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When my ex-husband almost killed me, though I had seen the red flags screaming
‘beware the potential for domestic violence at hand’ the last thing on my mind was a
safety plan for our daughter and myself. So when it happened, I was totally powerless
as to what to do….
It’s wise to have a personal safety plan if there are or have been red flags or
experiences of domestic violence in your marriage.
It is a way of helping you to protect yourself and your children. It helps you plan in
advance for the possibility of future violence and abuse. It also helps you to think about
how you can increase your safety either within the relationship, or if you decide to leave.
You can’t stop your partner’s violence and abuse – only he can do that. But there are
things you can do to increase your own and your children’s safety. You’re probably
already doing some things to protect yourself and your children – for example, there
may be a pattern to the violence which may enable you to plan ahead to increase your
The following are a few suggestions for developing a personalized and practical Safety
Plan – for staying safe while enduring an abusive relationship, or when planning to

leave, and after leaving. While every situation is unique, these tips are meant to help
you think of actions that work for your own situation.

Have emergency helpline numbers/numbers of friends, family and any organization that
supports women. Save these to your phone or write them down on a piece of paper that
you always keep with you.

Do you have a friend, colleague, classmate, family member or local organization that
you trust and can call on for support/help? If so, make contact with that trusted
person/organization and let them know that you may need help during this time. Secure
their support to do so. If they are not comfortable, reach out to others. Delete the
WhatsApp/SMS if the abuser regularly accesses or has access to your phone. You can
reach out to multiple people by developing a WhatsApp group. This helps in case some
people are not reachable at the time that you may need support. Give that group a
“safe” name so that it does not alert suspicion should the abuser readily access your
phone. Try to name the group something that reflects what you would ordinarily do in
your day-to-day life, for example, “church/mosque group” or “shopping”.


Create a code word with your trusted
person/group so that people are aware when
you are needing help. If you have neighbors
that can help, you can also develop a visual
signal that will alert them should you be in
distress. Examples of visual signals could be
switching an outside light on and off several
times, or tying a piece of material around the

railing of a fence or a tree or around/on

anything that is visible from the outside of your house. Agree with your neighbor about
what type of assistance is needed depending on the visual signal. For example, a piece
of red material could signal that you need your neighbor to contact the police. White
material could signal that you need your neighbor to create a diversion such as ringing
your doorbell or calling your cellphone/landline.

If the abuser tends to look through your phone or you share the use of a computer at
home, do be careful when reaching out for help. Delete your Internet browsing history,
websites visited for resources, e-mails and/or WhatsApps/SMSes sent to friends and
family asking for help. If you called for help, dial another number immediately after, in
case the abuser hits redial.

Pack a bag. If you have children, include items for them too. Items to pack include your
documents (ID, Passport, Children’s Birth Certificates, marriage certificate, etc.),
medication, and a spare cellphone if you have one, money/bank cards, change of
clothing, toiletries, small toys for children and anything else that is important to you.
Place this bag in a safe place where you can access it easily. Before you leave, ensure
that you have airtime/data. If you do not, reach out to your trusted contact for help with
sending you airtime/data.

Ensure that you have copied or taken photographs on your phone of any important
documents in case you are not able to get ahold of the documents before you leave.
This includes a protection order if you have one. If you can, keep a record of the abuse
noting dates, events and threats made this will be useful when seeking legal support or
protective mechanism like when applying for a protection order. Keep any evidence of
physical abuse, such as pictures if you have these.

Protecting yourself after you have left

If you leave your partner because of abuse, you may not want people to know the
reason you left.
It is your decision whether or not you tell people that you have suffered domestic abuse;
but if you believe you may still be at risk, it might increase your safety if you tell your
family and friends, your children’s school, and your employer or college what is
happening, so that they do not inadvertently give out any information to your ex-partner.
They will also be more prepared and better able to help you in an emergency.
If you have left home, but are staying in the same town or area, these are some of the
ways in which you might be able to increase your safety:
● Try not to place yourself in a vulnerable position or isolate yourself.
● Try to avoid any places, such as shops, banks, and eating places, that you used
to use when you were together.
● Try to alter your routines as much as you can.
● If you have any regular appointments that your partner knows about (for
example, with a counsellor or health practitioner) try to change your appointment
time and/or the location of the appointment.
● Try to choose a safe route, or alter the route you take or the form of transport you
use, when approaching or leaving places you cannot avoid – such as your place
of work, the children’s school, or your GP’s surgery.
● Tell your children’s school, nursery or child-minder what has happened, and let
them know who will pick them up. Make sure they do not release the children to
anyone else or give your new address or telephone number to anyone. (You may
want to establish a password with them, and give them copies of any court
orders, if you have them.)
● Consider telling your employer or others at your place of work – particularly if you
think your partner may try to contact you there.

If you have moved away from your area, and don’t want your abuser to know where you
are, then you need to take particular care with anything that may indicate your location;
for example:

● Your mobile phone could be ‘tracked’; this is only supposed to happen if you
have given your permission, but if your partner has had access to your mobile
phone, he could have sent a consenting message purporting to come from you. If
you think this could be the case, you should contact the company providing the
tracking facility and withdraw your permission; or if you are in any doubt, change
your phone.
● Try to avoid using shared credit or debit cards or joint bank accounts: if the
statement is sent to your ex-partner, he will see the transactions you have made.
● Make sure that your address does not appear on any court papers. (If you are
staying in a refuge, they will advise you on this.)
● If you need to phone your abuser (or anyone with whom he is in contact), make
sure your telephone number is untraceable.
● Talk to your children about the need to keep your address and location

If you stay or return to your home
If you stay or return to your home after your partner has left, then you will probably have
an occupation order or a protection order (see getting an injunction). However, it is
important to know that you do not have to stay at home – with or without an injunction –
if you do not feel safe there.

You could also consider the following:

● Changing the locks on all doors.
● Putting locks on all windows if you don’t have them already.
● Informing the neighbors that your partner no longer lives there, and asking them
to tell you – or call the police – if they see him nearby.
Changing your telephone number and making it ex-directory.
● Using an answering machine to screen calls.
● Keeping copies of all court orders together with dates and times of previous
incidents and call-outs for reference if you need to call the police again.
If your ex-partner continues the abuse
If your ex-partner continues to harass, threaten or abuse you, make sure you keep
detailed records of each incident, including the date and time it occurred, what was said
or done, and, if possible, photographs of the damage to your property or injuries to
yourself or others.
If your partner or ex-partner injures you, see your doctor or go to the hospital for
treatment and ask them to document your visit.
After this, make sure you report it at your nearest police station. This then becomes a
court case, where you can get a restraining order.

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