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Safety Planning

If you are in immediate DANGER or fear for your safety, please CALL 911. If you are not in immediate danger, call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 for information about services that are available throughout BC.

 

Emergency Escape Plan

Documents: Keep these items in a safe place (e.g. at a friend’s or family member’s home, with a lawyer, in a safety deposit box). Make copies and keep the copies in a separate place from the originals.

  • passports, birth certificates, status card, immigration papers for all family members
  • school and vaccination records
  • driver’s license and registration
  • medications, prescriptions, medical records for all family members
  • work permits
  • divorce papers, custody documentation, court orders, restraining orders, marriage certificate
  • lease/rental agreement, house deed, mortgage payment book
  • bank information, account numbers, safety deposit key
  • insurance papers
  • address/telephone book
  • picture of spouse/partner/children/other family members
  • health cards for yourself and family members
  • copies of all cards you normally use: e.g. credit cards, bank cards, phone, Social Insurance

Cards: Keep all the cards you normally use in your wallet. Keep your wallet and purse handy, and containing the following:

  • car/house/office keys
  • cheque book, bank books/statements
  • driver’s license, registration, insurance
  • address/telephone book
  • picture of spouse/partner
  • emergency money (in cash) hidden away

In case you have to leave quickly, keep the following items handy:

  • emergency suitcase with immediate needs
  • special toys, comforts for children
  • jewelry
  • small saleable objects
  • items of special sentimental value
  • a list of other items you would like to take if you get a chance to come back to your home later

Children: Take your children with you when you leave for safety. Many women have reported extreme difficulty in gaining custody of their children after leaving abusive relationships if they initially left their children behind. Please call your local community-based victim services program (or VictimLINK at 1-800-563-0808 for the nearest program in your community) to gather more information with regards to your children and their safety.

Some Things to Keep in Mind: 

Open a bank account:

  • In your own name
  • Arrange that no bank statements or other calls be made to you
  • Or, arrange that mail be sent to a friend or family member
  • Save and set aside as much money as you can

Planning:

  • Plan your emergency exits
  • Plan and rehearse the steps you will take if you have to leave quickly, and learn them well
  • Have extra clothing, house keys, car keys, money, etc. at a friend’s house
  • Keep an emergency suitcase packed or handy (and be ready to pack quickly)
  • Consider getting a safety deposit box at a bank that your partner does not go to

If Living with an Abusive Partner

  • Get your Emergency Escape Plan in order and review it often.
  • Create a telephone list with numbers of local police, nearest women’s shelter, assaulted women’s help line, crisis help line, family members, counsellors, children’s friends.
  • Make arrangements with friends or family so that you can stay with them if necessary.
  • If you can predict the next likely violent episode and make plans for the children to be sent to friends, family or other safe place.
  • Teach the children to let you know when someone is at the door and not to answer the door on their own.
  • Teach your children how to use the phone (landline or cell) to contact the police and the fire department.
  • Create a code word with your children and/or friends so they know to call for help.
  • Teach your children how to make a collect call to you and to special friends or family if your partner takes the children.
  • Plan your emergency exits, teach your children and know them well.
  • Teach your children their own Safety Plan

If Not Living with an Abusive Partner

  • Change the locks on the doors and windows. Install a peephole in the door. Change the locks on your garage and mailbox.
  • Teach your children to tell you if someone is at the door and to not answer the door on their own.
  • Keep your restraining order near you at all times.
  • Make sure that the school, day care, and police have a copy of all court orders, including restraining orders, custody and access orders, as well as a picture of the abusive partner.
  • Try to anticipate the next likely violent incident and be prepared.
  • If you have call display on your phone, be careful about who can get access to the stored numbers (for example, the last number dialed).
  • Have your telephone number unpublished, as it is harder to track than when it is unlisted.
  • Block your number when calling out (check with your phone company to see if this feature is available and, if so, how to do this with your phone system).
  • Ensure internet safety – delete the history after visiting sites such as this one
  • Consider getting a cell phone and preprogram numbers of people to call.
  • Consider moving your furniture around differently as this is something your partner may not anticipate, and cause him to bump into it and give you warning that he is in the house. Also put your kitchen utensils and knife block in the cupboards so they are not as accessible.
  • If you live in an apartment, check the floor clearly when getting off the elevator. Look in mirrors and be aware of doorways in hallways. Speak to security, or make an anonymous call, requesting safety in your building.
  • Purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from upper floors.
  • If you have a balcony, consider putting wire around it.
  • Replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors if possible.
  • Install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers for each floor.
  • Consider the advantages of getting a guard dog.
  • Install an outside sensor lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to your house.
  • Do whatever you can to install security systems, including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, an electronic system, etc. – anything to provide added security.

In the Neighbourhood

  • Tell your neighbours that you would like them to call the police if they hear a fight or screaming in your home.
  • Tell people who take care of your children and about which people have permission to pick up your children.
  • Tell people in your neighbourhood that your partner no longer lives with you, and they should call the police if he or his car are spotted near your home. You may wish to give them a photo and description of him/her and of their car.
  • Ask your neighbours to look after your children in an emergency.
  • Hide clothing and your Emergency Escape Plan items at a neighbour’s house.
  • Use different grocery stores and shopping malls, and shop at hours that are different from when you were living with your abusive partner.
  • Use a different bank or branch, and take care of your banking at hours different from those you used with your abusive partner.
  • Change your doctor, dentist and other professional services you would normally use.
  • Do not put your name in your apartment building directory.

