Building a Personal Safety Plan to Escape Domestic Violence
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. The most common form of domestic violence is physical, but there are other forms, including emotional, economic and sexual abuse.
Your safety is your top priority when it comes to escaping domestic violence, so you need to take all of the necessary steps for protecting yourself and getting away from an abusive environment.
Here are the steps for building a personal safety and escape plan.
Step 1: Knowing what direction you will escape to is the first step in building your escape plan. Identify your options. Where is the safest place you could go?
This safe place could be a friend's or family member's home. It could even be a hotel or a motel. A shelter in your own or a neighboring community may be the best option because there will be practitioners there who have been trained to handle traumatic situations such as domestic violence.
Step 2: Think of a codeword or signal. Discuss the codeword or signal with family and friends, particularly any children you need to bring with you when you escape. Saying this codeword or giving this signal means the escape plan is underway.
Step 3: Pack a bag and hide it. Pack the essentials as this is the bag you may need to grab in a hurry. It should contain:
● important documents
● identification (passport, IDs, driver's license)
● spare keys
● a pay-as-you-go phone
Alternatively, your escape bag can be hidden at the location where you plan to go, such as a family member or friend's house. That way, should you need to escape in a hurry to save yourself, you don't need to worry about searching for the bag.
If you have children, make sure to pack their items too. Along with extra clothes, bring a favorite toy or blanket. This will be a potentially dangerous and scary time; bring anything to help comfort your child.
Step 4: Keep a journal of the abuse. At this moment, you may not be ready to leave your abusive relationship. Until you are, make sure to document the domestic violence incidents, including taking photos of injuries. Send copies of incident reports, hospital bills and other proof to an email address that only you can access.
Step 5: Get in touch with a domestic violence hotline so you can talk about your options for safe housing and other resources available. At Communicare, we’ve worked with domestic violence survivors and are ready to help. You can also call the national hotline for referral to local resources, 24 hours a day: 800-799-SAFE or text START to 88788.
If you have an emergency, please call 911, go to your nearest emergency room or call 1-866-837-7521 to be connected to Communicare’s mobile crisis team, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days ayear.