Make a Safety Plan
Sometimes, the best way to keep yourself and your children safe is to leave. A safety plan can help you leave safely, and help you cope with the emotional, physical and financial demands of leaving an abusive partner.
Even if you feel that your partner will never be abusive to you again, it’s important to be prepared. Having a safety plan will ensure that you and your children will be as safe as possible and that you have everything that you need in the event you need to flee.
YWCA counselors are available to help you develop your safety plan. Just call the Greater Richmond Regional Hotline at 804-612-6126 to get started. Listed below are some of the elements of a safety plan, along with tips on how you can prepare.
- Tell someone you can trust
Confide in a friend or family member who you can trust to keep your plans secret and who will not judge you or discourage you from leaving an abusive situation.
If you have been isolated from your friends or family, you can seek help from counselors and advocates at the YWCA or other local domestic violence agencies.
- Decide how you and your children will get out
Leave when your abuser will least expect it. This will give you more time to get away before your abuser realizes that you are gone.
If you must leave at night, think of public places that are open 24 hours a day, such as police and fire stations, hospitals, and gas stations.
Make a plan for how you can escape from each room in your house, in case of emergency.
Pack up items that you will need and important documents in advance. Store your bag in a location where your abuser cannot find it.
- Set aside emergency money, if possible.
Remember, checks, debit, and credit cards are easier to trace. Pay with cash when you can.
Create a false trail.
Call motels, real estate agencies, and schools in a town at least six hours from where you plan to go. Ask them questions that will need to be answered by them calling you back and give them your old phone number.
- Create an escape route for work.
Your abuser may choose to harass you at your office or place of employment. Think about how you can escape if you’re approached in your workplace.
- If you need help in a public place, yell “FIRE”
People respond more quickly to someone yelling “fire” than any other cry for help. Get the help you need quickly by using a call that gets attention.
- Teach your children how to dial 911 and where to go in an emergency.
Practice on a toy phone and role-play the conversation. Have your children repeat the escape plan to you several times. Continue to quiz them to make sure they understand.
What to pack
NOTE: In an emergency, get out right away. You may not have time to gather these items, and that’s okay. While they are helpful to have, the safety of you and your family comes first!
Keep these important documents (or copies) and items packed in a location where your abuser cannot find them.
- Protective Order
- ATM and Credit Cards
- Driver’s License and Registration
- Social Security Cards
- Green Card, VISA, or Work Permit
- Cell Phone and Chargers or Change for Pay Phone
- Address Book
- Medical Records
- Your Partner’s Social Security Number
- Insurance Policies
- Important Legal Documents
- Change of Clothing
- Birth Certificates, Marriage Licenses, Wills
- School Records
- Police Records (if reported)
- Record of Violence
- Spare Car Keys
- Personal Items to Keep (Photos, Jewelry, etc.)
After leaving – planning for the future
- Consider applying for a protective order, if you do not already have one.
- Put dead bolt locks on your door, and if you can, replace any wood doors with steel or metal doors.
- Consider installing a security system.
- Make sure that the outside of your new home is well lit, consider motion sensitive lights.
- Keep bushes, trees, and other plants around your house trimmed.
- Change your phone number. Tell the phone company not to list your new number and request caller ID.
- If possible, change your work hours and/or your route to work.
- Give your children’s caretakers a written list of people authorized to pick them up and a copy of the restraining order.
- Try not to travel alone, stay in public and well-lit places as much as possible.
- Take a different route to the grocery store, restaurants, social places, a friend’s house or any other places you go on a regular basis.
- Consider changing your children’s schools.
- If you apply for a protective order: keep a certified copy with you at all times, give copies to your employer, neighbors, friends, and schools with picture of your abuser.
- Call law enforcement if your abuser violates your protective order.
- Get a full check-up with your doctor to see if you need any medical treatment.
- Carry a cell phone. Your local domestic violence agency may give out cell phones programmed with emergency numbers.
- Seek on-going support from local domestic violence and mental health service providers.
Remember, if you have questions, or need help putting together your safety plan, the YWCA of Richmond is here to help. You can call the Greater Richmond Regional Hotline at 804-612-6126.