Safety planning

Why create a domestic violence safety plan?

A safety plan helps with strategies for keeping safe while you are in an abusive relationship, when you are ready to leave the relationship and after you have left. Call HAVEN’s support line (406-586-4111) to receive help building a personalized safety plan.

Creating a Safety Plan

You do not have control over your partner’s behavior, but you do have a choice about how to respond. It is very difficult to decide to leave a relationship and seek safety either with someone you know or in a domestic violence shelter. It might take several attempts before you can permanently leave. Once you decide that leaving is in your best interest, you still need to cope with the emotional, physical, and financial issues that arise. We strongly recommend that you make a safety plan. Your plan addresses you and your family’s individual situation and helps to ensure that if you decide to leave you are as safe as you can be and have everything that you need.

Part of being safe is understanding your situation. It is important that you know that the pattern of abuse often begins with behaviors like name-calling and threats and can escalate to physical violence and sexual assault, or even murder. If you are afraid of your partner, you need to trust your instincts about your safety and your children’s safety. You are not alone. We are here to help you.

The following guide can help you make a safety plan. Remember that if you write out your plan, you need to keep it in a place where your partner won’t find it. We suggest that you work on a plan with one of our experienced advocates. You can do this by calling HAVEN, 406-586-4111.

If you are in an abusive relationship, think about…

  • Having important phone numbers nearby for you and your children. Numbers to have are the police, hotlines, friends and the local shelter (586-4111).
  • Friends or neighbors you could tell about the abuse. Ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent noises. If you have children, teach them how to dial 911. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help.
  • How to get out of your home safely. Practice ways to get out.
  • Safer places in your home where there are exits and no weapons. If you feel abuse is going to happen try to get your abuser to one of these safer places.
  • When an argument begins, try to have it in a room or area where you have access to an exit. Try to stay away from the bathroom, garage, kitchen or near weapons or anywhere else where weapons might be available.
  • Are there any weapons in the house? Think about ways that you could get them out of the house.
  • Even if you do not plan to leave, think of where you could go. Think of how you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house – taking out the trash, walking the pet or going to the store. Put together a bag of things you use every day (see the checklist below). Hide it where it is easy for you to get.
  • Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the batterer.
  • Going over your safety plan often.
  • Use your own judgment and feelings. If the situation is dangerous, consider giving the abuser what they want to calm them down.

If you consider leaving your abuser, think about…

  • Four places you could go if you leave your home.
  • People who might help you if you left. Think about people who will keep a bag for you. Think about people who might lend you money. Make plans for your pets.
  • Keeping change for phone calls or getting a cell phone.
  • Opening a bank account or getting a credit card in your name.
  • Get your own post office box so that you can receive mail and checks.
  • How you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house – taking out the trash, walking the family pet, or going to the store. Practice how you would leave.
  • How you could take your children with you safely. There are times when taking your children with you may put all of your lives in danger. You need to protect yourself to be able to protect your children.
  • Putting together a bag of things you use every day. Hide it where it is easy for you to get.
  • Think about reviewing your safety plan often.

CAUTION – Often it can get worse when you try to leave or show signs of independence (like going to school or filing for divorce). The batterer may become desperate. Be careful.

If you have left your abuser, think about…

  • Your safety – you still need to.
  • Getting a cell phone. Haven may be able to provide you with a cell phone that is programmed to only call 911. These phones are for when you need to call the police and cannot get to any other phone.
  • Getting a Temporary Order of Protection (TOP) from the court. Keep a copy with you all the time. Give a copy to the police, people who take care of your children, their schools and your boss.
  • Changing the locks. Consider putting in stronger doors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a security system and outside lights.
  • Telling friends and neighbors that your abuser no longer lives with you. Ask them to call the police if they see your abuser near your home or children.
  • Telling people who take care of your children the names of people who are allowed to pick them up.
  • Not using the same stores or businesses that you did when you were with your abuser.
  • Someone that you can call if you feel down. Call that person if you are thinking about going to a support group or workshop.
  • Safe way to speak with your abuser if you must.
  • Going over your safety plan often.

Safety with a protective order:

Keep your protective order with you at all times. Give a copy to a trusted friend or family member.
Call the police immediately if your abuser breaks the protective order, for any reason.
Think of ways to keep safe if the police don’t come right away.
Tell your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, landlord and health care provider that you have a protective order.

Safety at work and in public:

Decide which co-workers you can tell about your situation. Include office or building security.
Provide a picture of your partner if you have one.
Arrange to have an answering machine, caller ID or someone screen calls for you.
Vary your routine.
Have a safety plan to use when you leave work. Ask someone to walk you to your car, bus or train. Use a different way to go home. Think of what you would do if something happened on the way home.

Safety and emotional help:

  • If you are thinking of going back to your abusive partner, talk to someone you trust first about another option.
  • If you have to communicate with your partner, do it in public or on the telephone.
  • Have positive thoughts about yourself. Be assertive with other people about what you need.
  • Decide whom you can call to talk openly and who can give you the support you need.
  • Plan to attend a women’s support group to gain support from others and to learn more about the effects of abuse and control.
  • Call HAVEN’s Hotline for more information about individual counseling.

Items to bring when you leave…

If possible, think about taking the following with you when you leave:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • School & medical records
  • Money, bank books, credit cards
  • Keys-house, car, office
  • Driver’s license & registration
  • Medications
  • Copy of Protection Order
  • Welfare identification
  • Passports, green cards, work permits
  • Lease/rental agreement
  • Divorce papers
  • Insurance papers
  • Address book