No one has control over their partner’s violence, but victims can and do find ways to reduce their risk of harm. Safety planning is a tool to help you to identify options, evaluate those options, and come up with a plan to reduce your risk when faced with harm or the threat of harm.
What Is a Safety Plan?
A safety plan is a personalized, practical tool that can help you prepare for and respond to dangerous situations.
There’s no right or wrong way to develop a safety plan. Use the following suggestions that apply, and change or add to them based on your situation. Make your safety plan your own, and review and update it often.
You may want to write down your safety plan, if you think it would be safe to do so. But if you think there is a chance your abuser might find it, maybe it is better to just think it all through and not write it down. Or you could give a written copy to a trusted friend or family member, so that at least one other person knows your plan, should you need to flee or go into shelter. Do what you think is safest.
Use What You Already Know
If you have been abused by an intimate partner, you probably know more about safety planning and risk assessment than you might think. Being in a relationship with an abusive partner – and surviving – takes a lot of skill and resourcefulness. Any time you do or say something in an attempt to protect yourself and/or your children, you are “safety planning.” Assessing risk is when you decide if taking a specific action will make things better or worse. You do it all the time, without even thinking about it.
Think it through. Seeking help, getting an order of protection, or deciding to leave only makes sense when it reduces the risks to you and your children.
Safety Planning for Every Situation
Safety plans can be made for a variety of different situations, including:
- Responding to threatened or actual abuse;
- Continuing to live with or date a partner who has been abusive; and
- Planning for your safety after ending a relationship with an abusive partner.
If you are planning to leave your partner or have already left, be aware that abusers are often more violent during times of separation. This could increase your risk for harm, including stalking and serious or life-threatening injury. Making a specific separation safety plan can help prepare you for the risks to you and your children during and after a separation.
Identify Your Options
The value of any safety plan depends on coming up with options that make sense to you and that you can use. This booklet will provide information on the help available from local domestic violence programs and the criminal justice system. But just as important is the help and information you may get from other places, including your own family and social supports. Some of the people and places where you might find support include:
Even if you are currently with your abusive partner, a safety plan may be helpful.
- counselor, social worker, therapist;
- doctor, dentist, nurse;
- doctor, dentist, nurse;
- friend, family, neighbor;
- a spiritual leader or member of your faith community;
- employee assistance program (EAP), supervisor, union, co-worker;
- staff member at a women’s center, senior center, or LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) programs;
- teacher, school counselor, parent teacher association member; and/or
- department of social services caseworker.
Most people really do want to help. The more specific you can be, the more likely it is that you’ll get the help you need. Sometimes the people you trust may mean well and offer suggestions that don’t seem right to you. You will have to decide if this information is best for you. It’s your call.