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WHAT IS A SAFETY PLAN?
We understand that it is very difficult to leave an abusive partner and that the choice to leave may feel scary and overwhelming. A safety plan is a set of steps you can take to stay safe in your situation. Different safety plans can be created depending on if you are still in the relationship, if you are planning to leave, or if you have already left. Each person’s situation is unique, and safety plans look different for every individual. You are the expert on your own situation. Safety plans can include steps to protect children, pets, and loved ones.
Call the Women’s Shelter Program at (805) 781-6400 for help creating a safety plan or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.
Safety planning tips if you are in an abusive relationship or preparing to leave:
- Think of a safe place to go if an argument occurs. Avoid rooms with no exits (i.e. bathroom with small or no windows) or rooms with weapons (i.e. kitchen with sharp knives).
- Make a list of safe people to contact
- Keep clothing and important personal belongings at the house of someone you trust
- Make an extra key to the car and the house; leave them in a safe secret place
- Save money to use for an emergency escape
- Keep or memorize a secret list of emergency phone numbers
- Establish a “code word” or “sign” so that family, friends, teachers, or co-workers know when to call for help
- Gather important paperwork (this may include things like social security cards, birth certificates, marriage license, leases or deeds in both you or your partners names, checkbook and charge cards, bank statements and charge account statements, insurance policies, proof of income for you or your partner such as pay stubs or W-2’s, any documentation of past incidents of abuse including photos, police reports, medical records, etc)
- Plan for pets. Can they stay with a friend or family member?
Safety planning tips if you have already left the relationship:
- Change your phone number
- Screen your calls
- Save and document all contacts, messages, inquiries or other incidents involving your ex-partner
- Change locks if the abuser has a key
- Avoid staying alone
- Plan how to get away if confronted by your ex-partner
- If you have to meet your ex-partner, do so in a public place
- Vary your routine
- Notify school and work contacts
- Call a local domestic violence shelter
- Ask about your court records and data. Have the court restrict access to forms that might have your address or personal information on them.
- Get a P.O. Box and don’t give out your real address
Remember, you have the right to live without fear and violence!
TECHNOLOGY & SAFETY PLANNING
If you think your activities are being monitored, they probably are. Abusive people are often controlling and want to know your every move. Special care needs to be taken to safety plan around technology. An abusive partner does not need to be a computer genius or have special skills to monitor your computer and internet activities. There are many programs like Spyware, keystroke loggers and hacking tools that can be purchased off the internet and easily installed.
Below are tips on how to stay safe with technology:
- Use a safe computer (Public Library, Community Center, Café) where your partner cannot trace your search history
- Keep in mind it is not possible to delete or clear all your online “footprints”
- Avoid extreme changes to your online activity on any computer the abuser may be monitoring. Use your regular computer for benign activities like checking the weather, news, etc, and use a confidential computer for online banking activities, researching resources, and creating your safety plan.
- Create a new email account using an anonymous name and web-based account (example: email@example.com vs. firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Google yourself often to see what comes up as search results
- Avoid using emails or instant messaging to discuss the abuser or your plans for escape. Call a crisis line to speak with someone about these matters.
- Change your passwords and pin numbers quickly and frequently
- Change your cell phone number
- Lock your cell phone
- Screen your calls
- Turn off your cell phone when not in use
- Switch off the GPS or location service on your phone
- Have a donated or new cell phone as a back-up phone and keep in a secret location
Increasingly, abusers are using explicit photos of their partner (taken or exchanged during an earlier stage in the relationship) to gain power and control by posting or threatening to post the photos on the internet. This phenomenon is called revenge porn. If you are a victim of revenge porn, please visit the following resources to find help. Legislation is currently being drafted to address this kind of abuse.