MAKING A SAFETY PLAN.
A personal safety plan is a way of helping you to protect yourself and your children. It helps you to plan in advance how you can maximise your safety and that of your children, should there be a violent incident. It also helps to think things through such as safe exits and rooms that you can lock yourself and your children in should the need arise. Safety Plan also help you prepare if you are planning to leave an abusive relationship.
You may be surprised when you start to think about the suggestions below that you are actually already doing some of these things! We will automatically formulate a safety plan and coping mechanisms in order to calm a potentially dangerous situation, when we are living with an abusive person.
- Think about a safe room in your home, that you could go to with your children in the event of a violent incident. Maybe a room which has a lock on the inside? Try not to go anywhere that has hard surfaces or knives or anything within that could be used as a weapon.
- Could you keep an old mobile phone in this room – hidden – and charged that you could use in an emergency to call someone for help?
- Do you know your escape route? For example, is there any other way out of your home apart from your front door?
- Make sure you have prepared an ’emergency bag’, packed ready in case you need to leave immediately. Keep it hidden out of sight but somewhere you can get to it quickly without your abusive partner seeing. Or would it be safer to keep the bag somewhere else? i.e. a friend maybe or a family member?
Place as many of the following things in your emergency bag:
- Birth certificate for yourself and your children
- National insurance number
- Some money, debit card, credit card
- Proof of benefits
- Medical records (Red book)
- Driver’s License
- Injunction paperwork, divorce or marriage certificates
- School information
- Medications, glasses etc
- Personal items – pictures, address book, small toys for the children, ipad (if applicable)
- Change of clothes and underwear for yourself and your children
- Mobile phone charger (try to keep your mobile phone charged and/or with credit at all times
If you intend to leave the relationship consider the following:
- What would you do if you saw your ex partner in the street or outside your new home?
- Think of a code word or signal that you can share with your children, friends, family, in case you need someone to call the police because it is too dangerous for you to do so safely.
- Unless it is impossible or dangerous, always take your children with you when you leave. It may be more difficult to get them back afterwards if you do not take them there and then.
- Change your mobile number or screen your calls. Do not answer withheld numbers or numbers you do not recognize.
- Do not use ‘hole in the wall; cash dispensers to get money out of your bank. If you receive a paper statement, it will go to your former home address and show the location of where you withdrew the money. Ideally, change from paper to online statements or cancel your bank account and open a new one.
- Inform your children’s schools that you have had to leave. It is never wise to keep the old schools as your ex partner will know where these are and will be able to follow you from them to your safe address.
- If you want your ex partner to have contact with the children, try to arrange this through children’s services, a solicitor of the civil court. It is best, certainly in the first few weeks of leaving, that your ex partner is not able to see your children on his own.
- Get in touch with a solicitor that practises family law. You may want to consider several courses of action. For example, a non-molestation injunction, an occupation order, a prohibited steps order, child arrangement order or divorce. If you are on benefits, you should be able to get legal aid, but even if you aren’t there are places that can help you i.e. The National Centre for Domestic Violence.
- Above all, trust your judgement. Only you know him, what he may or may not do, what he is capable of. Do anything that will calm the situation and him! in order to keep yourself and the children safe.
Make sure you have telephone numbers of close family, friends, on you so that you can contact them for help. If you need to go into a refuge call 0808 2000 247 – Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge.
BUT IF IN DOUBT, CALL