Planning for Your Safety
These are some ideas to get you started on your safety plan. But every situation is different. Only you can decide what’s best for you.
Being Ready for a Crisis
You may be living with, dating, or have a child with the abuser. If it is safe for you, you might think about:
- Moving to a safer space when your partner is being verbally or physically threatening or abusive. Try to avoid being confined in the bathroom, garage, kitchen, near weapons, or in rooms without an exit to the outside.
- Leaving the house for a short time. Think about how you would get out safely and where you would go. Always keep your purse and car keys in a place where you can access them easily and quickly.
- Asking a neighbor or a friend for help. Neighbors can call police if they hear violent noises coming from your home. A friend can take necessary action if you use a code word that you have arranged in advance.
- Calling for help. Think about who you could call: police, domestic violence hotline, friends, or family. Know those numbers or program them into your phone (perhaps under a fake name), if you can do so safely. See the Technology section for additional safety tips. Your local domestic violence program may be able to give you a free cell phone for calling 911.
- Including your children. Make sure they know their address and phone number and how to get help. Tell children not to place themselves between fighting adults. Plan a code word to let them know to get help or leave the house.
Planning to Leave or Separate From Your Partner
You may decide that leaving your partner, either temporarily or permanently, is your best option. Think about:
- Where you could stay and for how long. Choices could include homes of friends or family, a hotel, or a domestic violence shelter. Have phone numbers ready.
- How you can get to a safe place. You may be able to use your car, public transportation, or arrange for a ride. Think about your transportation before you need to leave.
- Things you might need to take with you:
- Cash, credit cards, ATM card, and/or checkbook. You may need money for gas, food, lodging, public transportation, medication, phone calls, and other expenses. Make sure you know your passwords and account numbers (and think about changing them as soon as possible, if your abuser has access to them as well). Note: check, credit, and ATM card transactions could be used to track you if you share an account with your partner.
- Identification and documentation for you and your children. This could include your driver’s license, birth certificates, social security cards, recent photos, passports, immigration papers, public assistance ID, employee or school ID.
- Keys to your house, car, office, and safe deposit box.
- Medications, health insurance cards, Medicaid/Medicare cards, vaccination records, glasses, hearing aids, and other medical necessities.
- Important papers such as orders of protection, divorce or separation agreement, custody/visitation order, child support order, car registration, insurance papers, lease or house deed, and past tax returns.
- Be sure to take any items that could be used as evidence of the abuse. This could include photographs of your injuries, threatening notes or messages (including text messages), copies of police reports, medical records such as hospital discharge papers or x-rays, or a journal of the abuse.
- Electronic equipment like laptops, cell phones and chargers. The list above suggests important items that you may need.
You might also think about taking a few things to increase the comfort to you and your children, such as favorite toys, security blanket, electronic devices like hand-held video games or MP3 players (like iPods), photos, and sentimental items.
- Where you could safely leave extra clothes, important documents, keys, or money.
- What to do about your pets. There is a strong connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty. Sometimes abusers threaten or harm pets to scare and control victims. For many women, concern about pets is an important part of their decision to leave. Consider these options:
- Your pets may be safe staying at home.
- You may be able to take your pets with you, depending on where you decide to go, such as a friend’s house or a pet- friendly motel. Check first to find out.
- Ask a neighbor, friend or relative to foster your pets.
- You may be able to board your pets. Talk to your vet for possible care or recommendations for boarding.
- The local domestic violence program may be able to help you find a safe place for your pets.
After Leaving or Separating From Your Partner
Leaving your partner may not end the danger you faced while in the relationship. In fact, abusers can become more dangerous after their partners leave. It is important for you to plan carefully for your safety during this time. Think about:
- Home Safety
- Changing the locks on doors. (If you rent, your landlord may be willing to do this for you.)
- Replacing wooden doors with steel/metal doors.
- Increasing security. For example: installing additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, an alarm system, etc.
- Changing pass codes on existing security systems.
