WARNING: Abusers try to control their victim's lives. When abusers feel a loss of control - like when victims try to leave them - the abuse often gets worse. Take special care when you leave. Keep being careful even after you have left.
Your safety is the most important thing. Listed below are tips to help keep you safe and assist you in working out a safety plan that would work for you. It is important to get help with your safety plan from one of the supports you have.
If you are in an abusive relationship, think about...
- Having important phone numbers nearby for you and your children. Numbers to have are the police, hotlines, friends and the local shelter.
- If possible, keep a cell phone and important phone numbers nearby in a safe area, as there are no wires that can be cut or jerked out of the wall. (Some organizations will assist you in getting a cell phone)
- Friends or neighbors you could tell about the abuse. Ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent noises. If you have children, teach them how to dial an emergency number. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help.
- How to get out of your home safely. Practice ways to get out.
- Safer places in your home where there are exits and no weapons. If you feel abuse is going to happen try to get your abuser to one of these safer places.
- Any weapons in the house. Think about ways that you could get them out of the house.
- Even if you do not plan to leave, think of where you could go. Think of how you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house - taking out the trash, walking the pet or going to the store. Put together a bag of things you use everyday (see the checklist below). Hide it where it is easy for you to get.
- Discuss a safety plan with children.
- Keep a list of phone numbers to call for help.
- If you have a car, ensure that it always has gas and is in good working order.
During an abusive incident...
- Always have access to an exit
- Avoid areas like kitchen and bathroom where weapons may be available.
When preparing to leave...
- Have money, keys, important documents (birth certificate, marriage licence, MCP card, etc.), clothes, and medicines packed in a safe spot so you can grab a bag and leave. You might want to leave this bag at a trusted friends or neighbors.
- Have a plan of where to go.
- Four places you could go if you leave your home.
- People who might help you if you left. Think about people who will keep a bag for you. Think about people who might lend you money. Make plans for your pets.
- Opening a bank account or getting a credit card in your name.
- How you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house - taking out the trash, walking the family pet, or going to the store. Practice how you would leave.
- How you could take your children with you safely.
- Putting together a bag of things you use every day. Hide it where it is easy for you to get.
If you have left your abuser, think about...
- Your safety - you still need to.
- Getting a restraining order from the court. Keep a copy with you all the time. Give a copy to the police, people who take care of your children, their schools and your boss.
- Changing the locks. Consider putting in stronger doors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a security system and outside lights.
- Telling friends and neighbors that your abuser no longer lives with you. Ask them to call the police if they see your abuser near your home or children.
- Telling people who take care of your children the names of people who are allowed to pick them up. If you have a restraining order, give their teachers and babysitters a copy of it.
- Telling someone at work about what has happened. Ask that person to screen your calls. If you have a restraining order that includes where you work, consider giving your boss a copy of it and a picture of the abuser. Think about and practice a safety plan for your workplace. This should include going to and from work.
- Not using the same stores or businesses that you did when you were with your abuser.
- Someone you can call if you feel down. Call that person if you are thinking about going to a support group or workshop.
- Safe way to speak with your abuser if you must.
- Going over your safety plan often.
With a restraining order...
- Keep a copy with you at all times.
- Inform those around you that you have a restraining order in effect.
- Don’t neglect the other safety tips.
ITEMS TO TAKE, IF POSSIBLE
- Medicine (prescriptions)
- Keys to car, house, work
- Extra clothes
- Important papers for you and your children
- Birth certificate
- Social security cards
- School and medical records
- Bankbooks, credit cards
- Driver's license
- Car registration
- Lease/rental agreement
- Divorce papers, custody orders
- Address book
- Pictures, jewelry, things that mean a lot to you
- Items for your children (toys, blankets, etc.)
Think about reviewing your safety plan often.
It is also useful to make photocopies of original documents and keep them with a trusted friend or family member.
If you need help putting this plan into action, you can ask someone you trust to help you. This could be a women's organization, anti-violence organization, police, counselor, shelter worker, Church pastor, mental health, victim services or a close and trusted friend.
And always Remember: The violence is not your fault! You deserve as much help as you need to get you safely free of the violence and securely started on a peaceful new life.