This personal safety plan is a list of recommendations that can help you to protect yourself and your family.
Remember: if you’re facing family violence, you’re never to blame for the way an abusive person treats you. It’s always an abuser’s choice to use violence, and it is never your fault. But there are some steps that you can take to make life for you and your children safer.
If you’re abused by your husband, partner, or relative, it can take you a lot of time to make a radical decision that will change the situation for the better. Here are some recommendations on how to take care of your own safety and protect your children while you are considering your options:
Tell someone about what’s happening – your friend, relative or neighbor. It has to be someone you trust. This person should not be of close relations with the abuser – you need a confidant who will take your side. Together come up with a secret code that you can use to signal that you’re in an emergency situation and need help. For example, you can agree that if you are in danger, you will make a phone call and hang up or send an empty text.
It’s very likely that there are some local charities in your area that can help in a way that your abuser won’t be able to find out about. If you’re looking for such an organization on the internet, please remember that your abuser can track down your search history. Try to use a computer that your abuser doesn’t have access to or make sure to delete your browser’s history after finishing using it.
Be ready to call the emergency services if you or your children are in danger. If you don’t speak the local language, learn the phrases you are going to need to ask for help and tell the emergency services your location beforehand.
Record the information of every abusive episode by time and date, record the names of possible witnesses. Save all of the insulting messages and threats that this person is sending you. But make sure that you keep all the information in a place where they can’t find it.
If you can do it unnoticed, start saving money in case you have to urgently leave your home or the place where you are staying.
Make copies of your documents, such as passports, birth and marriage certificates. Certify those copies if you can. Keep the copies of the documents in a safe place or ask the person you trust to keep them for you.
If you’re facing a violent incident, try to move to a safe place. If you are in a house or an apartment, it’s better to be near the phone or an exit. Avoid places with a lot of objects that your abuser can use as a weapon – usually places like the kitchen or the garage.
Teach your kids how to call emergency services on the phone and explain to them what to do in an emergency situation.
Leaving the abuser can be dangerous. It is possible that this person may try to stop you, take back control over you and even become more aggressive. It is vital that they do not realize you’re planning to leave.
Try to reach out to a charity or NGO that helps those who suffered from domestic violence in advance. Let the specialists see what options you have, create an action plan and ensure your safety.
If you can do it without alerting the abuser, create a go bag in case of emergency. Pack your money, important documents (including birth and marriage certificates, mortgage papers or rental contract, ID documents of any type, your driving license etc.), a set of keys, some clothes, medications, chargers and a piece of paper or a notebook with all of the emergency phone numbers. You can keep that bag in the place of the person you trust – a friend or relative. Then if an emergency happens, you can leave quickly and pick your bag up there.
Choose a safe time to leave the house, minding the schedule of your abuser. Think about when and where they are going and choose a route so you are not going to cross paths.
Try to find a place where you can stay or live in advance. It can be a house of someone you trust – a friend or relative. Make sure your abuser doesn’t know your location. You can also go to a shelter or crisis center if there is one in your area.
Think about the ways your abuser can track you down. It is vital for you to consider all the possible options. For example, if you think they can have access to your mobile phone or your text messages, it’s better to use the phone of someone you trust to plan your escape and make plans with the person who is going to help you. Also you should probably delete all of the suspicious search requests from your browsers’ history. You should also turn off your GPS or geolocation settings on your phone.
Even if you are away from the abuser, don’t violate the safety rules put in place to keep you extra safe:
— Try to change your daily schedule as much as you can.
— If you have any regular appointments or meetings that your abuser knows about, reschedule them and change the location where it is held.
— Change your travel routes and the transportation that you use.
— Avoid self-isolating: keep in touch with friends or relatives that you trust. Create a secret code with them. For example, if you are in danger, you call them and hang up or send an empty text – it means you are in need of help. You can also share your location with the person you trust on the phone.
— It’s safer to avoid the places that you and your abuser went to together or the places that you told your abuser about.