At Work

Each woman must decide for herself if and/or when she will tell others that her partner is abusive and that she may be at risk. Friends, family and co-workers may be able to help protect women. However, you should consider carefully which people to ask for help. If you are comfortable, you may choose to do any or all of the following:

  • Tell your boss, the security supervisor, and other key people or friends at work about your situation.
  • Ask to have your calls screened at work. It would also help to have these calls documented.
  • Discuss the possibility of having your employer call the police if you are in danger from your (ex) partner.

When arriving at or leaving work:

  • Let someone know when you’ll be home.
  • Carry your keys in your hands.
  • Get a remote or keyless entry car door opener.
  • Walk with someone to your car.
  • Scan the parking lot.
  • Walk around your car, look under the hood and check if anything has been tampered with and check brakes. Remember to keep your car seats forward, so you know if someone is hiding in the car.
  • If your partner is following you, drive to a place where there are people to support you, for example, a friend’s house or a police station.
  • If you have underground parking, consider parking across the street.
  • Keep a sign in your car saying “call police”.
  • If you are walking, take a route that is populated.
  • Change the patterns of when you arrive and leave work and the routes you take home.
  • If you see your partner on the street and he sees you, try to get to a public place such as a store.
  • If you see your partner on the street and he sees you, call attention to yourself and request help.

An Emotional Safety Plan

Being abused and verbally degraded is exhausting and emotionally draining. The process of surviving and building a new life requires much courage and incredible energy.

To conserve your emotional energy and to support yourself in hard emotional times, here are some things you can do:

  • Attend individual or group counselling sessions.
  • Become involved in community activities to reduce feeling isolated.
  • Enroll in school to increase your skills.
  • Join support groups of other women to gain support and strengthen your relationships with other people.
  • Take time for yourself to read, meditate, play music, etc.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good and provide support.
  • Take part in social activities, e.g. movie, dinner, exercise.
  • Take care of your sleep and nutritional needs.
  • Take time to prepare yourself emotionally before entering stressful situations like talking with your partner, meeting with lawyers, or attending court.
  • Try not to overbook yourself – limit yourself to one appointment per day to reduce stress.
  • Be creative and do whatever makes you feel good.
  • Write something positive about yourself everyday – your own personal affirmations.
  • Monitor your use of alcohol or food.
  • Avoid excessive shopping and impulse buying.
  • Join a health club or start an exercise program to increase your energy level and your sense of well-being.
  • It’s OK to feel angry. Find positive and constructive ways to express your anger.
  • Remember that you are the most important person to take care of right now.

A Child's Safety Plan

This plan was developed to help mothers teach their children some basic safety planning. It is based on the belief that the most important thing that children can do for their mothers and their families is to get away from the area of violence! They cannot stop the abuse, although they often try by distracting the abuser or directly interfering in the abusive episode. It is important to tell the child that the best and most important thing for them to do is keep themselves safe.

Children who experience seeing their mom’s abuse can be profoundly affected. It is very traumatic for them to be faced with violence directed at them or at someone they love. Personal safety and safety planning are extremely important and necessary for children whose mothers are experiencing violence. Children need ways to protect themselves.

There are several ways to help you develop a safety plan with your children including:

  • Have your child pick a safe room/place in the house, preferably with a lock on the door and a phone.
  • The first step of any plan is for the children to get out of the room where the abuse is occurring.
  • Stress the importance of being safe, and that it is not the child’s responsibility to make sure that his/her mother is safe.
  • Teach your children how to call for help. It is important that children know they should not use a phone that is in view of the abuser. This puts them at risk. Talk to your children about using a neighbour’s phone or a pay phone if they are unable to use a phone at home. If you have a cell phone, teach your children how to use it.
  • Teach them how to contact police at the emergency number.
  • Ensure that the children know their full name and address (rural children need to know their rural route number, or whatever is applicable).
  • Rehearse what your child/children will say when they call for help. For example:
    • Dial 911.
    • An operator will answer:
    • “Police, Fire, Ambulance.”
    • Your child says:
    • Police.
    • Then your child says:
    • My name is ______________.
    • I am ____ years old.
    • I need help. Send the police.
    • Someone is hurting my mom.
    • The address here is _______________.
    • The phone number here is ______________.
  • It is important for children to leave the phone off the hook after they are done talking. The police may call the number back if they hang up, which could create a dangerous situation for yourself and your child/children.
  • Pick a safe place to meet your children, out of the home, after the situation is safe for you and for them (so you can easily find each other).
  • Teach your children the safest route to the planned place of safety for them.

During a Violent Incident

In order to increase your safety, here are some things you can do:

  • Remind yourself that you have an Emergency Escape Plan, and go over it in your mind.
  • Start to position yourself to get out quickly or near a phone so you can call 911, if necessary.
  • Try to move to a space where the risk is the lowest. (Try to avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, kitchen, near weapons, or in rooms without access to an outside door.)
  • Use your code word with your children so they can call for help.
  • Use your judgment and intuition – if the situation is very serious, you can agree with your partner or give him what he wants to calm him down. You have to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
  • When, or after, you have been assaulted, call the police at 911 if you can. Tell them you have been assaulted and need help. Leave the phone off the hook after your call.
  • Make as much noise as possible (set off the fire alarm, turn up the stereo or TV) – so that neighbours may call the police for you.