Every individual in an abusive relationship needs a safety plan. Plans should cover your specific needs at different times in the cycle of the abusive relationship.
- reducing the risk — why safety plans are important
- staying in the relationship and being ready for crisis
- planning to leave
- after leaving
- safety planning for children and young people
Information is power. The best informed victims are the most powerful and likely to be the safest.
Reducing the risk
The victim does not have control over their partner's abuse but there are ways to reduce the potential for harm. A safety plan is a tool to assist in identifying options and evaluating them, and can limit the harm brought both to the victim and their children. There is no right or wrong way to develop a safety plan but it is important that the victim makes it themselves as it is easier to then remember. If the victim has difficulty in remembering things, ask if their friends or family can keep a copy of the plan. Whether it is safe or not to write the plan down, it is still important to make and think about one.
Staying in a relationship and being ready for crisis
If the victim is not ready to leave the abusive relationship, think about how they can make plans for any potentially violent situation in order to keep them safe. They can:
- Be ready to call 999 if they or their children are in danger. They could set speed dial on phones for 9 to dial 999.
- If an argument occurs, they should try to move to a space that is low risk. Avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, and kitchen — and rooms without an outside exit should also be avoided.
- Plan possible escape routes for every room in the house, even practice the escape — have window/door keys readily available.
- Put handbag/keys/money in a safe accessible place or with someone trusted so that they can be grabbed in a hurry.
- Let friends/neighbours that are trusted know about the situation and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises.
- Teach the children, if and when appropriate, to call for help. They should never use a phone in front of the abuser as this may endanger them further.
- Talk to children about what is happening and encourage them to call for help and not to intervene. Emergency numbers may be programmed into the phone or the children's mobile phones.
- Create code words or a phrase for friends and children so that they know when to call for help and/or leave danger areas.
- To avoid confusion keep the code the same for everyone and make sure that they know where the victim is if they activate the code by phone.
- Plan where to go in an emergency and have an alternative route.
- Use judgement of the abuser to protect the victim and their children. The victim is in no way co-operating with the abuser if they give him what he wants in order to protect themself.
- Pack a survival kit so that it is ready if needed to leave in a hurry. This ideally should include: money, change of clothes, extra house/car keys, birth certificates ( if it is not possible to get the originals try to get photocopies), marriage certificates, passports, any legal documents (especially showing jointly owned property and details in relation to immigration status), credit card and bank details, medication and any documents in relation to children. Keep them in a safe place such as with a friend or relative or hidden somewhere.
- Use 141 when making a call or telephone 150 to discuss with BT Customer Services so the numbers cannot be traced.
- Choose a place to go — talk to a close friend or relative about the abuse and talk to them about staying with them in an emergency.
- Remember the victim can always go to a police station or social services for help — make sure helpline numbers especially 24 hour ones are easily accessible and keep or learn a list of important phone numbers e.g. Police Domestic Abuse Unit, outreach worker, solicitor, doctor, school etc.
- Talk to a solicitor or other professionals who may be able to help.
- Make careful notes about what is happening including times, dates, any professionals seen and any injuries received. These notes can assist in accessing legal and welfare rights should they ever be needed.
- In an emergency dial 999.
Planning to leave
One of the most dangerous times for the escalation of violence is when the victim makes the decision to leave the relationship. Contact professionals for support and advice — contact the Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Helpline or the National Domestic Abuse Helpline. Also consider contacting the police for support. Keep the following in mind:
- Ensure a survival kit is accessible and that it is up to date and has all the relevant documents or photocopies, money and clothing needed. See the section above to find out about survival kits.
- A safe place needs to be arranged for the victim and their children to stay. Depending on what is wanted it may be out of area, or within the locality.
- The time for leaving needs to be carefully planned. Allow adequate time to pack and get away safely.
- Possibly discuss matters with a solicitor prior to fleeing in relation to child access or financial arrangements.
- Information is power and the best informed victims are the most powerful.
- A planned escape is the safest way to leave a violent relationship.
Many survivors want to stay in the local area where they have always lived. This sadly opens up the possibility for further abuse from the now estranged partner. It has to be remembered that the most dangerous times for the escalation of abuse are disclosure and departure. Safety planning has to be an ongoing process for some length of time.
- If staying in the home, secure the premises e.g. changing locks, window locks, burglar alarm, and movement sensitive lights. Speak to the Crime Reduction Advisor at the local police station or contact the Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Helpline for advice on other schemes that are available across the county.
- Use 141 when making a call or telephone 150 to discuss with BT Customer Services so the numbers cannot be traced. Or have a mobile phone that is only used for the ex partner.
- Discuss the situation with the children's school.
- The victim should not agree for their ex partner to attend the house alone. All meetings should happen in a public place.
- If at all possible any access visits should be organised through a third party. Family and friends can pick the children up and drop them off at school.
- Should the ex-partner's harassment continue, then keep a diary of events for the solicitor or should any criminal behaviour take place, contact the police.
- If the police are involved already then contact the Police Domestic Abuse Investigation Unit and update them with the current situation. This will allow a more comprehensive risk assessment to take place and an escalation of the safety measures if so needed.
- Discuss the situation with a solicitor, who will be able to advise on the use of injunctions, restraining or occupation orders.