- Buying fire ladders to be used for escape from second floor windows.
- Installing smoke detectors and CO2 detectors and putting fire extinguishers on each floor of your home.
- Safety with Children
- Teaching your children when and how to call 911 in emergencies.
- Identifying people your children can call if they are scared, such as friends, family or neighbors.
- Getting your children their own cell phones. Program important numbers into the phones for them and teach them how and when to use them.
- Identifying safe places for your children to go if scared, such as somewhere in the home or a neighbor’s house.
- Identifying someone at school for your children to talk to if they need help.
- Providing the caretakers of your children, including baby sitters, daycare or schools, with photos and names of those individuals who have permission to pick up your children, as well as the individuals who do not.
- Giving the people who take care of your children copies of orders of protection, custody and other court orders, and emergency numbers.
- Talking to your children about being careful with information and photos posted on social networking sites. These might provide information that could be used to track your family without meaning to. This could happen if your children talk about things like going on vacation, moving, working or attending school.
At Work and in Public
Your partner knows your routine, including where you work, the times you travel to and from work, places you shop, what time you drop your children off at school, etc. Many people who are abused are harassed by their partners when they are at work. While it is hard to change everything you do, there may be ways you can plan for your safety at your job and while going about your daily routine. Think about:
- At Work
- Telling your boss, security staff, and/or Employee Assistance Program about your situation.
- Seeing if your employer offers flexible work hours or if a transfer to another location is possible.
- Asking the human resources department to help you work out the best use of your attendance and leave benefits, such as sick time, vacation, personal time, etc.
- Giving workplace security a picture of the abuser and copies of orders of protection.
- Asking security staff to walk you to and from your car.
- Knowing your workplace security phone number in case of emergency.
- Asking a co-worker to screen your calls at work. Also, think about asking for a phone with caller ID and recording capabilities.
Note: All New York State governmental agencies (as well as many private employers) have domestic violence workplace policies. For more information, check your employee manual or ask your human resources department.
- In Public
- Varying the route you take to and from work or school.
- Changing what time you attend religious services, or attending a different place of worship.
- Adjusting your daily routines – avoid stores, banks, laundromats, and other places your partner may go to look for you. When possible, ask someone to go places with you.
- Telling someone where you’re going if your plans include something that’s not part of your normal routine.
With an Order of Protection
- If you get an order of protection, think about:
- Securing your copy of the order of protection. Always keep it on you or nearby in case you have to produce it for police.
- Giving copies of your order of protection to police departments in the communities in which you live, work, where your children go to school, etc.
- Giving copies of your order of protection to your employer, religious advisor, children’s school(s), children’s day care provider(s), etc.
- Calling a domestic violence program if you have questions about the order or if you have problems getting it enforced.
Note: If you lose your order of protection or your partner destroys it, the order is still in effect. You can get another copy from the court that issued it.
IMPORTANT: If your partner violates any part of the order of protection, you can call the police and report the violation, contact your attorney, call your advocate, and/or tell the court about the violation. Keep a record of who you contact for help, including: name, date, reason and how they respond.
Taking Care of Yourself
It is important to plan for your physical safety, but it is also important to plan for your emotional health and safety. You might be stressed, confused, frightened, and sad. Think about:
- Who you can call if you are feeling down, lonely, or confused.
- Taking care of your physical health needs. Your health is very important. If you do not have a doctor, consider contacting a local clinic. (For information about records confidentiality,see “Health Insurance Information” in the section entitled New York State Laws That Can Help Protect You.) Who to contact if you are worried about your children’s health and well-being.
- Who you can call for support if you are thinking about going back to your partner and want to talk it out with someone.
- Attending support groups, workshops, or classes at the local domestic violence program or another community agency.
- Looking at how and when you use drugs and alcohol, and what to do if you need help.
NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline
English & español, Multi-Language Accessibility National Relay Service for Deaf or Hard of Hearing: 711
CONFIDENTIAL 24 HRS/ 7 DAYS
In NYC: 311 or 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)