While you cannot control your partner’s abusive behavior, you can plan ahead to think about safety for you and your children. You can plan to increase your safety even if you are still living with your partner. Some things you may be doing already without even realizing it. Safety planning is an ongoing process of looking at the ways you already keep yourself safe, and the ways in which you can be even safer. Listening to your own gut instincts is the first step. Remember that you are not alone and that help is available to you.
1. Identifying and assessing danger
Identify your partner’s use and level of violence so that you can assess danger to you and your children prior to a violent incident:
- My gut tells me that violence is about to occur when:
- The following issues seem to cause disagreements or situations which normally lead to violence:
- I have determined that I/children are most vulnerable when:
2. Safety during an explosive incident.
If an incident seems unavoidable, try to have it in a room or area that has access to an exit. Be careful of rooms like the bathroom (with only one exit and hard surfaces), kitchen (knives), basement, or a room that is near weapons.
- The safest rooms in my house are:_______________________ &
- During a violent incident, I have to avoid the following rooms in my or my abusive partner’s house:
- If it is safe, I will get rid of or lock up all weapons in my home if my partner is nearing a violent stage, or is in a violent state of the cycle.
- I may need to leave or escape from my home. In preparation for this, I need to think about the following:
_____ The nearest pay phone to my house is _____________________.
_____ I have a cordless phone to take from room to room with me.
_____ I have a phone I can hide (under the bed, or in a closet) with the ringer off to use in case of emergencies. My partner will not know about this phone.
_____ My telephone is programmed directly to the police.
_____ I have emergency numbers.
_____ I know what and how to say what I need in order to get help immediately. If I have a cell phone, I know to identify my location to the operator immediately.
_____ I will tell (neighbor)_________________ to call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from my home and/or I will work out a signal with them.
_____ I have told my neighbors/relatives of times when I feel I am most vulnerable.
_____ I have taught my children emergency numbers and given instructions to call when there is violence. My code word with my children is ________. When they hear this word they know to leave the house.
_____ I have rehearsed with my kids the information to give to the police.
_____ My children have been told not to get involved in violence between me and my partner.
_____ I have told the children that neither they nor I cause the violence, even if we are accused of that.
_____ I have told my children that when my partner is violent, we need to take care of ourselves.
_____ I will make a habit of backing my car into the driveway and keeping it fueled.
_____ I have a packed bag ready in case I need to leave quickly. This bag is hidden or I have left it at work or at a neighbor’s house.
- I realize that I am taking a risk when I tell the children about our plan because one of them may tell my partner. If this happens, I will:
- I can keep my purse/tokens/car keys ready and put them:
- If I have to leave my home, I can go:
- If I cannot go to this location, then I can go to:
- I will use my judgment and intuition. If the situation is very serious, I can give my partner what he/she needs or wants to calm him/her down. I have to protect myself until I/we are out of danger.
3. Safety when preparing to leave.
I can use some or all of the following strategies:
- I will have money and an extra set of keys with ______________ so I can leave quickly.
- I will keep copies of important documents at
- I will open a savings account by __________________(date) to increase my independence.
- I will get a post office box so that I may receive mail that my partner won’t know about.
- Other things I can do to increase my independence include:
- I will keep change for phone calls or purchase a phone card.
- I will leave extra clothes with __________________________________.
- I will rehearse my exit plan and, as appropriate, practice it with my children.
- Important documents I need to set outside the house in a safe place for when I leave are:
___ Personal ID for myself ___ Insurance policies
___ Birth Certificates (mine/kids) ___ Access card
___ Social Security Cards/Numbers ___ Passport/Green card
___ Money ___ Address book
___ Checkbook, ATM cards, bank account numbers
___ Credit Card numbers ____ Keys
___ Pictures of myself, my kids and my partner
___ Pay stubs, income tax returns ____ Children’s toys/clothes
___ Driver’s License/Registration ____ Medications
___ Marriage License/Divorce papers ____ Any ownership papers
___ Custody/paternity papers ____ PFA Order
4. Safety in my own residence
__ I can change the locks on my doors and windows as soon as possible.
__ I can replace the wooden doors with steel/metal doors.
__ I can install security systems, including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, etc.
__ I can install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for each floor in my house/apartment.
__ I can install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my house.
__ I will teach my children how to make a collect call to me.
__ I will tell people who take care of my children which people have permission to pick up my kids and that my partner is not permitted to do so.
