WHAT IS A SAFETY PLAN?

 A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action and more.

SAFETY WHEN LIVING WITH AN ABUSIVE PARTNER

At Voices Against Violence, we safety plan with victims, friends and family members — anyone who is concerned about their own safety or the safety of someone else.
 

A good safety plan will have all of the vital information you need and be tailored to your unique situation, and will help walk you through different scenarios.
 

Although some of the things that you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that in moments of crisis your brain doesn’t function the same way as when you are calm. When adrenaline is pumping through your veins it can be hard to think clearly or make logical decisions about your safety. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments.

"After the help I received, it was the first time in years,
I finally felt free."

-Maria

  • 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.

  • Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons 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 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 possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest public phone is located. Know the phone number to your local shelter. If your life is in danger, call the police.

  • Let trusted friends and neighbors know of 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 the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.

  • Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.

  • Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.

  • Plan for what you will do if your children tells 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. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked — for a quick escape.

  • Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used to strangle you.

  • Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.

SAFETY PLANNING WITH CHILDREN

If you are in an abusive relationship, a safety plan should include ways that your children can stay safe when violence is happening in your home. It’s key to remember that if the violence is escalating, you should avoid running to the children because your partner may hurt them as well.

Planning for Violence in the Home

  • Teach your children when and how to call 911.

  • Instruct them to leave the home if possible when things begin to escalate, and where they can go.

  • Come up with a code word that you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency  — make sure that they know not to tell others what the secret word means.

  • In the house: identify a room they can go to when they’re afraid and something they can think about when they’re scared.

  • Instruct them to stay out of the kitchen, bathroom and other areas where there are items that could be used as weapons.

  • Teach them that although they want to protect their parent, they should never intervene.

  • Help them make a list of people that they are comfortable talking with and expressing themselves to.

  • Enroll them in a counseling program. Local service providers often have children’s programs.
     

Planning for Unsupervised Visits

If you have separated from an abusive partner and are concerned for your childrens’ safety when they visit your ex, developing a safety plan for while they are visiting can be beneficial.

  • Brainstorm with your children (if they are old enough) to come up with ways that they can stay safe using the same model as you would for your own home. Have them identify where they can get to a phone, how they can leave the house, and who they can go to.

  • If it’s safe to do, send a cell phone with the children to be used in emergency situations — this can be used to call 911, a neighbor or you if they need aid.
     

Planning for Safe Custody Exchanges

  • Avoid exchanging custody at your home or your partner’s home.

  • Meet in a safe, public place such as a restaurant, a bank/other area with lots of cameras, or even near a police station.

  • Bring a friend or relative with you to the exchanges, or have them make the exchange.

  • Perhaps plan to have your partner pick the children up from school at the end of the day after you drop them off in the morning – this eliminates the chances of seeing each other.

  • Emotional safety plan as well – figure out something to do before the exchange to calm any nerves you’re feeling, and something after to focus on yourself or the kids, such as going to a park or doing a fun activity.
     

How to Have These Conversations

Let your child know that what’s happening is not their fault and that they didn’t cause it. Let them know how much you love them and that you support them no matter what. Tell them that you want to protect them and that you want everyone to be safe, so you have to come up with a plan to use in case of emergencies. It’s important to remember that when you’re safety planning with a child, they might tell this information to the abusive partner, which could make the situation more dangerous (ex. “Mom said to do this if you get angry.”) When talking about these plans with your child, use phrases such as “We’re practicing what to do in an emergency,” instead of “We’re planning what you can do when dad/mom becomes violent.”

EMOTIONAL COMPONENTS OF SAFETY PLANNING

Often, emphasis is placed on planning around physical safety, but it’s important to consider your emotional safety as well. Emotional safety can look different for different people, but ultimately it’s about developing a personalized plan that helps you feel accepting of your emotions and decisions when dealing with abuse. Below are some ideas for how to create and maintain an emotional safety plan that works for you.
 

Seek Out Supportive People: A caring presence such as a trusted friend or family member can help create a calm atmosphere to think through difficult situations and allow for you to discuss potential options.

Identify and Work Towards Achievable Goals: An achievable goal might be calling a local resource and seeing what services are available in your area, or talking to one of our advocates at The Hotline. Remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can help options feel more possible when you are ready.
 

Create a Peaceful Space for Yourself: Designating a physical place where your mind can relax and feel safe can be good option when working through difficult emotions that can arise when dealing with abuse. This can be a room in your house, a spot under your favorite tree, a comfy chair by a window or in a room with low lights.
 

Remind Yourself of Your Great Value: You are important and special, and recognizing and reminding yourself of this reality is so beneficial for your emotional health. It is never your fault when someone chooses to be abusive to you, and it has no reflection on the great value you have as person.
 

Remember That You Deserve to Be Kind to Yourself: Taking time to practice self-care every day, even if it is only for a few minutes, really creates space for peace and emotional safety. It’s healthy to give yourself emotional breaks and step back from your situation sometimes. In the end, this can help you make the decisions that are best for you.

Source: The National Domestic Violence Hotline

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