Take steps to protect yourself against the potential for future violence. You can develop a plan to increase your safety. Although you do not have control over your partner’s violence, you can choose how to respond and how to get you and/or your children to safety. Most of the safety planning you do should occur before an attack.
BEFORE AN ATTACK
1) Prepare an Emergency Kit including:
- Money (Checkbook, ATM card, credit cards, bank books).
Be careful in using bank accounts/credit cards after you leave your abuser because he may be able to track this activity.
- Identification for yourself including birth certificate.
- Identification for your children including birth certificates.
- Social security cards.
- School and vaccination records.
You might consider contacting schools and doctor’s offices to make sure your abuser cannot access these records.
- Insurance papers.
- Keys for the house, car or office.
- Drivers license and registration.
- Medication and medical records for you and your children.
- Public Aid identification, work permits, medical cards.
- Legal documents including divorce, child custody, Orders of Protection, visitation orders, etc.
- Lease agreements, deeds, mortgage payment books.
- Address book.
- Pictures, jewelry, other items of sentimental value.
- Your children’s favorite toy or blanket.
You might consider contacting phone companies to make sure your abuser cannot access account information. If you do not have a cell phone, contact a domestic violence program and ask if they have access to a no contract cell phone that you can use to call 911 at any time.
2) Make Contacts:
Decide if and when you will tell others that you have been abused. Friends, family and co-workers can help protect you. Consider carefully which people you trust to help secure your safety. You may also consider choosing one of these people to leave your emergency kit with to ensure that your abuser does not find it. Make sure that the people you choose know why you are leaving them these items so they do not accidentally let it slip if your abuser talks with them.
NOTE: If you do not have any safe contacts, consider placing your emergency kit items in your desk drawer at work or hidden somewhere inside your home. Keys can be hidden in a magnetic box that attaches under the fender of your car. Check for the box frequently.
3) Develop an Escape Plan:
If you need to leave during a violent incident, practice beforehand how you will get out safely. Practice your exit.
4) Find a Safe Place:
Decide ahead of time on two safe alternative places where you can go if you must flee an abusive relationship. Notify these people ahead of time and share your emergency contact information with them ahead of time. This will allow your safety contacts to plan ahead of time for their own safety as well as yours. Tell a trusted family member or friend about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from your house.
5) Will County Domestic Violence Services:
Contact your local domestic violence agency to find out about the services that are available to you. Ask the domestic violence advocates about creating a safety plan and whether or not they provide shelter if you need a safe place to escape to.
The domestic violence agency for Will County is:
Guardian Angel Community Services
Groundwork Domestic Violence Program
24 Hour Hotline: (815) 729-1228
TTY: (815) 741-4643
NOTE: Always remember to call 911 in the event of an emergency.
6) Prepare Your Children:
Whether or not your children have been harmed by your abuser, they are still at risk in any violent relationship.
- Teach your children to use the telephone and call 911.
- Rehearse your escape plan with them but have realistic expectations. Your children may be frightened of your abuser, but they may also feel uneasy keeping secrets from him.
- Tell teachers, caregivers and babysitters who has permission to pick up your children and to call the police if you abuser arrives to pick them up instead.
- If you have an Order of Protection, make sure each child’s school has a copy on file.
- Develop a code word ahead of time you can use with your children so they know when to call for help.
7) Safety at Your Home:
There are various additional precautions that you may take if your abuser does not reside with you. It may be impossible to do everything at once, but safety measures can be taken and added. Consider the following:
- Change the locks on all doors and windows.
- Replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors.
- Install security devices that can include anything from additional locks to poles, wedges against doors, window bars and electronic systems.
- Purchase rope ladders to use to escape from second story windows.
- Install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for each floor in your house or apartment.
- Install outside lighting systems that are motion sensitive.
- Inform your neighbors, pastor, and friends that your abuser no longer resides with you. Let them know that they should call the police if they see your former partner near your residence.
- Buy a cell phone with no contract and limited minutes so that you have access to 911 at all times.
- Teach your children how to use the telephone to make collect calls to let you or others know if the abuser has taken them. They should always call 911 first!
- Tell teachers, caregivers and babysitters who has permission to pick up your children and to call the police if your abuser arrives to pick them up instead.
- Make sure your children’s school has a copy of your Order of
DURING AN ATTACK
Minimize your risk. Try to avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, kitchen or anywhere near weapons or in rooms without access to an outside door. When you think you are going to have an argument, try to move to as space that is low-risk.
Trust yourself. Always use your judgment and intuition. You know better than anyone else how your abuser is likely to react. If you feel that the situation is serious, and it is safe to do so, give your abuser what he wants to calm him down. You must protect yourself until you and/or your children are out of danger.
Call for Help. Keep a cell phone on you at all times, even if its just a no contract cell phone that you can use to call 911. If you do not have a phone when an attack occurs, scream loudly and continuously. You have nothing to be ashamed of. He does.
Get Away. Escape if you can. Go to a relative’s or friend’s house or a domestic violence shelter.
Call the Police. The police must now attempt to protect you from further abuse. They are required to provide or arrange transportation to a hospital or safe place for you and are encouraged to arrest your abuser if they have enough evidence of a crime. They must give you a paper explaining your rights and telling you of one social service agency which can help.
AFTER AN ATTACK
Seek Medical Attention Immediately. Tell the doctor or nurse what happened and ask them to take pictures of your injuries. Find out how to get copies of your records if you need them later.
Make a Police Report. Even if you do not want your abuser arrested. The report will become evidence of past abuse which might prove helpful in the future, (such as in a custody dispute). The abuser will not be notified you made the report. If possible the report should be done within 24 hours of the abuse.
NOTE: If the police take photographs of your injuries on the scene, specifically bruising injuries, it is important to follow up and have the police take additional photographs as the injuries progress (bruising wounds usually do not develop fully until a day or two after an attack.)
Save Evidence. The police should compile any evidence including pictures of your injuries, damage to property, torn clothing, any weapons used and statements from anyone who heard or saw the attack.
NOTE: It is also suggested that you take pictures of any injuries for your own records in case you may need to use them in civil proceedings.
Talk to Someone about the choices you have. This handbook will give you information about whom to call for help and what some of your choices are. Find out about the legal remedies now available to you through an Order of Protection.
Create an Abuse Journal. Writing down dates, times, and details of your abusive history can be extremely helpful in any legal proceedings involving you and you abuser. Remember to also keep this journal in a safe place away from your abuser.
Remember, most abusers become more violent over time. Physical violence, especially, tends to become more severe and more frequent. Even though you may be afraid, take action NOW! Your safety and the safety of your children may depend upon your willingness to act. It can be more dangerous to do nothing than to take some action.
This safety plan can be used as a general guide for all victims of domestic violence; however, each person’s situation is unique. It is important to contact a domestic violence program in order to create a safety plan that is specific to your situation. Having these steps completed ahead of time can make your decision to leave an abusive situation much easier. In addition, these things can help you find peace of mind and a sense of more control over your life.