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Safety Planning for Women

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If you’re in an abusive relationship, safety planning is crucial whether you plan to remain in your home or leave. Making a safety plan involves identifying actions to increase your safety and that of your children. It can feel overwhelming. But you can accomplish one action at a time and begin with the one that is easiest and feels safest for you.

Protecting Yourself While Living With an Abuser

  • Tell someone you trust about the abuse.
  • Think about your partner’s past use and level of force. This will help you predict what type of danger you and your children are facing and when to leave.
  • Tell your children that abuse is never right, even when someone they love is being abusive. Tell them the abuse isn’t their fault; they did not cause it, and neither did you. Teach them it is important to keep safe when there is abuse.
  • Plan where to go in an emergency. Teach your children how to get help. Tell them not to get between you and your partner if there is violence. Plan a code word to signal they should get help or leave.
  • Don’t run to a place where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
  • Create a plan to get out of your home safely and practice it with your children.
  • Ask your neighbours, friends and family to call the police if they hear sounds of abuse and to look after your children in an emergency.
  • If an argument is developing, move to a space where you can get outside easily. Don’t go to a room where there is access to potential weapons (e.g. kitchen, workshop, bathroom).
  • If you are being hurt, protect your face with your arms around each side of your head, with your fingers locked together. Don’t wear scarves or long jewellery.
  • Park your car by backing it into the driveway and keeping it fuelled.
  • Hide your keys, cell phone and some money near your escape route.
  • Have a list of phone numbers to call for help. Call the police if it is an emergency. Your local shelter or police may be able to equip you with a panic button/cell phone.
  • Make sure all weapons and ammunition are hidden or removed from your home.

Getting Ready to Leave

  • Contact police or a local women’s shelter. Let the staff know that you intend to leave an abusive situation and ask for support in safety planning. Ask for an officer who specializes in woman abuse cases (information shared with the police may result in charges being laid against the abuser).
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask them to document your visit.
  • Gather important documents: identification, bank cards, financial papers related to family assets, last Canada Income Tax Return, keys, medication, pictures of the abuser and your children, passports, health cards, personal address/telephone book, cell phone, and legal documents (e.g. immigration papers, house deed/lease, restraining orders/peace bonds).
  • If you can’t keep these things stored in your home for fear your partner will find them, consider making copies and leave them with someone you trust. Your local women’s shelter will also keep them for you.
  • Consult a lawyer. Keep any evidence of physical abuse (such as photos). Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events, threats and any witnesses.
  • Put together pictures, jewellery and objects of sentimental value, as well as toys and comforts for your children.
  • Arrange with someone to care for your pets temporarily, until you get settled. A shelter may help with this.
  • Remember to clear your phone of the last number you called to avoid his utilizing redial.

Leaving the Abuser

  • Request a police escort or ask a friend, neighbour or family member to accompany you when you leave.
  • Contact your local women’s shelter. It may be a safer temporary spot than going to a place your partner knows.
  • Do not tell your partner you are leaving. Leave quickly.
  • Have a back-up plan if your partner finds out where you are going.

After Leaving

  • Visit the closest police station and ask to speak to an officer who specializes in woman abuse cases.
  • Consider applying for a restraining order or peace bond that may help keep your partner away from you and your children. Keep it with you at all times.
  • Provide police with a copy of any legal orders you have.
  • Consult a lawyer or legal aid clinic about actions to protect yourself and your children. Let your lawyer know if there are any Criminal Court proceedings.
  • Consider changing any service provider that you share with your ex-partner.
  • Obtain an unlisted telephone number, get caller ID, and block your number when calling out.
  • Make sure your children’s school or day care centre is aware of the situation and has copies of all relevant documents.
  • Carry a photo of the abuser and your children with you.
  • Ask your neighbours to look after your children in an emergency and to call the police if they see the abuser.
  • Take extra precautions at work, at home, and in the community. Consider telling your supervisor at work about your situation.
  • Think about places and patterns that your ex-partner will know about and try to change them. For example, consider using a different grocery store or place of worship.
  • If you feel unsafe walking alone, ask a neighbour, friend or family member to accompany you.
  • Do not return to your home unless accompanied by the police. Never confront the abuser.

There is help and hope. For support visit www.shelternet.ca or call or the Abused Women’s 24 hour hotline at 1-800-265-1576 and press 7 to speak with a counselor.


Courtesy of Neighbours, Friends and Families.