step 6: Safety and your emotional health (The experience of being abused is usually exhausting and emotionally draining)
- Make a plan with friends or family for when you feel down and might consider returning to a potentially abusive situation.
- Decide how you are going to handle yourself and the situation if you have to communicate with your abuser in person or by phone.
- Come up with something to tell yourself when others are trying to control or abuse me.
- Pick out a book, song, poem, etc. that you can read to make yourself feel stronger.
- Get a list of resources you can call as support.
By following these steps, you can increase your chances of surviving a potentially dangerous situation.
One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
(The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000. The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999)