Do I really need a safety plan?
The answer to this question is emphatically…Yes! A Christian woman may be inclined to assume, “God will protect me”. God does protect His loved ones, but God also allows bad things to happen to good people. The age old question of “Why do the wicked prosper?” has caused many to doubt and even reject God. But God can not be held responsible for our choices. The victim is NEVER the cause for an abuser’s behavior. Abuse is a choice. However, as terribly difficult as it may be, leaving the abuser is a choice as well. The fact that the woman questions if he will harm her if she leaves is a clear indication that a safety plan is a must! Contacting a local domestic violence shelter for assistance in formulating a safety plan is an excellent option (see Resources & Referrals). Safety plans can involve two different sets of steps, one for increasing the victim’s safety while living with the abuser and another for if and when she decides to leave him. It is essential that the woman recognize that the process of leaving an abusive man can be risky, so when preparing for a breakup, put some extra thought into the kinds of precautions that must be taken.
Specialists who work with abused women report that those women who succeed in leaving and staying away almost always have a plan before they go. A safety plan while you are living with your abusive partner can include the following elements, among many others:
- Plan different escape routes from your house in case your partner becomes violent, and plan where you would go if you needed to stay away overnight.
- Hide spare keys and important documents (birth certificates, health cards, bank cards) in places where they are safe and where you could grab them and leave quickly. Try to get out of dangerous places during arguments, such as leaving the kitchen where there are knives and other sharp objects the abuser could use to assault you.
- Obtain a private post office box or some other address you can use to receive confidential mail.
- Set code words with friends or relatives and with your children that indicate an emergency, and plan how they are to respond if you say the code word in person or over the telephone.
- Open a secret bank account so that you will have access to funds should you need to flee.
- Keep a working phone in a room with a door that locks so that you will be able to call for help in an emergency.
- Carry a cell phone.
- Obtain a firearm permit so you can carry pepper spray.
- Stay away from drugs or alcohol yourself to make sure that your judgment is never impaired, and seek substance-abuse treatment for yourself if necessary.
- Call the abused women’s hotline if you are afraid, and call the police if the danger is immediate.
- Change the locks on your home. Inform neighbors of the danger and give them descriptions or photographs of the abuser and his car.
- Inform people at your workplace of the potential danger to you, and tell your children not to talk to the abuser and to seek assistance immediately if they see him
- Advise the local police department of the risk to you, including any past threats of violence by your ex-partner, and ask what special services or protection might be available.
- Inform the children’s schoolteachers and administrators of the risk, and provide them with a photograph of the abuser and other information, including a copy of your restraining order if you have one.
- Teach your children how to dial 911 from home and cell phones.
- Vary the routes that you and your children travel.