— Если у вас есть ребёнок, расскажите о случившемся в школе или детском саду. Сообщите учителям, воспитателям или няне, кто будет забирать ребёнка. Убедитесь, что они никуда не отпустят его с другим человеком и никому не сообщат ваш новый адрес или номер телефона.
— If you have a child, tell the workers in the kindergarten or at school about your situation. Tell the school teacher or the kindergarten teacher who will be picking up your child after classes. Make sure that the staff know not to let your children go with anyone else or give anybody your new address or phone number.
— If your registration has expired or you are staying in the country illegally, you may have problems while contacting law enforcement agencies and healthcare workers. If you have any issues with your migration status and your life is not in danger right now, it’s better to reach out to the organizations that help those who suffered from domestic violence and refugees and migrants (you can find their contact info on the internet).
— If you are contacting the law enforcement or healthcare organizations, try to keep calm and tell them what happened to you in detail.
— Show the police officers or the doctors all of the bodily injuries and material damage that you’ve suffered.
— If this is not the first time an abuser is violent against you, tell them about the previous episodes in detail.
— If you know that the abuser has a weapon, was previously violent towards people or animals, or has an alcohol or a drug addiction, be sure to tell the police about it.
— When talking to the police, ask for a document proving that you have filed a police report. Save full names of the police officers and their work telephone numbers.
— Ask the police to take care of your personal safety and take the abuser to the police station. Find out if you can get a restraining order against your abuser and how to do it.
— Ask the law enforcement officers what to do next and how to record the bodily injuries. In some countries it’s not enough to just go to the hospital or the emergency room – you have to go through a special medical examination. When talking to the doctor, show them all of the injuries and tell him about the pain you’re experiencing. Tell them where, how, in what circumstances you got those injuries, and who injured you. Get a document proving that you’ve contacted a healthcare organization regarding your injuries. Also take photos of all of the injuries.
— Try reaching out to the organization that helps those who suffer from domestic violence. Ask them to escort you to the doctor or the police station (you can find their contact info on the internet).
If your registration has expired or you are staying in the country illegally, you may have problems while contacting law enforcement agencies and healthcare workers. If you have any issues with your migration status, but you still have to contact the police or healthcare organizations, try to reach out to the organizations that help those who suffer from sexual violence, refugees, and migrants at the same time (you can find their contact info on the internet).
Remember — sexual violence is always an abuser’s fault and never the victim’s.
If you’ve faced sexual violence or are at risk of facing it, move to a safe place as quick as possible and tell someone you trust about what you’ve experienced.
If you were sexually assaulted or raped, don’t wash your body, hair, or your clothes. Put your clothes into a paper bag. You can also wrap it up in paper or fabric. Do not put your clothes into a plastic bag.
It’s vital to go through a medical examination as soon as possible after being sexually assaulted or raped. If you do it immediately after the assault happened, the results of the examination can be a solid proof that sexual assault actually occurred. In some countries you will have to go through a special forensic examination – you need to get a referral from the law enforcement agency to do this. If you are working with an organization, you should ask your coordinators about it. You can also research info on the internet or ask police officers or doctors.
If you’re going to the law enforcement agencies or healthcare organizations, you should go with a person you trust who can support you. You can also go there with your lawyer.
72 hours after the assault (or even better – in the first 4 hours) you should visit some specialized institutions for HIV and STI prevention and get emergency contraception. If the organization you reached out to can’t give you emergency contraception, you can buy it in the pharmacy and take it according to the instructions. Some countries have limited access to emergency contraception. Сlarify this issue with the organization you’re working with. You can also research the info on the internet or ask the law enforcement officers or healthcare workers.
When talking to the police officers, describe what happened to you in great detail, mention the time and place in your report, list all of the possible proofs you can think of, names and contact info of the possible witnesses if there are any.
When compiling the instructions, we relied on the help of volunteers and lawyers from different countries. If something went wrong – the organization didn’t respond to you, you found a bug or the instructions weren’t precise enough – tell us about it. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org