Tips and resources for Safety
Safety for Survivors
Every survivor of domestic violence has their own sense of what will keep them safer. For some people, being safer means leaving their abusive partner, and for other people, it means staying with the person causing harm, and finding ways to be safer at home with that person. There is not one way to plan for safety that works for everyone. Different life situations may mean that domestic violence is not the only safety concern someone is facing. Safety strategies should fit with each person’s life circumstances and plans. DVHopeline advocates are here to help with personalized safety planning.
When living with an abusive partner
- Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger to you and your children before it occurs. Trust your instincts and judgment!
- Identify safe areas of your home where there are no weapons (even kitchen knives), and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.
- If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help.
- Tell trusted friends and neighbors about your situation and develop a plan and code word for when you need help.
- Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the room or house.
- Practice how to get out of the house safely. Practice with your children.
- Plan for what you will do if your children tell your partner of your plan, or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.
- Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
If you are planning to leave your partner
- Open savings and credit card accounts in your name only, and instruct institutions that your partner is not to have access to them.
- Leave money, extra keys, copies of important documents, extra medicine and clothes with someone you trust so you can leave quickly.
- Determine safe people you can stay with at any time, and who can help you leave. Your partner might increase their use of violence after you leave.
- Review and rehearse your safety plan.
- Get reliable support for yourself at a domestic violence agency, counselor, your own cultural or religious community or other place that feels safe to you. Leaving is hard.
Remember, your partner may monitor your texts, emails, and internet activity. If you are planning to flee to a particular location, don’t look at classified ads for jobs and apartments, make travel reservations, etc. for that place on any device that could be monitored. It’s safer to use a computer at the public library, your job, or at a trusted friend’s house.
For more information about safety planning, go to https://www.newbegin.org/find-help/staying-safe/safety-plan/
Safety for Children:
When domestic violence is happening in a family, children almost always know about it, even if they don’t actually see or hear it. Children may be in danger if they try to stop the violence. Each family’s situation is unique. Below are some tips for talking to children about safety:
- Before talking about safety with their children, parents first have to talk about the violence in their family. This is a chance to acknowledge that the violence is happening, and that it can be hard and scary. Parents can tell their child that children are not responsible for the violence, or for the safety of the person being abused.
- Talk with children to identify options that work for them when the violence happens. This might include locking themselves in a room where they feel safer, or leaving the house and going to the home of a trusted neighbor, friend or family member.
- Identify “safe adults,” who are close friends or family members that chidren could call or text when violence happens.
- Set up a code word in advance to use with those friends or family members.
- Make plans with siblings to meet together outside of the house.
- Invite the child to talk about what would help them feel safer and, when possible find ways to make that happen.
- Give school/day care staff a copy of any domestic violence related court orders and tell them not to release your children to anyone without checking with you.
Safety for Pets:
Pets are often at risk in domestic violence situations. Here are some ideas for keeping your pets safe.
- If you are concerned about the safety of your pets, avoid leaving them alone with the person causing harm.
- If you’re planning to leave and can’t take your pet with you, talk to friends, family, or your veterinarian about temporary care for your pet. If they can’t help, search for services that assist domestic violence survivors with safekeeping for their pets, or ask DVHopeline advocates. For help finding an animal shelter, visit the Humane Society website.
- If you decide to leave your home and take your pets with you, bring supplies for them, including their food and medications, copies of their medical records, leash and carrier, your pet’s favorite toy and bedding, and other items that are important to them.
- If you have to leave your pet behind with the person causing harm and are concerned about the animal’s safety, consider seeking assistance from local services like animal control to see if they can intervene.
People who cause harm often use technology as a way to control, monitor, threaten and harass their partners. If you think you are being monitored, you probably are.
Below are a few digital safety tips from the Technology Safety Project of the National Network Ending Domestic Violence. There is a lot more helpful information available at their website.
- Consider using a different, safer device. If you think the person causing harm is monitoring your computer, tablet, or mobile device, try using a different device that the person hasn’t had access to in the past, and doesn’t have access to now (like a computer at a library or a friend’s phone). This could give you an option for communication that cannot be monitored by this person.
- Change your passwords and usernames. If you think your online accounts are being accessed, change your usernames and passwords using a safer device. Once you’ve updated the account information, it’s important not to access those accounts from a device you think is being monitored. You can also consider creating new accounts, such as a new email address with a username that doesn’t identify you, instead of your actual name or other revealing information. Read more tips from the NNEDV about Password Safety.
- Check your devices & settings. Go through your mobile device, apps, and online accounts, and check the privacy settings to make sure that other devices or accounts aren’t connected to yours, and that any device-to-device access, like Bluetooth, is turned off when you’re not using it. Make sure you know what each of your apps are and what they do. Delete any apps on your device that are unfamiliar or unused.
- Protect your location. If the person causing harm seems to always know where you are, they might be tracking you through your mobile device, your vehicle, or by using a location tracker. You can check your mobile devices, apps, and accounts to see if location sharing is turned on, and update the settings to best suit your needs.