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How to plan for your safety

Plan for your safety if you are in an abusive relationship

It's important to make a plan to keep you and your children safe. Ask a friend, neighbour or co-worker you trust to help you, or contact local services. There are also online tools to help and ways to make sure you browse safely.

Are you a child or teenager who needs help?
Call the Kids' Help PhoneExternal Link at 1-800-668-6868.

The call is free of charge and you don't need to give your name.

Even if you're not planning to leave the relationship, a safety plan can help in case the abuse gets worse.  You may have to leave in a hurry. Make sure to take actions in a way that makes sense for you-for example, one at a time or in stages-and is safe for you and your children.

5 steps to make your safety plan
  1. Do your research
  2. Decide how you can leave quickly-or stay safely
  3. Talk to your children
  4. Gather important items
  5. Be careful about your computer

1.  Do your research

  • Talk to family, friends or a trusted professional who can help you make plans.
  • Get legal advice about your rights.
  • Find services in your area, such as shelters and financial aid.

2.   Decide how you can leave quickly — or stay safely

If you stay - tips to live more safely

  • Tell someone you trust about the abuse.
  • Think about your partner's past use and level of force. This will help you predict what type of danger you and your children are facing and when to leave.
  • Create a plan to get out of your home safely and practice it with your children.
  • Choose the closest place to call for help-a coffee shop or neighbour's house.
  • Decide where you will go (for example, a friend's house or local shelter, safe home or transition house) and how you will get there.
  • Ask your neighbours, friends and family to call the police if they hear sounds of abuse and to look after your children in an emergency.
  • Park your car by backing it into the driveway. Keep it fuelled.
  • Hide your keys, cell phone and some money near your escape route.
  • Have a list of phone numbers to call for help.
  • Your local shelter or police may be able to equip you with a panic button/cell phone.
  • Make sure all weapons and ammunition are hidden or removed from your home.

In an emergency

  • If an argument is developing, move to a space where you can get outside easily: find doors and windows that could help you escape.
  • Think about rooms where you could be trapped, or where there are weapons such as knives that could be used against you - try to avoid going into these rooms during a violent episode.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask them to document your visit.
  • If you are being hurt, protect your face with your arms around each side of your head, with your fingers locked together. Don't wear scarves or long jewelry.

If you are planning to leave (non-emergency)

  • Contact a local women's shelter (even if they are unable to take in abused men, women's shelters will usually have information to help all victims of abuse). Let them know that you intend to leave an abusive situation and ask for support in safety planning.
  • Consider contacting the police. Ask for an officer who specializes in partner abuse cases.
  • Gather important documents.
  • Consult a lawyer. Keep any evidence of physical abuse (such as photos). Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events, threats and any witnesses.
  • Put together pictures, jewelry and objects of sentimental value, as well as toys and comforts for your children.
  • Arrange with someone to care for your pets temporarily, until you get settled. A shelter may help with this.
  • Remember to clear your phone of the last number you called to avoid the abuser using redial.
  • Remember to clear your computer.

As you leave

  • Request a police escort or ask a friend, neighbour or family member to accompany you when you leave.
  • Do not tell your partner you are leaving.
  • Leave quickly.
  • Have a back-up plan if your partner finds out where you are going.

After leaving

Here are some actions you should take after you or your partner has left the relationship:

  • If you are staying in the home, change the locks and get an unlisted phone number and caller ID.
  • Block your number when calling out.
  • Consider applying for a restraining order or peace bond that may help keep your partner away from you and your children. Keep it with you at all times.
  • Provide police with a copy of any legal orders you have.
  • Consider changing any service provider that you share with your ex-partner.
  • Carry a photo of the abuser and your children with you.
  • Take extra precautions at work, at home and in the community. Consider telling your supervisor at work about your situation.
  • Think about places and patterns that your ex-partner will know about and try to change them. For example, consider using a different grocery store.
  • If you feel unsafe walking alone, ask a neighbour, friend or family member to accompany you.
  • Do not return to your home unless accompanied by the police. Never confront the abuser.

3.   Talk to your children

In advance

  • Tell your children that abuse is never right, even when someone they love is being abusive.
  • Tell them the abuse isn't your fault or their fault; they did not cause it, and neither did you.
  • Teach them that it's important to keep safe when there is abuse.
  • Teach your children how to get help. Tell them not to get between you and your partner if there is violence.
  • Create a plan to get out of your home safely and practice it with your children.
  • Together, pick a safe place in the house where they can hide if the violence starts -ideally with a locked door and a phone that the abuser can't see.
  • Agree on a code word so they will know when to call for help.

In an emergency

  • Teach children how to call the police and stay on the phone until the police arrive.
  • Have them practice their full name and address and what to say about the violence.
  • Don't run to a place where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
  • Pick a safe place to meet outside so that you can easily find each other.

4.  Gather important items

Government documents (originals or copies)

  • Birth certificates, social insurance, driver's license, health cards, passports, court orders, immigration papers or treaty cards.

Financial papers

  • Mortgage or lease, information about loans or assets.
  • Money, including credit cards, debit cards, and cheques.

Personal affairs

  • Important phone numbers (friends, services, shelters).
  • Keys, phone, medications (or a list if you don't have time to gather them).
  • Other items, such as toiletries, toys, photos or sentimental items.

If you can't keep these things stored in your home for fear your partner will find them, consider making copies and leaving them with someone you trust. Your local women's shelter will also keep them for you. If you have children, make sure their school or day care centre is aware of the situation and has copies of all relevant documents.

5.  Be careful about your computer

  • Anything you write on a computer will create a lasting record on the computer and on the internet and you won't be able to control who reads that record.
  • An abuser can monitor your online activity and history. Use a computer at work, a friend's house, or the library.
  • Log out of your profiles before leaving and clear your browser history.
  • Never share your passwords.
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be particularly dangerous:
    • don't use your own name or post personal information.
    • keep your privacy settings up to date.
    • consider closing your accounts.

How to clear your browser
Your computer contains critical information which could put you in danger! Here's how to keep your searches invisible:

  • Internet Explorer: From the Tools menu, select Internet Options. Choose the General tab and, under Temporary Internet Files, click on Delete Files. Under History, click on Clear History. Then, click OK.
  • Firefox:  From the Edit menu, select Preferences. Under Privacy, select History and click on Clear Browsing History Now. Then select Cache & click on Clear Cache Now.
  • Safari: From the Safari menu, select Empty Cache and click on Empty. Pull down the History menu, select Clear History and click on Clear.
  • Chrome: From the Chrome top right-hand corner box with 3 bars,   select Tools and clear browsing data. In the dialog that appears, select the checkboxes for the types of information that you want to remove (history, cookies, cache). Use the menu at the top to select the amount of data that you want to delete. Select Beginning of Time to delete everything and click Clear browsing data.

Sources:

Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and ChildrenExternal Link

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