___________________________________________ that my partner no longer lives with me and they should call the police if he/she is seen nearby my residence.
5. Safety with a Protection Order.
A PFA is not going to stop a bullet! That may feel like a strong statement, but it is intended to remind you that you still need to consider your safety after you have received the PFA. A piece of paper will not save your life, it can however empower the authorities to take your partner into custody if he or she violates the order or threatens you. Protection orders are most effective when they are enforced and when the abusive partner has a respect for authority/the law.
The following are some steps I can take if I have an order/want to enforce my order:
- I will keep my protection order _______________________ (location). I will always keep copies of it on or near my person.
- I will inform my employer, my closest friend, and ________________ that I have a protective order in effect.
- If my partner destroys the protection order, I can get another copy from the filing unit at Family Court.
- If my partner violates the protection order, I can call the police and report a violation. I can also contact the Women Against Abuse Legal Center for assistance (215) 686-7082.
- I can also file a private criminal complaint.
6. Safety on the job and in public.
I must decide if and when I will tell others that my partner has abused me and that I may be at continued risk. Friends, family and co-workers can help to protect me and I must consider carefully which people to invite to help secure my safety and that of my children.
I might do any or all of the following:
__ Save any threatening emails or voicemail messages. I can use these to take legal action in the future, if I choose to. If I already have a restraining order, the messages can serve as evidence in court that the order was violated.
__ Park close to the entrance of your building, and talk with security, the police, or a manager if I fear an assault at work.
__ Ask ________________ to help screen my calls at work.
__ Relocate my workspace to a more secure area.
__ Obtain a Protection from Abuse Order and include the workplace on the order. I will provide a copy to the police, my supervisor, Human Resources, the front desk, the legal department and security.
__ Provide a picture of my abusive partner to the front desk and/or security. I will let them know what I want them to do if my abusive partner comes to the workplace.
__ Identify an emergency contact person other than my abusive partner should my employer be unable to contact me.
__ Ask someone to escort me to my car or public transportation after work.
__ Consider requesting alternate hours or work locations.
__ Review the safety of my childcare arrangements and consider including the childcare center in my Protection from Abuse Order.
__ I can use different grocery stores and shopping center to conduct my business and shop at hours that are different than those when I was living with my abuser.
7. Safety and drug and alcohol use.
If drug or alcohol use has happened in my relationship with my partner, I can increase my safety by doing some or all of the following:
- If I am going to use alcohol or drugs, I can do so in a safe place and with people who understand the risk of violence and are committed to my safety.
- If my partner uses drugs or alcohol, I can:
- To safeguard my children, I can:
8. Emotional Safety Planning
- These are some people who used to be close to me and that I would like to contact again:
- If I am depressed or I feel lonely, I can…
- I will attend a victim’s support group to gain support from others and learn more about myself and my relationships. I can call __________________________ to ask about support groups.
- If I am upset or mad, these are some things I can do to feel better:
9. Technology Safety Planning
If you suspect your abusive partner knows too much, it is possible that your phone, computer, email, or other activities are being monitored.
If I think my abusive partner may be monitoring my activities, I could increase my safety by:
____ Using a safer computer that my abusive partner does not have easy access to. This may be particularly important when I am looking for help, looking for a new place to live, etc. I can use a safer computer at ____________________(public library, community center, Internet café).
____ Creating a new, additional email account. I will not create or check this new email from a computer my abusive partner could access. Use an anonymous name (not email@example.com).
____ Checking my cell phone settings. If I am using a cell phone provided by the abusive partner, I will consider turning it off when not in use. I could consider locking the keys so my phone won’t automatically answer or call if it is bumped. When on, check the phone settings; if your phone has an optional location service, you may want to switch the location feature off.
____ Changing my passwords and pin numbers frequently. If my abusive partner knows or could guess your passwords, change them quickly and frequently. I will consider any password protected accounts – online banking, voicemail, etc.
____ Using a donated or new cell phone. Cell phone billing records and phone logs might reveal my plans to my abusive partner.
____ Getting a private mailbox and not giving out my real address. When asked by businesses, doctors, and others for my address, I will give them my private mailbox or a safer address. I will try to keep my true residential address out of national databases.
____ Asking about records and data. Many court systems and government agencies publish records to the Internet. I will ask agencies how they protect or publish my records and request that court, government, post office, and others seal or restrict access to my files to protect my safety.