Quick escape (ESC)

Safety planning

The decision to leave a violent relationship is often a difficult one. There is no secret formula for making the abuse stop, but safety can be increased.

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Content warning This page involves descriptions and discussion of the experiences and impacts of domestic and family violence. Some survivors might find its content troubling.

Some women are reluctant to seek help from their local women’s refuge or crisis service, but women’s specialist services see women from all walks of life with differing levels of risk and are able to assist women with safety planning and general advice.

Safety planning can be an empowering process that gives a victim and any children help to draw upon their own resources and be advised of new resources available to them. A safety plan is dynamic, flexible and practical.

Some women have a safety plan in place while choosing to remain in an abusive relationship, others have one specifically to enable them to plan out how to safely leave an abusive relationship, while others are already separated but require a safety plan due to the fear that their ex is causing them. Children can be included in a safety plan or older children may have their own safety plan.

The following are just some of the many ideas that might go into a safety plan. But remember, the perpetrator is always responsible for their abuse. Working out how to increase safety (preferably with the help of specialist services) is not the same thing as taking responsibility for the violence.

Safety at home

  • Plan and practise quick emergency exit routes from all the rooms in your home
  • Have a small escape bag somewhere with spare keys, important papers (passport, tax, car, medical, lease, mortgage etc), a set of clothes, a comfort toy for the kids and some spare cash in case you need to leave in a hurry
  • Leave spare copies of keys, important papers, prescriptions, and photocopies of bank cards with someone you trust
  • Collect useful phone numbers like local taxi services, local crisis services, national hotline, work supervisor’s number, and the local police station
  • Seek support from neighbours to call the police if they hear a disturbance
  • Teach children how to call 000, how to safely exit the house and how to get help
  • Seek medical help for any injuries
  • Keep a diary of any abusive or frightening incidents, including dates and photos if there are any physical injuries.

Safety after separation

When someone is leaving an abusive relationship it is one of the most dangerous times. Discussing safety plans at this stage is vital.

  • Get outdoor lights, extra window or door locks, or gates if you can (some domestic violence services or police services have funds available to help with the costs of a security upgrade)
  • Change your mobile number and have it set on ‘private’
  • Use a different SIM card if you need to communicate about children.
  • Ask government agencies, utilities companies, law firms, doctors, schools etc. to keep your contact details private
  • Get a PO Box for important mail or keep your home address private
  • Talk to a domestic and family violence service, a community legal service or the police about getting a legal protection order.

Safety in public or at work

  • Inform someone at your workplace about your current situation
  • Avoid taking the same route to work each day, change your routines regularly
  • Park your car in a busy public place. Avoid underground car parks or else get someone to walk you to your car
  • If you see your former partner, move into a public or busy place as soon as possible.

Safety with technology

  • Use a public computer (library, community centre) or a friend’s computer that your abuser can’t access, especially if using sensitive websites
  • Change or delete your Facebook account and your kids’ accounts, or review your privacy settings to restrict access
  • Change all your passwords
  • Create an alternative email account and make it hard to trace (don’t use your name and birth year in the account name)
  • Have a computer technician check your computer for spyware or keystroke logging programs
  • Clear your internet history.

Remember, safety plans must be flexible to change as circumstances change.