Safety Planning

Keep yourself safe.

A safety plan lets you stay safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning includes how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action, and more.

A good safety plan will have all of the information you need, be unique to your situation, and walk you through different scenarios.  Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments.

Our advocates are here to help you with your plan, or you can find more information below.

Our gratitude to The National Domestic Violence Hotline for sharing this information.

Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call us at 208-788-6070 or toll free 888-676-0066.

SAFETY PLANNING

• 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 small. Dive into a corner, curl into a ball, protect your face with your arms around each side of your head and fingers locked.
• Have a phone with you at all times and know what numbers to call for help. If your life is in danger, call 911.
• 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. Teach them not to get in the middle 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 what you will do if your children tell 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 reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.

Planning for Violence in the Home
• Teach your children when and how to call 911.
• Teach them to leave the home if possible when your partner gets violent, and where they can go.
• Have a code word you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency. Make sure they know not to tell anyone what the secret word means.
• Help them pick a room they can go to when they’re afraid and something they can think about when they’re scared.
• Teach them to stay out of the kitchen, bathroom and other areas where there are things that could be used as weapons.
• Teach them that although they want to protect their parent, they should never try to help.
• Help them make a list of people that they can talk to about their feelings.
• Consider counseling as an option. The Advocates can help you find an experienced children’s counselor.

Planning for Unsupervised Visits
If you have separated from an abusive partner and are concerned for your children’s’ safety when they visit, developing a safety plan for while they are visiting can help.
• 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 at 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 children 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 children, 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 children, 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.”

• If you’re creating a safety plan of your own to leave an abusive relationship, safety planning for your animals is important as well. Bring extra food for them, copies of their medical records and important phone numbers.
• If possible, don’t leave animals alone with an abusive partner. If you’re planning on leaving, The Advocates can shelter most animals – and we will work to arrange other safe options for animals that can’t stay in shelter.
• Avoid leaving your animals behind, as it may not be possible to get them back.
• Take steps to prove ownership of your pet: have them vaccinated and license them with your town. Make sure these are all made in your name (change them if they aren’t).
• If you’ve left your partner and taken your animals, notify your vet. Don’t leave animals in cars or outside alone.

LEAVING YOUR RELATIONSHIP

• Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures of injuries.
• Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible. Keep your journal in a safe place.
• Know where you can go to get help. Tell someone what is happening to you.
• If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit. You can ask that they call us – we will send an advocate to be with you.
• Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
• Contact The Advocates to find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis.
• Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college as you can. The Advocates can help with this!
• Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.

Make a plan for how and where you will escape quickly. You may request a police escort or stand-by when you leave. If you have to leave in a hurry, use the following list of items as a guide to what you need to bring with you. Our advocates can help you come up with a personalized safety plan for leaving.
1) Identification
• Driver’s license
• Birth certificate and children’s birth certificates
• Social security cards
• Financial information
• Money and/or credit cards (in your name)
• Checking and/or savings account books

2) Legal Papers
• Protective order
• Copies of any lease or rental agreements, or the deed to your home
• Car registration and insurance papers
• Health and life insurance papers
• Medical records for you and your children
• School records
• Work permits/Green Card/visa
• Passport
• Divorce and custody papers
• Marriage license

3) Emergency Numbers
• Your local police and/or sheriff’s department
• The Advocates 208.788.6070
• Friends, relatives and family members
• Your local doctor’s office and hospital
• County and/or District Attorney’s Office

4) Other
• Medications
• Extra set of house and car keys
• Valuable jewelry
• Pay-as-you-go cell phone
• Address book
• Pictures and sentimental items
• Several changes of clothes for you and your children
• Emergency money

Your safety plan should include ways to make sure you stay safe after leaving an abusive relationship. Here are some things to consider:
• Change your locks and phone number.
• If you have a home phone, request caller ID. On all phones, ask that your number is blocked so that if you call anyone, they can’t see your new, unlisted phone number.
• Alert your children’s school of the situation.
• If you have a restraining order, keep a certified copy of it with you at all times, and inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
• Call law enforcement to enforce the order and give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools, along with a picture of the offender.
• Consider renting a post office box for your mail (be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports, and be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number).
• Reschedule appointments that the offender is aware of.
• Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
• Alert neighbors and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
• Replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors. Install security systems if possible.
• Install a motion sensitive lighting system.
• Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.
• Tell people who take care of your children or drive them/pick them up from school and activities. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order.

Working on a safety plan might feel confusing and emotional. Remember, we are here for you. We can help you think through your options, share resources, and more. Call us, 208.788.6070, or toll-free at 888-676-0066.