Tips for Staying Safe
What is a Safety Plan and Why do I Need One?
A safety plan is a set of steps you can take to reduce the risk of harm in unsafe situations with an abuser. It is helpful to create a safety plan since it can be hard to think and react in a time of emergency or high stress.
Abusers demand power and control over a survivor’s life, and a safety plan is one way a survivor can have power and control over their own situation, as much as they can. Having a plan can empower you to make the safest decisions you can for your situation. Take one action at a time and start with the one that is easiest and safest for you. Remember that you are the expert of your situation. If you want more guidance on the specifics of creating a safety plan you can always call SHALVA.
The following safety tips from SHALVA will help you consider how to make yourself safest at home and ways to plan an exit if you need to:
“Safest Room”: If there is an argument, identify an area of the home you can move to where there are no weapons (weapons can typically be found in a kitchen and bathroom) and there are ways for you to leave, such as a door or window. For some survivors, no room may feel safe, so we call it the “safest room”. If you can at least identify the lowest risk areas, you may be able to reduce harm.
Physical protection: Always avoid wearing scarves or long jewelry., as these can become a strangulation hazard. If an argument is developing, try to move to your “safest room” and stay close to the door or window. If you are being hurt, protect your face with your arms around each side of your head, with your fingers locked together.
Seeking Social Support
Some abusers use isolation from family and friends as a power and control tactic. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out when it is safe to do so (think about times you could find yourself alone, like grocery shopping, taking a walk, driving, or just sitting in your car). People care about you and will want to find ways to provide support. If you have a friend who may be experiencing abuse, be sure to reach out to them.
Buddy System Code Word
Identify at least two people that you can contact using a “code word” to let them know if you are in trouble. Plan ahead for what they should do if you send them the code word.
Notifying Others Before an Emergency
Police: Ahead of time, you can notify your local police station of your concerns. Let them know the history and your concerns. It may be useful to speak with the Domestic Violence officer.
Neighbors: You can also ask trusted neighbors to call the police if they hear sounds of abuse.
Safety Planning with Children
Educate: Tell your children that abuse is never right, even when someone they love is being abusive. The abuse is never their fault, or yours. Make sure they know to never get between you and your partner if there is violence, even if they want to help. Note that you should not enter a room where your children are during a violent incident either.
Code Words: Decide how to communicate urgency to your children. A “code word” with your children that means they should go to the “safest room” in the home that you have already decided upon. You do not want them in the same room with you during a violent incident.
Emergency Numbers: If for some reason you are not able to make emergency calls and you have children, give them the safety number/s, if they are old enough. Emphasize 9-1-1 with them, something easy for them to remember even in a moment of heightened stress. Here is how to make an emergency call on an iPhone
Practice Digital Safety
Try to use a safer phone or computer that your abuser can’t access physically or remotely. If your phone or computer was working properly but suddenly isn’t, it could be a sign that it has been hacked. Try a different device.
Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call instead. If you can only use email or texting, please use an account your abuser does not know about and try to use the “incognito” option on your web browser.
In case you have to flee, create an exit plan ahead of time with someone who could support this need. Is there a trusted friend/relative who you can stay with? When thinking through your actual exit, consider your partner’s past behaviors and level of force ahead of time. What kind of dangers might you encounter if you try to leave?
A few things to consider:
Park your car by backing it into the driveway and keep it fueled. Hide your important supplies near the exit (see points 2-3 for a list of supplies), especially keys, cell phone, and cash.
Make copies or take pictures of your important documents for yourself and send them to a trusted friend or relative. Important documents may include IDs, social security cards, immigration documents, birth certificates, health insurance information, and Orders of Protection. Be mindful of sending anything via phone or computer, in case your abuser has access to those devices. Please use whatever method is safest for you.
Pack an emergency bag with an extra set of keys, clothes for you and your children, a pay as you go cell phone, medications, copies of important documents, etc. If you won’t have money for food, check with your local pantry, synagogue, or other community organizations. Remember to keep your medications in the safest, easily accessible location in case of emergency.
Remember that You are the Expert
You know your situation better than anyone, so please individualize your safety plan to what feels safest for you. If something does not feel safe, trust your instincts. For example, it may not be safe to complete a safety plan in writing, but you can still review one in your head and memorize it as best you can. It can also be helpful to go over your safety plan with a trusted friend or relative.