Safety when you are in or planning to leave an abusive relationship
Safety planning helps you prepare in advance of potentially dangerous situations in an abusive relationship that puts you, or your children, at risk.
Abusers try to control their victim’s lives. When an abuser feels a loss of control – such as when victims try to leave them, the abuse often gets worse.
Take special care when you leave. Keep being careful even after you have left.
Below are some advice and tools on planning for your safety.
If you are in immediate danger, call:
Safety during an explosive incident
Go to an area that has an exit. Not a bathroom (near hard surfaces), kitchen (knives), or near weapons.
Stay in a room with a phone. Call the closest Garda station, a friend or a neighbour, if possible. Inform them if there are weapons in the home.
Know your escape route. Practice how to get out of your home safely. Visualize your escape route.
Have a packed bag ready. Keep it hidden in a handy place in order to leave quickly, or leave the bag elsewhere if your abuser searches your home.
Devise a code word or signal. Tell your children, grandchildren or neighbours so you can communicate to them that you need the police.
Know where you’re going. Plan where you will go if you have to leave home, even if you don’t think you’ll need to. Know where the closest refuge is, and have their phone number in your phone.
Trust your judgment. Consider anything that you feel will keep you safe and give you time to figure out what to do next. Sometimes it is best to flee, sometimes to placate the abuser – anything that works to protect yourself and the children.
Curl your body into fetal position protecting your head with your hands. If you cannot avoid being assaulted to protect your head and internal organs it is best to curl up into a ball and protect your head with your hands.
Safety when preparing to leave
Leaving your abuser can be a highly dangerous time for you, and your children.
Have a safe place to stay. Make sure it is a place that can protect you and your children or grandchildren. Contact our helpline – 091 565 985, or a domestic violence victim service program. Find out which services and shelters are available as options if you need them. Keep their address and phone number close at hand at all times.
Find someone you trust. Leave money, extra keys, copies of important documents and clothing with them in advance, so you can leave quickly, if necessary.
Open a savings account. Put it in your name only, to increase your independence. Consider direct deposit from your paycheck or benefit check.
Review your safety plan. Study and check your plans as often as possible in order to know the safest way to leave your abuser.
If you need to leave, plan to take these with you
- Marriage and Driver’s licenses
- Birth certificates – yours and family’s
- Money, cheque books, credit cards, ATM cards, mortgage payment book, car title
- Passports, Social Security card, work permit
- Divorce, custody papers and restraining order
- Lease, rental agreement and/or house deed
- School and health records
- Keys – house, car, office, friend’s
- Personal items – address book, pictures, toys
Safety in your own home (if your abuser does not leave with you)
Upgrade your security system. Change the locks on doors and windows as soon as possible. Consider a security service, window bars, better lighting, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Have a safety plan. Teach your children or grandchildren how to call the police or someone they can trust. Have a secret code word that you and your children agree on – to communicate trouble and for the people who are allowed to pick the children up.
Change your phone number. Screen your calls if you have an answering machine or caller ID. Save all messages with threats or that violate any orders. Contact your local phone company about getting an unpublished number.
Talk to neighbours and landlord. Inform them that your abuser no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see the abuser near your home.
Get legal advice. Find a lawyer knowledgeable about domestic abuse and violence to explore orders, custody, access, and maintenance that protect you and the children. Your abuser may be mandated to a batterers’ intervention program. Talk with the program to find out more about potential risks to you while your abuser participates. Additionally, contact your local domestic abuse victim services program.
Safety on the job
Tell somebody. Decide whom at work you will inform of your situation, especially if you have court orders. This may include office security if available. It is your right to request and expect confidentiality from those you disclose to.
Screen your calls. Arrange to have someone screen and log your telephone calls if possible.
Make a safety plan. Create a safety plan for when you enter and leave your workplace. Have someone escort you to your vehicle or other transportation.
If you and your abuser work at the same place, discuss with your supervisor your options regarding scheduling, safety precautions, employee/family benefits.
Contact your domestic abuse victim service program to receive additional information about workplace safety.
Safety in an abusive relationship
If you feel abuse is going to happen, avoid areas with no exits. Try to get your abuser to one of the safer places in your home where there are exits and no weapons. Not a bathroom (near hard surfaces), kitchen (knives), or near weapons.
Have important phone numbers nearby. Numbers to have are the closest Garda station, friends or a neighbour, the refuge. Put these numbers on speed dial on your mobile phone.
What are the important phone numbers to remember?
What are the important phone numbers to remember?
- Friends and family
- Women’s Aid National Free phone Helpline
- Local women’s refuge
- Local rape crisis centre
- Social welfare office
- Housing office
- Your doctor
- Your work supervisor
- Local Garda station
Only keep a written safety plan if it is safe for you to do so. Women’s Aid, your local refuge and domestic violence support service and the Gardaí can assist you as you plan your safety.
Know your escape route. Practice how to get out of your home safely. Visualize your escape route. If living in rural area, try to work out some code, like flashing on and off lights to attract attention.
Have a packed bag ready with all your important documents. Such as passports, birth and marriage certificates, children’s allowance book, etc. If you can, add some clothes, and personal items for you and your children. Keep it hidden in a handy place in order to leave quickly, or leave the bag somewhere else in case your abuser searches your home.
Open a bank account.
Tell someone you trust about the abuse. Tell your children, grandchildren or neighbours to call the police if they hear angry or violent noises. If you have children, teach them how to call the police. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help. Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events, and threats made.
Know where you’re going. Plan where you will go if you have to leave home, even if you don’t think you’ll need to. Know where the closest refuge is, and have their phone number in your phone and try to think how you would get there (like having money aside for a taxi).
Trust your judgment, your instinct. Sometimes it is best to flee, sometimes to placate the abuser – anything that works to protect yourself and the children and give you time to figure out what to do next. If you suspect things are going to blow up, get out of the house or away from him as soon as possible.