Keeping safe including making a safety plan
Domestic abuse is never your fault, it is your partner’s behaviour which is the problem. While you can’t control your partner and what they do there are steps you can take and which you will already be taking which will help you to keep safe.
Developing a safety plan is one way which can help.
A safety plan is a practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action and more.
The following questions will help you develop a safety plan:
- Think about the things you currently do to manage your partner, how well do these work, what are the signs that you need to use them (what feelings etc do you get),
- Think about how you will leave the house or get out of a specific room if you need to get out quickly
- Keep your phone, purse and keys in a place where you can get to them
- Is there anywhere you can leave money and a bag of essentials if you need to leave quickly?
- Make sure you have access to a phone so you can call for help if needed, if you aren’t able to talk after calling the police dial 55 to let them know you need help
- Think about speaking with your neighbours or a friend and ask them to call the police if they hear any noises or if you contact them with a code word
- When you think there is going to be an argument can you move to a lower risk space in the house, where would this be? (try to avoid rooms such as the bathroom, garage, kitchen, near weapons or rooms without access to an outside door)
- Plan what you will do if you need to leave? Keep the number for emergency housing somewhere safe
- If there are children can you speak to them about what to do if they are
scared, where to go what to do. Can they be asked to call the police, how will you let them know you need them to call for help (code word?)
- Try not to wear scarves or long jewellery that could be used to strangle you
- Call the police if you are in danger
Safety when preparing to leave:
There may come a time when you feel that your only option is to leave your partner.
If you decide to leave it is best if you plan this as it can be a particularly dangerous time for you. Plan to take everything with you when you leave as you may not be able to return to get things. Think about putting an emergency bag together which includes things that are important to you and your children.
Thinking about leaving and making the decision to leave can be a long process, planning doesn’t mean you need to carry it out quickly or at all.
Think about where can you keep important documents so you can have access if you need to leave? Try to take birth certificates, passports, benefit letters, bank statements and cards, any immigration documents, driving licence, other important papers.
Do you have your own bank account if not are you able to open your own bank account prior to leaving? Can you set a small amount of money aside each week?
Are there any friends or family you can get support from if you decide to leave? Are you able to leave an emergency bag somewhere?
Can you access public transport if you need to leave, do you know when this runs until? Would you be able to get a taxi if needed how would this be paid for?
Do you need to think about changing your mobile after you leave, can you be tracked through this? Can you switch the tracking off, can GPS and location services be switched off?
Reschedule any appointments that you may have which the abuser may be aware of
Safety after you have left:
If your partner has had the chance to make copies of keys, Is it possible to have the locks on the doors and windows changed?
Consider putting a chain on the door or buying a safety wedge to make it harder for someone to get into the house.
Keep doors locked when you are in the house.
Can wooden doors be replaced with steel/metal doors? Can glass panels be removed or made more secure?
If you had to get out of the house quickly how would you do this?
Are there smoke detectors that work in the property? If there have been threats of fire raising think about getting a fireproof letterbox bag.
Is there good lighting outside the property? Can a motion sensor light be fitted front and back?
What will you tell your children, if you are worried your ex may take the kids what can you get them to do?
Who do you need to tell about what is happening to ensure the kids don’t get handed over to your ex-partner?
Do you need to change your mobile number, or block your partners number and withheld calls? Can you screen your calls let them go to voicemail?
Think about how you protect your privacy on social media who do you need to block? Are there any other forms of technology they can use to track you that you need to switch off or change?
Is it possible you can let the neighbours know so if they see your partner or a stranger hanging about they can contact police or let you know?
Would it be helpful to get legal advice about an interdict or about child contact and residency?
Do you need to ensure your address doesn’t appear on court papers or social work papers?
Is anonymous voter registration required?
Safety at work or in public:
Think about telling people at work about your situation and have your calls screened if possible, see if you can change your start and finish times
Consider changing your route to work, the shops you use, and any other routines
Consider where you and how you park the car (reverse in so you can get out quicker)
When driving if something happens what would you do?
Consider whether a personal panic alarm would be useful?
If you have an interdict or non-harassment order keep a copy of this with you in case you need to contact police.
Protecting your emotional health:
Find ways to remind yourself you deserve respect and to be treated well
Identify the reasons that you left so that If you feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive partner you can be clear about what would need to change and whether this has changed
If you need to communicate with your partner how will you do this safely? Try to identify the tactics/behaviours they use to draw you in and look at ways you can protect yourself from this
Set boundaries and don’t let people overstep these
Identify what will help you feel stronger when you are low, what can you do to help yourself relax or to distract yourself
Identify supportive people or organisations that you can talk to
Be kind to yourself, blaming yourself and guilt can make things worse
If drugs or alcohol are a factor:
How will you implement your safety plan if you have been drinking or using substances? What impact does this have on your ability to keep yourself safe?
What impact may your use of alcohol/drugs have on the response you receive from services/police
How will you stay safe when services arrive – some women see this as a safe opportunity to challenge their partner becoming more aggressive themselves when the police are there
Are you able to anticipate your partner’s substance use, is there anything you can do to increase your safety?
Will your partner try to interfere with any treatment you try get for your substance use?
If considering leaving how will you get your substances, does there need to be contact with health services? Are there people or places you need to stay away from?
If you have disabilities:
Is there any medication, adaptive equipment you need can you take these or will spares be needed?
Will you need any assistance to help you leave, where can you get this from?
Will alternative care arrangements be needed? Who needs to be spoken to about this?