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Depending on your situation, you might be planning to leave an abusive relationship, in the process of leaving or maybe you’ve already left. Or, maybe your friend or family member is experiencing abuse, and you are looking for ways to support them. Safety plans come in all shapes and sizes; they should be unique to the survivor’s needs in the moment.
Before You Leave
Because violence could escalate when someone tries to leave, here are some things you might consider before you leave:
Keep any evidence of abuse, such as pictures of injuries, texts, emails, etc.
Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible. Keep your journal in a safe place.
Know where you can go to get help. Tell someone what is happening to you.
If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
If you have children, identify a safe place for them, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
If you need a safe place to stay, contact your local shelter and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis.
Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college as you can.
Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
When You Leave
Make a plan for how and where you will escape quickly. You may request a police escort or stand-by when you leave. If you have to leave in a hurry, use the following list of items as a guide to what you might need to bring with you, depending on your situation. Remember, our advocates can help you come up with a personalized safety plan for leaving.
Birth certificate and children’s birth certificates
Social security cards
Money and/or credit cards (in your name)
Checking and/or savings account books
2) Legal Papers
Copies of any lease or rental agreements, or the deed to your home
Car registration and insurance papers
Health and life insurance papers
Medical records for you and your children
Work permits/green Card/visa
Divorce and custody papers
3) Emergency Numbers
Your local police and/or sheriff’s department
Your local domestic violence program or shelter
Friends, relatives and family members
Your local doctor’s office and hospital
County and/or District Attorney’s Office
Extra set of house and car keys
Pay-as-you-go cell phone
Pictures and sentimental items
Several changes of clothes for you and your children
After You Leave
Your safety plan should include ways to ensure your continued safety after leaving an abusive relationship. Here are some safety precautions to consider:
Change your locks and phone number.
Call the telephone company to request caller ID. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.
Change your work hours and the route you take to work.
Alert school authorities of the situation.
If you have a restraining order, keep a certified copy of it with you at all times, and inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
Call law enforcement to enforce the order and give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools along with a picture of the offender.
Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail (be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports, and be careful to whom you give your address and phone number).
Reschedule appointments that the abusive partner is aware of.
Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
Alert neighbors and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.
Tell people who take care of your children or drive them/pick them up from school and activities. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order.
Emotional Safety Planning
People often focus on planning around physical safety (which is important!), but it’s also important to consider your emotional safety as well. Emotional safety can look different for different people, but ultimately it’s about creating a personalized plan that helps you feel accepting of your emotions and decisions when dealing with abuse. Below are some ideas for how to create and maintain an emotional safety plan that works for you.
Seek Out Supportive People: A caring presence such as a trusted friend or family member can help create a calm atmosphere to think through difficult situations and allow for you to discuss potential options.
Identify and Work Towards Achievable Goals: An achievable goal might be calling a local resource and seeing what services are available in your area, or talking to one of our advocates at loveisrespect. Remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can help options feel more possible when you are ready.
Create a Peaceful Space for Yourself: Designating a physical place where your mind can relax and feel safe can be good option when working through difficult emotions that can arise when dealing with abuse. This can be a room in your house, a spot under your favorite tree, a comfy chair by a window or in a room with low lights.
Remind Yourself of Your Great Value: You are important and special, and recognizing and reminding yourself of this reality is so beneficial for your emotional health. It is never your fault when someone chooses to be abusive to you, and it has no reflection on the great value you have as person.
Remember That You Deserve to Be Kind to Yourself: Taking time to practice self-care every day, even if it is only for a few minutes, really creates space for peace and emotional safety. It’s healthy to give yourself emotional breaks and step back from your situation sometimes. In the end, this can help you make the decisions that are best for you.
Safety Planning for Family and Friends
As friends and family members, you can help someone in an abusive relationship make a safety plan. Try to remember:
Listen and be supportive. Even when you don’t understand or agree with their decision, don’t judge. They know what’s best and safest for their situation.
Connect them to resources and information in their area. Chat with a peer advocate to find information to share.
Don’t post information about your loved one on social networking sites. Never use sites like Facebook or Foursquare to reveal their current location or where they hang out. It’s possible their partner will use your post to find them. Brush up on your knowledge of digital safety.
Empower the person you’re trying to help to make up their own mind. Leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship may be difficult and even dangerous. Avoid blaming or belittling comments. Abusive partners usually put down their victims regularly, so your loved one’s self-esteem may already be low.
Don’t give up even though helping is frustrating.