No one deserves to be abused. If you are in an abusive relationship, and you feel that you are ready to leave the abuser, here are some tips to help keep you as safe as possible when preparing to leave.
Following these suggestions (often known as a safety plan) can’t guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer. However, it is important that you create a safety plan that is right for you. Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger. You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your children safe.
Getting ready to leave
Make a plan for how you are going to leave, including where you’re going to go, and how to cover your tracks. Make one plan for if you have time to prepare to leave the home. Make another plan for if you have to leave the home in a hurry.
If you can, keep any evidence of the physical abuse and take it with you when you leave. Make sure to keep this evidence in a safe place that the abuser will not find – this may mean that you have to keep it in a locked drawer at work or with a trusted family member. If the abuser finds it, you could be in more danger. Such evidence of physical abuse might include:
- Pictures you have of bruises or other injuries. If possible, try to have these pictures dated;
- Torn or bloody clothing;
- Household objects that the abuser damaged or broke during a violent episode;
- Pictures that show your home destroyed or messed up after violence happened;
- Any records you have from doctors or the police that document the abuse;
- Whenever you are hurt, go to a doctor or to an emergency room as soon as possible if you can. Tell them what happened. Ask them to make a record of your visit and of what happened to you. Be sure to get a copy of the record.
- A journal that you may have kept with details about the abuse, which could help prove the abuse in court.
- Anything else you think could help show that you’ve been abused.
- If you have evidence of other types of abuse (threatening voicemails, text messages, emails, etc.), bring copies of those with you as well.
- Get a bag together that you can easily grab when you leave. Some things to include in the bag are:
- Spare car keys;
- Your driver’s license;
- A list of your credit cards so that you can track any activity on them;
- Phone numbers for friends, relatives, doctors, schools, taxi services, and your local domestic violence organization;
- A change of clothing for you and your children;
- Any medication that you or your children usually take;
- Copies of your children’s birth certificates, Social Security cards, school records and immunizations;
- A few things you want to keep, like photographs, jewelry or other personal items.
- Hide this bag somewhere the abuser will not find it. Try to keep it at the home of a trusted friend or neighbor. Avoid using next-door neighbors, close family members, or mutual friends, as the abuser might be more likely to find it there. If you’re in an emergency and need to get out right away, don’t worry about gathering these things. While they’re helpful to have, getting out safely should come first.
- Hide an extra set of car keys in a place you can get to easily in case the abuser takes the car keys to prevent you from leaving.
- Try to set money aside. If the abuser controls the household money, this might mean that you can only save a few dollars per week; the most important thing is that you save whatever amount you can that will not tip off the abuser and put you in further danger. You can ask trusted friends or family members to hold money for you so that the abuser cannot find it and/or use it.
- If you have time to call the police before leaving, you can ask the police to escort you out of the house as you leave. You can also ask them to be “on call” while you’re leaving, in case you need help. Not all police precincts will help you in these ways but you may want to ask your local police station if they will.