- Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Many times, victims of violence will not be able to avoid the violent incident. That is why a safety plan is so very important. To increase your safety, answer the following questions for yourself or for someone who you love that is in a domestic violence situation.
A. Practice how to get out safely: What doors, windows, elevators, stairwells or fire escapes would I use?
If I decide to leave, I will use what exit strategy:______________________
B. I can keep my purse and car keys ready, always being sure to keep them in a certain place so that I can leave quickly. I can also leave a set of keys with a trusted friend or relative. I will make sure they know WHY so they don't accidentally let it slip if my abuser talks with them. I can put a set of keys in my desk drawer at work or hidden somewhere on the outside of my home. I can get a magnetic key box that attaches under the fender of the car.
I can stash keys at:______________________
C. I can tell certain neighbors about the situation and request they call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my house. I can create a code with my neighbors by telling them if a certain light is left on all night long, that they should call the police, or that they should keep an eye open to see if the garage door is left open at night (that might be your signal that help is needed).
My trusted neighbors are? What might my codes be:_______________________
D. I can teach my children how to use the telephone to contact police and medical help by using 911. I can make sure my children know their full names, our address and other important information in case they need to call for help or we get separated because of violence. I can teach my children to run to a neighbor's house or a nearby public place if violence occurs.
I will teach and practice with my children:_______________________
E. Because I might be in danger and not able to talk freely, I will devise a code for my children, family, friends or co-workers so they will know that I need them to call for help on my behalf. For example, I might say that "today is my cousin Shirley's birthday" - I don't HAVE a cousin Shirley so my support system will know that if I use this phrase, I might be in danger.
My code for getting help from friends, family, co-workers and my children can be:_______________________
F. Since I might have to leave my home quickly, I should be aware of where I might go in an emergency. I need to select public places, preferably places that are open 24 hours a day and close to my home. Hospitals, convenience stores, restaurants and grocery stores are likely to be open, have pay phones where I can dial 911 for help, and room INSIDE for me to wait for police to arrive.
NOTE: As part of your safety plan, you MUST find out in advance if your local police station is manned 24 hours a day! Victims have been gunned down by abusers in front of police stations because they fled to police offices during evening or weekend shifts - only to find out that the doors were locked and they could only speak to a dispatcher on the phone thus leaving them unprotected , waiting for an officer to show up. Police officers are usually on patrol in their vehicles and many police stations and sub-stations are NOT manned 24 hours a day.
Places I can go in case of violence or crisis are:______________________
G. When I believe that an argument or violence is about to happen, I can minimize the risk of physical injury to myself by trying to get to a room that has access to an outside door, by avoiding rooms that provide easy weapons for my abuser such as knives in the kitchen or fighting in rooms where an abuser keeps a gun, or rooms where I might get trapped such as the bathroom (since bathroom doors are usually not reinforced they are VERY easy to kick in).
The safest places in my home for confrontation include:_______________________
When I leave the residence I share with an abuser, I must plan carefully to increase safety for myself and my children. If my abuser believes that I am trying to escape, they may strike back or increase the violence to try to get me to stay. I can use some or all the following safety strategies:
A. In order to increase my ability to identify myself and my children, to apply for various types of aid and assistance and to keep me from having to return to the residence and possibly confront an angry abuser, I will keep copies or photocopies of important documents that I can grab quickly if I need to leave:
* Identification for myself____
* Children's birth certificate____
* My birth certificate____
* Social security cards____
* School and vaccination records____
* Checks, ATM card____
* Credit cards____
* Keys - house/car/office____
* Driver's license and registration____
* Welfare identification, work permits, Green card_____
* Passport(s), Divorce papers____
* Medical records____
* Lease/rental agreement, deeds, mortgage payment book____
* Bank books, Insurance papers____
* Pet licenses, vet receipts or paperwork establishing your ownership____
* Password to any online accounts____
This website provides a worksheet for tracking important information that I should have with me when leaving. The information will help to protect my identity, continue access to important accounts and provide crucial information to law enforcement should I decide to press charges, file for a protection order, etc. This worksheet is "disguised" as an "Emergency Preparedness Kit", like the Hurricane Kits provided by agencies like FEMA, to minimize the possibility that my abuser will know the real purpose of the worksheet. Download the worksheets.
