Safety When Preparing to Leave

Remember—leaving can be a dangerous time.

Batterers can become upset and more dangerous when they believe that you are leaving the relationship.

  • If you choose to leave your partner, make a safety plan.
  • Choose a safe place to go. Choose people who you trust and who can help you if you leave.
  • Leave money, extra keys, copies of important documents, and clothes with someone you trust.
  • Purchase a calling card to use or get a 9-1-1 phone from a local battered women’s shelter.
  • Open a savings account in your name and have the statements sent to a relative or friend.
  • If the batterer has access to weapons, has threatened homicide or suicide, has stalked you, or abuses drugs or alcohol, you may be in severe danger.
  • Consult with an advocate from your local domestic violence program who can inform you of your rights, options and resources.

Safety in the Moment

You cannot always avoid a violent incident, so create a safety plan.

  • Determine who you would call for help in a violent situation. Make note of friends’, relatives’, neighbors’, police, and hotline numbers.
  • Memorize emergency phone numbers or keep them on small cards in a safe place.
  • If the abuser has a key to your house or apartment, change or add locks on your doors and windows as soon as possible.
  • Practice getting out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, elevators, or stairs would be best.
  • Avoid rooms with no exits, like a bathroom, and rooms with weapons, like the kitchen.
  • Decide and plan where you will go if you leave your home in an emergency situation.
  • Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret but accessible place so you can leave quickly (see checklist).
  • Identify a neighbor, family member, or friend you can tell about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home. Create a signal for them to call the police—like if a certain light is on or a shade pulled down or a code word. 
  • Get medical attention if you are hurt in any way.
  • Speak with an advocate from the local domestic violence program who can inform you of your rights and options.

Safety with Children

  • Teach children not to get in the middle of a fight—even if they think they are helping.
  • When children are old enough, practice calling 911 and teach them a safe place to go during a violent incident.
  • Inform your children’s daycare or school about who has permission to pick-up your children.
  • Talk to your children about who they can trust.
  • Discuss safety strategies with children who have unsupervised visits with the abuser.

Safety with a Protective Order

  • Protective orders do not guarantee complete safety, but can be a good idea if you fear retaliation from the batterer for leaving the abuse.
  • Consult with a SAFEPLAN Advocate for help with the process of obtaining a protective order.
  • Show the judge any pictures of injuries.
  • Make extra copies of the protective order and keep them with you at all times. Also keep copies in a safe place like: your car, at friends’ or relatives’ homes, at work, and at your children’s daycare or school.
  • Inform family, friends, neighbors, employers, your physician or health care provider, and your children’s daycare or school that you have a protective order in effect.
  • Screen your calls. If necessary, keep a record of all contact a batterer makes, such as phone calls, text messages, voice mail messages, and emails.
  • If you move to another town or state, remember that the protective order is still valid. It is a good idea to register the protective order in your new town with the police.
  • Call the police if your abuser does something the protective order says not to do—this is a violation.

Safety on the Job and in Public

  • Change your route from and to work frequently.
  • Provide your employer with a current picture of the abuser.
  • Determine who can help you, while at work or in the public. Try to find a “safe” person at work, so they can look out for you. Provide a picture of the abuser if necessary.
  • Have someone escort you to your car, bus or train. Create a plan for what you would do if something happened while in public.
  • Have a co-worker screen incoming telephone calls, and document anything harassing. 
  • Make sure your employer has up-to-date emergency information.
  • When you are out in public, be aware of your surroundings.

Safety and Technology

It’s easy to track your personal information on the internet.

  • Abusers may be able to track your recent history on the internet if they have access to the computer you use. Using a public computer, such as one at a local library, a friend’s computer or a computer at your work may prevent your abuser from tracking your activities online. Clear your browsing history as frequently as possible.
  • If an abuser knows the password to your email account, they may be able to read your mail. Try to change it to something no one will be able to guess or create a new email account that only you will know.
  • Since it is possible to track calls using a phone bill, consider getting a new phone if yours is provided by your abuser. Also, check your cell phone settings to see if it has an optional GPS location service, and try to turn it off if it does.
  • Do a quick search of your name in major search engines (like Google or Yahoo) since they may have links to your contact information.
  • If you think you are being stalked, it is possible that your abuser might have placed a GPS Tracking device in your car. Routinely check both inside and outside your car for any suspicious objects.

Safety and Your Emotional Health

  • Find someone you can talk to freely and openly and who can help you feel supported. If you want reassurances from others who have been through similar situations, you may find this at a support group at your local domestic violence program.
  • Find something you like to do for yourself. You deserve to have happiness in your life.
  • If you are thinking of returning home, discuss your safety plan with someone you trust.
  • Try to go through a third person if you need to communicate with the batterer.
  • Keep in contact with an advocate, attend a support group, consider counseling and other services that might be helpful.

Checklist

As you consider or plan to leave where you are currently living, be as prepared as possible. Gather items that others in your situation have found extremely helpful to take. Try to put items in one safe location so that if you have to leave in a hurry, you can grab them quickly. Store as many of them as possible in a safe place or with a trusted person outside of your home.

___Identification and/or driver’s license
___Passport for self and children
___Social security cards, for self and children
___Birth certificates for self and children
___Green card/immigration papers/work permits
___Welfare identification
___Marriage Certificate, Divorce papers, including custody order and will
___Car title and registration
___Cash, credit cards, ATM card, cell phone (warning: credit card and cell phone use could potentially be traced by an abuser)
___Checkbook, bank books, and withdrawal slips
___Health insurance or medical card
___Medications or prescriptions
___Medical records for all family members
___Address book
___School records
___Lease, rental agreement, house deed
___Keys for the house and car
___Protective order, if you have one
___Jewelry
___Pets (if you can)
___Children’s small toys and/or blankets
___Pictures and personal items with special meaning or that cannot be replaced
___Change of clothes, for self and children
___Journal of abusive behavior, including photographs
___Abuser’s personal information: social security, date of birth, and pay stubs
___Various insurance papers such as life, homeowner’s