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You are here: Home >> Resources >> Handouts >> A guide to safety planning

September, 2004

Safety Planning is a "harm reduction" strategy that empowers victims to consider their safety whether or not they are still in the abusive relationship, or are thinking about leaving.  This enables a victim to think about possibilities for increasing safety on a daily basis.  Each person should develop a safety plan that is tailored to an individual's situation.  Use the following information as a guide.

Safety At Home

Know the windows and doors in the home.  Find out which windows open easily and which stick.  Also, know which is located in a place that would allow access to outside the home.

Plan an escape route.  Do this just as one would think about a fire drill.  Even if there are no immediate plans to leave, it helps to know the plan should it become necessary in an emergency.

Think about where to go and who would help.

Identify a support network,  Who can be trusted to help in carrying out the plan?  It is helpful to have someone to check-in with on a regular basis.

Develop a code word to use with the support person.  They could pretend to be selling magazines if personal calls are not permitted.  A code word could help the support person know when assistance is needed from the police.

As soon as the children are old enough, they should be taught to dial 911.  Make sure 911 is on speed dial with a sticker.

Plan for copies of important documents to be in a place that is easily accessible.  REMEMBER THAT SAFETY COMES FIRST.

Packing an overnight bag and leaving it at a friends house or in a place where the batterer will not find it is an option if it is not safe to return home.  Again, safety is the first priority.

Safety During A Violent Incident

Be aware of immediate surroundings.  The kitchen is a room that has many weapons that are easily accessible.  Other rooms to avoid are the bathroom (with only one likely exit and small windows) and the bedroom (or rooms where weapons might be kept).

Remember the planned escape route.

If there has been a code developed with someone and there is time to call that person, make them aware that assistance is needed.

Have the children to call 911 and/or remind them of the escape drill.

Planning To Leave

Financial Issues

Money should be kept available when possible.  Think about where many can be kept so the batterer will not be aware of it.

Plan around the dates that you receive checks from government assistance.  Make arrangements to have the checks sent to a different address or P.O. Box.

If there is a bank account involved, think of ways to access that money so that it does not arouse suspicion (i.e. withdrawing large amounts of money at once).

Consider direct deposit if it is available.

It is possible that there will not be any money available at any time.  Investigate what options are available in getting to safety.

Transportation Issues

If there is a car, make sure there is an extra set of keys available.

Decide if the car is the best alternative or whether it will affect anonymity and confidentiality.  If public transportation is an option, plan how to get it, identify what obstacles might present themselves, such as coordinating children's schedules, clothes, etc...

Documents and Other Materials

Identify important documents to have, such as: social security cards, birth certificates, medical records, legal documents, immigration documents, etc...

Decide which are crucial documents and which can be replaced later.

The Escape Route

This escape route is somewhat different from a fire drill.  This requires longer term thinking.  Leaving is when there is the most danger.

Think about options for safe places to go.  Think about who can be trusted to know and/or help in the escape process.

Plan a way to get there and alternative ways to get there.

Safety After Leaving

Only essential people should be contacted (i.e. employers, parents, other loved ones who are aware of the precariousness of the situation).  They should only be told essential information, the less they know, the safer they could be.

If there is a Restraining Order, give copies to key people (employer, school, neighbors, family, building management or other identified trustworthy people).  Always keep a copy available.

Change routines so that it will be more difficult to be located.

Caution should be exercised around visitation and custody exchanging agreements.

Remember that domestic violence often escalates after leaving and that leaving does not guarantee safety.

Immigration Considerations

Undocumented Victims

Know which agencies can help in self-petitioning.

Bring important documents such as birth certificates, police reports (helpful but not required).

Documented Victims

Know the law and know resources that can help when there is uncertainty about legal status.

Identify support networks that are language and culturally appropriate.

Other Considerations

Children

Figure out whether it is appropriate to tell the children about plans to leave.  Would it risk safety (would they tell?)

Although domestic violence crosses every sector of society, it does not affect everyone in the same way.  In addition to the fact that everyone's situation is different it is also important to consider the role of:

Religion
Disabilities
Sexual Orientation
Age (teens/elders)
Socioeconomic status
Race/Culture
Immigration Status
Language Abilities/Limitations

Accessing Resources

Call Casa Myrna Vasquez, Inc.'s 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-992-2600 for more information and referrals.

Adapted by Casa Myrna Vasquez, Inc. with support from The Administration for Children & Families/HHS & The United Way.

 

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