B. I will be calmer and feel more in control under stress if I am aware of resources waiting to help me, if I know how to contact them and have an idea of the assistance available to me. I can either ask the police to help me get to safety with friends or family or I can contact my local domestic violence program.
My local domestic violence program is:_______________________
C. I can keep change for phone calls on me at all times. I should NOT use a telephone calling card linked to my phone bill, because my abuser will be able to tell what friends, family or other numbers I have called. To keep my communications private, I will use change or prepaid calling cards. (For cheap calls, even international calls, try Pingo.com.) I can keep change or calling cards:________________________
NOTE: Using a cell phone is NOT safe and can put you in danger! An abuser who knows your cell number, your name and the last four digits of your social security number can probably access your account with your cell phone service provider and report your phone lost or stolen, in which case your phone service will be turned OFF. Abusers with this information may also be able to view your detailed billing via the internet and thus know exactly who you have been calling for help. If using a cell phone, you MUST call your cell phone company and put a password on your account to prevent access. You must also check to see if online access is activated for your account and either disable it or change the password. Be aware that if your abuser's name is also on the account, they can show photo identification to the cell phone company and gain access again and/or reset the passwords. If your abuser has your cell phone service suspended, you should be aware that as long as your phone is charged, your phone will still dial two numbers: 611 for customer service and 911 for emergencies. Nextel phones may be an exception.
D. If my abuser is not arrested at the time of a violent incident, I cannot be sure that it will be safe for me to return home to pick up items I might need.
I can leave an extra set of clothes for myself and my children and several days of any required medications at:________________________
E. If I need to return to my residence, I will call my local police or sheriff and request a "domestic violence standby" to ensure my safety. I will go to a place close to my residence and call to have them meet me there. They will follow me to my residence and wait while I collect some things. I will make sure to ask the officer for a business card or a name and badge number. I might also fill this officer in on the circumstances and ask them to keep an extra eye on my residence.
Phone number of police/sheriff:________________________
I will ask them to meet me at:_______________________
Items to take include:
* Children's favorite toys and/or blankets____
* Small sellable objects____
* Address book____
* Pictures, jewelry____
* Items of special sentimental value____
Once I am able to return home or obtain alternate housing, there are many things I can do to increase safety in my own residence. It may be impossible to do everything at once, but safety measures can be added step by step. Safety measures I can use include:
A. I can change the locks on my doors and windows as soon as possible.__________________________
B. I can replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors.__________________________
C. I can install a security system, including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, an electronic system, etc. I might be able to get a free security system from ADT security. I will ask my local domestic violence program for information.__________________________
D. I can purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from second floor windows.__________________________
E. I can install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for each floor in my house/apartment.__________________________
F. I can install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my house.__________________________
G. I can use a panic button system from ADT to alert authorities that I am in imminent danger.__________________________ Be sure to speak with advocates at your local law enforcement agency and/or domestic violence program about these steps. Often there are programs that can help get these things done for you or cover the costs.
H. I will teach my children how to make a collect call to me and to (friend, relative) in the event that my partner takes the children.
I. I will tell the people who take care of my children which people have permission to pick up my children and that partner is not permitted to do so. The people I will inform about pick-up permission includes: school, babysitter, teacher, Sunday-school teacher, and any other people who have access to my child(ren).
J. I can inform a neighbor and/or friend that my partner no longer resides with me and that they should call law enforcement if he/she is observed near my residence.
The experience of being abused and verbally degraded is usually exhausting and emotionally draining. The process of building a new life takes much courage and incredible energy. To conserve my emotional energy and resources and to avoid hard emotional times, I can do some of the following: ____
A. Use "I can . . . " statements with myself and be assertive with others.
If I feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can:_
A. I will sit down and review my safety plan, rehearse my escape plan and, as appropriate, practice it with my children. ____
B. I will keep this document in a safe place and out of the reach of my abuser. ____
C. I will review this plan each time there is a change in my situation, which might include: moving to a new location, the serving of legal papers, etc.____