Planning for Safety
Many women find it useful to make a safety plan. The plan below is particularly useful for women who are considering leaving their abusive relationship. However, if you have already left, you may still find elements of this safety plan useful. You can always adapt it to your own safety needs. Below are some steps you can take to prepare and plan for safety:
- Decide who you can call if you feel threatened or in danger (e.g. friend, neighbour, support service, police). It can be useful to discuss this with them beforehand, so they know what action you would like them to take if you call;
- Decide where you could go if you need a safe place to stay (friend, family, refuge/shelter) and practice travelling to the location you have chosen as a safe place;
- Think about how you can ensure the safety of your children and discuss where possible (so that it doesn’t compromise your/children’s safety) safety plans with the children;
- Think about what you can do with any pets (can they go to a friend or family member, or could you utilise the refuge service offered by DV Connect for a small fee);
- Make a list of emergency phone numbers and memorise or carry these (somewhere they can’t be found by the abuser);
- Seek legal advice prior to leaving about arrangements for children and property settlement;
- If you can, take as many of the following as possible if you are leaving in a hurry. If you can pre-plan, sometimes it is easier to hide a bag with these things in a safe place (e.g. a friend’s or neighbour’s house) before you go :
- spare clothes for you and your children;
- spare keys for the car & house;
- any available cash. If you can, save some money for a taxi fare for emergency transport to a safe place;
- your address book;
- copies of any domestic violence orders and/or family court orders;
- copies of any deeds to property or tenancy agreements
- birth certificates/marriage certificate;
- passports (for yourself and the children);
- residency documents;
- driver’s licence;
- bank cards & account details;
- important medication;
- social security documents (including healthcare cards & other concession cards);
- your Will (if you have one);
- any diaries or records of the abuse that could be useful later if needed in court proceedings;
- some of the children’s favourite toys or personal items;
- irreplaceable personal items (such as photos or mementos);
- jewellery and other personal valuables;
- any other important documents;
- Consider making certified copies of any of the above documents to mail to a friend or other trusted person for safe-keeping;
- You can speak with a domestic violence support service about options for suppressing personal information to protect your identity in order to increase safety;
- If you can afford to, open your own bank account that nobody knows about. Try to put money into it to increase your independence. Make sure any statements are sent to a safe address.
Whatever happens in your relationship, you have the right to be safe. There are services that can help you to get to a safe place e.g. Domestic Violence Support Service or refuge/shelter, to consider your options. There are also legal options that have been introduced to protect women in violent relationships. One of the main ones is a Domestic Violence Order that requires the person using violence to be of good behaviour and not commit Domestic Violence. Any breaches of this order and they face penalties such as fines or prison (more information in Court section).
During a violent incident in the home
If you anticipate an incident, there are measures that you may be able to put into place to decrease the risk or danger to yourself and/or your children:
- Leave the situation if possible (before the explosion occurs);
- Try to move to a space that is lowest risk to escape an injury (that is not the bathroom, kitchen or rooms without access to outside door);
- Know what the easiest escape routes are;
- Plan where you will go if you need to leave quickly;
- Inform neighbours (where possible and appropriate) about the violence and ask them to call police if they hear suspicious noises coming from the home or develop a signal that attracts their attention if you require them to call emergency services (e.g. blowing a whistle, yelling a particular word);
- Use a code word with the children or friends so that they know that you want them to call for help.
- Teach your children their name and full address and how to use the telephone to contact 000 and say “someone is hurting my mum/dad/brother/sister”;
- Teach your children where to go in the house during a violent incident, how to get out of the house and where to go if they leave the house if someone is being hurt.
- Decide how you will leave the house and where you will go to if there is an incident of violence.
- Keep your purse and car keys in a place you can easily find them if you need to leave quickly;
- Call the Police as soon as it is safe to report the incident. The police can also arrange safe accommodation for you and your children.
It is essential for children who live in violent homes to have a simple safety plan so they know what to do when domestic violence is occurring, this could include:
- Warning children to stay out of the adult conflicts;
- Decide ahead of time on a safe place the children can go when they feel unsafe;
- Teach children how to use police and other emergency phone numbers;
- Making a list of people the children can trust and talk to when they are feeling unsafe (neighbours, teachers, relatives, friends)
In making any safety plans with children, their age and ability to understand confidential information is important to consider, especially with younger children. Try to limit the information that children are aware of so as not to compromise yours or your children’s safety. If the abuser is still in contact with the child or young person, they may try to coerce information from the children that is pertinent to safety.
Some ideas to promote safety are:
- Change the locks on doors and windows as soon as possible;
- Install security systems including additional locks, window bars, window locks, an electronic alarm system and a security chain on the front door;
- Install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for your home;
- Install a motion sensitive lighting system outside that lights up when a person is coming close to your home;
- Arrange for your phone line to have caller ID and obtain a private listing. You can get an answering machine to screen your calls and report abusive calls to the telephone company and the police;
- Buy a mobile phone and pre-program any phone numbers you may need to access quickly, e.g. police, DV Connect (1800 811 811);
- Call Police if you see the person who has abused you near your home or if they threaten you or communicate with you in any other way;
- Ask a neighbour to call Police if they see the person who has abused you or their vehicle near your home;
- Teach your children how to use the telephone to call Police or a trusted person if in danger, or to call you if they are abducted;
- Inform all the people who provide care for the children who has permission to pick them up and who does not. Inform your children’s school and/or child care centre who has permission to collect your children. If you have family court orders or a domestic violence order where the child is a named person, a copy may be left with the school;
- Arrange for your mail to be redirected to a post office box instead of your new address if you have moved;
- Consider reviewing your banking and postal arrangements;
- If possible try not to frequent places where you used to go, use different shops and banks to those you used previously;
- Vary your travel routes to and from work. Keep a map handy and pre plan routes in unknown areas to prevent you from having to leave your vehicle;
- Tell neighbours that your partner does not live with you and ask them to call the police if he is seen near your house, or if they hear an assault occurring;
- Tell your employer that you have a protection order, or that you are afraid of your ex partner, and ask for your telephone calls at work to be screened;
- If your ex partner breaches the protection order, telephone the Police and report the breach. If the Police do not help, contact your advocate or a legal service for assistance to make a complaint;
- Contact the Australian Electoral Commission and ask for your name and address to be excluded from the published electoral role;
- Attend a woman’s domestic violence support group to help you grow stronger and understand what has happened to you.
Refuges provide safe accommodation for people escaping domestic violence in their home. They are operated by various community based organisations. However, it can be difficult to access refuge accommodation as they are often full so you will need to check availability. DV Connect (1800 811 811) can assist you with this and if there is no space available they will discuss alternative options with you. The location of refuges is kept confidential to ensure the safety of the people accessing them. Accommodation varies from communal living houses, to self contained units. Support offered to residents usually includes accommodation, referral services, advocacy, emotional support and other practical supports. You should bring your personal paperwork such as identification, any medication or prescriptions, toiletries and clothing for yourself and your children. Pets cannot be accommodated in refuges; however DV Connect may be able to assist with temporary boarding of animals in emergency situations.
- 1800 numbers do not show on your telephone bill but STD numbers do. You can call Women’s Infolink on 1800 177 577 who can transfer you to other numbers;
- The redial number can be pressed to dial the last outgoing call – important to remember if your abuser is checking on who you are calling;
- Some telephone handsets display the number of the person who has called on a screen;
- Some telephone systems can tell you the telephone number of the most recent unanswered caller. If there are people or agencies that you do not want your abuser to know are contacting you, inform them about this and suggest that they have their telephone number blocked.