Are you planning on leaving your partner?
- What is your plan? How and when can you most safely leave? Do you have transportation, money and a place to go? What are you waiting for?
- Inform people you trust about your plan and allow them to help you. Consider alternative plans if you have to leave prior to their scheduled leave date.
- Make sure you have a safe place to go; somewhere where someone is supportive and the abuser does not know about (shelter, relative, hidden apartment, etc.).
- Who will you tell and not tell about leaving? Who in your support network do you trust?
- Pack a bag and keep it in an undisclosed but accessible place (either at home, at a friend or neighbor’s house, or at work) in order to leave quickly.
- How will you travel safely to and from work, or to school to pick up the children?
- Seek legal advice so that you know what they can and cannot do, and what you can and cannot have. (i.e. Can you take the car? Can you take the children to another state?)
- It is important to see your life first and their possessions second.
- If possible, open a bank account or hide money to establish or increase independence (i.e. tell the abuser you paid $40 for a coat you bought for $10).
- Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents, and extra clothes with someone you trust so you can leave quickly. Some items you want to consider having available: birth certificates, social security cards, marriage and driver’s license, car title, bank account number, credit and/or ATM cards, savings account information, lease agreements, house deed, mortgage papers, insurance information and forms, school and health records, welfare or immigration documents, medications and prescriptions, divorce papers or other court documents, phone numbers/addresses for family/friends/community agencies, clothing and comfort items for them and their children, extra keys.
Are you planning on staying with your partner?
- Identify things that have worked in the past to keep you safe.
- Think about what has happened in the past and how the abuser has acted. Identify clues that indicate when things are about to get violent (i.e. behavioral — body language, drug/alcohol use, etc. — and event driven — paydays, holidays, etc.).
- Identify what you will do if the violence starts again. Can you call the police? Is there a phone in the house? Can you work out a signal with the children or neighbors to call the police or get help?
- Explore ways to have dangerous weapons (i.e. guns, hunting knives, etc.) removed from the house.
- Identify dangerous locations in the house (i.e. the kitchen – knives, hot water, oven, etc.) and try not to be trapped in them. Install a lock on the inside of the bathroom or other room where you can be safe.
- Make a routine for going out each day (i.e. walking the dog, taking out the trash, etc.). Let others know your routine so they will know when something is off.
- Plan an escape route and practice it. Know beforehand where you can go and who you can call for help. Keep a list of addresses and phone numbers where you can go in crisis and keep them in a place where the abuser cannot find it.
Are you living on your own (not with your partner)?
- Change the locks on doors and windows (if the abuser has a key or access to a key).
- Install a better security system (window bars, locks, better lighting, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers).
- Increase emergency response’s (police, ambulance) ability to find your house (have large visible street address outside the house).
- Obtain a PO Box and have all mail sent to it.
- Ensure that the phone company, BGE, etc. does not give out their information.
- Determine the safest way to communicate with the abuser if they must have contact. If you agree to meet, always do it in a public place (preferably a place with a security guard or police officer), and it’s best to bring someone else. Make sure you are not followed home.
- If your partner follows in their car, drive to a police station or fire station and keep honking the horn.
- Create a safety plan for leaving work. Talk with your supervisor and building security at work and provide a picture of the abuser if possible. Arrange for a Domestic Violence presentation at your worksite.
- Teach your children a safety plan, including calling the police or family and friends if they are taken. (See our Children & Youth Services page for a children’s safety plan.)
- Talk to your schools and childcare provider about who has permission to pick up the children and develop other special provisions to protect the children.
- Inform neighbors and/or landlord of the situation and advise them to call the police if they see suspicious activity around your house/apartment.
- Use the legal system. Understand the legal system cannot provide total protection. You must contribute to your own safety. Follow any court orders. If a judge orders your partner to stay away and not have contact, you should not speak to the abuser if contacted. Inform the police or judge immediately.
- Keep a journal of harassing phone calls and times you may see your abuser around the work place or neighborhood. Keep a journal of anything that happens between you, the abuser, and the children regarding visitation.
- Concentrate on staying safe and don’t let your guard down.
Safety planning around technology issues
- If you are leaving, or making plans to leave, use a public computer (i.e. at a library), or a work computer where the abuser does not have access.
- Be aware when visiting domestic violence sites on the internet that it’s not possible to completely erase the history. Likewise, it may raise more questions, if the history is suddenly blank.
- Be careful with sent or received e-mail on an account that is shared by your abuser.
- Know what features your cell phone is equipped with. Many cell phones now come standard with GPS (Global positioning satellites) that can be traced.
- Save and/or print any threatening e-mails.