Safety Planning

Empowerment Through Planning

Safety Planning

You can’t control your partner’s abusive behaviour, but you can take steps to protect yourself from harm. Whether you decide to stay or end the relationship, you should consider creating a safety plan.

A safety plan is a personalized and practical plan for reducing your risk of being hurt by your partner. By thinking it through in advance, a safety plan can help you avoid dangerous situations and know the best way to react when you are in danger.

With a safety plan in place, you will arm yourself with tools that will protect you (and your children) from possible further harm. You can empower yourself through this act of self-preservation and protection.

The following highlights some important things to consider in creating your safety plan.

Safety Planning

1. Protecting Yourself while Living with an Abuser

  • Tell someone you trust about the abuse
  • Think about your partner’s past use and level of force. This will help you predict what type of danger you and your children are facing and when to leave
  • Tell your children that abuse is never right, even when someone they love is being abusive. Tell them the abuse isn’t your fault or their fault; they did not cause it, and neither did you. Teach them it is important to keep safe when there is abuse
  • Plan where to go in an emergency. Teach your children how to get help. Tell them not to get between you and your partner if there is violence. Plan a code word to signal they should get help or leave
  • Don’t run to a place where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well
  • Create a plan to get out of your home safely and practice it with your children
  • Ask your neighbours, friends and family to call the police if they hear sounds of abuse and to look after your children in an emergency
  • If an argument is developing, move to a space where you can get outside easily. Don’t go to a room where there is access to potential weapons (e.g. kitchen, workshop, bathroom)
  • If you are being hurt, protect your face with your arms around each side of your head, with your fingers locked together. Don’t wear scarves or long jewellery
  • Park your car by backing it into the driveway and keep it fuelled
  • Hide your keys, cell phone and some money near your escape route
  • Have a list of phone numbers to call for help. Call the police if it is an emergency
  • Make sure all weapons and ammunition are hidden or removed from your home

2. Getting Ready to leave

When you are planning to leave, the following suggestions will help you with the process:

  • Contact the police or a local domestic violence shelter. Let the staff know that you intend to leave an abusive situation and ask for support in safety planning.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask them to document your visit.
  • Gather important documents: Identification, bank cards, financial papers related to family assets, last Canada Income Tax Return, keys, medication, pictures of the abuser and your children, passports, health cards, personal address/telephone book, cell phone, and legal documents (e.g. immigration papers, house deed/lease, restraining orders/peace bonds).
  • If you can’t keep important documents stored in your home for fear that your partner will find them, consider making copies and leave them with someone you trust. Consider putting them into a Post Office or Safety Deposit Box.
  • Consult a lawyer. Keep any evidence of physical abuse (such as photos). Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events, threats and any witnesses.
  • Put together pictures, jewellery and objects of sentimental value, as well as toys and comforts for your children.
  • Arrange with someone to care for your pets temporarily, until you get settled. A shelter may help you arrange this through the Safe Pet Program.
  • Remember to clear your phone of the last number you called to avoid his utilizing redial.

3. Leaving the Abuser

Here are some suggestions for your personal safety when you leave:

  • Request a police escort or ask a friend, neighbour or family member to accompany you when you leave.
  • Contact your local domestic violence shelter. It may be a safer temporary spot than going to a place your partner knows.
  • Do not tell your partner you are leaving. Leave quickly.
  • Have a back-up plan if your partner finds out where you are going.

4. After Leaving

  • If available, attend/contact community offered programs/resources (see list).
  • Visit the police station and ask to speak to staff who specialize in domestic abuse cases.
  • Consider applying for a restraining order or peace bond that may help keep your partner away from you and your children. Keep it with you at all times.
  • Provide police with a copy of any legal orders you have.
  • Consult a lawyer or legal aid clinic about actions to protect yourself or your children. Let your lawyer know if there are any Criminal Court proceedings.
  • Consider changing any service provider that you share with your ex-partner.
  • Consider purchasing a Post Office Box as your mailing address.
  • Obtain an unlisted telephone number, get caller ID and block your number when calling out.
  • Make sure your children’s school or day care centre is aware of the situation and has copies of all relevant documents.
  • Carry a photo of the abuser and your children with you.
  • Ask your neighbours to look after your children in an emergency and to call the police if they see the abuser.
  • Take extra precautions at work, at home and in the community.
  • Think about places and patterns that your ex-partner will know about and try to change them. For example, consider using a different grocery store or place of worship.
  • If you feel unsafe walking alone, ask a neighbour, friend, or family member to accompany you.
  • Do not return to your home unless accompanied by the police. Never confront the abuser.

Adapted with permission from the ETA Vaughan Women’s Centre, with gratitude and thanks.