Safety Planning

Staying safe before and after leaving abuse

Safety planning is a crucial step for someone involved in an abusive relationship. These practical plans can help you stay safe while you are still with your abuser, as you prepare to leave, and after the relationship has ended. While still in an abusive relationship, your safety is of primary importance.

RDAP can help you create a personal safety plan — a path to safety and freedom from domestic violence. Call our hotline at 308-534-3495 for information and help.

RDAP has also compiled some general safety suggestions from plans distributed by domestic violence coalitions from around the country. Following these suggestions is not a guarantee of safety, but could help to improve your safety situation. Click the links below or scroll down to learn more.

If you are still with your abuser 

Try to avoid an abusive situation by leaving.

• Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.

• Don’t run to where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.

• If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target; dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.

• If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest pay phone is located. Know the phone number to your local shelter (RDAP's crisis hotline is available 24 hours a day at 308-534-3495). Don’t be afraid to call the police.

• Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.

• Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.

• Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.

• Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.

• Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.

• Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked — for a quick escape.

• Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.

• Call a domestic violence hotline periodically to assess your options and get a supportive understanding ear.

Preparing to leave your abuser

• Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.
• Know where you can go to get help; tell someone what is happening to you.
• If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
• Plan for what you will do if your children tell your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.
• Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
• Contact RDAP to find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis.
• Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible.
• Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college as you can.
• Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.

If you need to sneak away, be prepared:
• Make a plan for how and where you will escape. Don't be afraid to request a police stand-by or escort while you leave.
• Plan for a quick escape.
• Put aside emergency money as you can.
• Hide an extra set of car keys.
• Pack an extra set of clothes for yourself and your children and store them at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house. Try to avoid using the homes of next-door neighbors, close family members and mutual friends.

Take with you important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc., as well as other important items, including:

• Driver’s license
• Regularly needed medication
• Credit cards or a list of credit cards you hold yourself or jointly
• Pay stubs
• Checkbooks and information about bank accounts and other assets

If time is available, also take:
• Citizenship documents (such as your passport, green card, etc.)
• Titles, deeds and other property information
• Medical records
• Children’s school and immunization records
• Insurance information
• Copy of marriage license, birth certificates, will and other legal documents
• Verification of social security numbers
• Welfare identification
• Valued pictures, jewelry or personal possessions

Always remember that you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
— Christopher Robin, to Winnie to Pooh

After you leave your abuser

If the offender is leaving your home:
• Change your locks and phone number.
• Change your work hours and usual route to and from work.
• Change the route taken to transport children to and from school.

If you are leaving or moving to a new residence:
• Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail.
• Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports.
• Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.
• Change your work hours, if possible.
• Alert school authorities of the situation.
• Consider changing your children’s schools.

If you need to get a restraining order, RDAP can help. After you have the order in place:
• Keep a certified copy of your restraining order with you at all times.
• Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
• Give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools along with a picture of the offender.
• Call law enforcement to enforce the order if necessary.

In general, the following measures can help you stay safe after leaving an abuser.
• Reschedule appointments that the offender is aware of.
• Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
• Alert neighbors and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
• Talk to trusted people about the violence.
• Replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors. Install security systems if possible.
• Install a motion sensitive lighting system.
• Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.
• Tell people who take care of your children who can pick up your children. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order, if you have one.
• Call the telephone company to request caller ID for any landlines. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your former partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.

Some information on this page is Copyright © 1998 by the National Center for Victims of Crime. This information may be freely distributed, provided that it is distributed free of charge, in its entirety and includes this copyright notice.