Do you live with someone whom you know or suspect is harming you or someone you know?
Use this guide to create a safety plan. If you would like support with creating a safety plan, please contact us.
Included in this article:
- What is a Safety Plan?
- Safety at Home
- Safety at Work
- If you are in immediate danger
- Safety in Court or in Public Places
- Other Safety Planning Tips
What is a safety plan?
A safety plan is a set of personalized, preconceived actions and/or list of things that you can use in order to get yourself to safety. Especially because a safe person, space, or organization may not always be available, creating and practicing a detailed plan is essential.
At Sakhi, we use safety planning frequently in order to proactively establish safety and practice a plan in case a survivor needs to find safety fast.
We make Safety Plans in order to:
- Create a detailed plan in case dangerous situations arise, even if you do not feel at risk in the current moment
- Identify safe friends and safe places
- Identify the essential items to have on hand or to take should one need or decide to leave home
- To increase awareness and build skill and comfort with safety planning
If you are living in an abusive home, make the home as safe as possible by:
- Keep some money handy in case you need to call a car (Sakhi can reimburse you).
- Try to avoid stairs and unsafe rooms that have sharp objects or hard surfaces.
- Pack a bag with documents, medicines, chargers & other necessities. See more details below in the “What to Bring” section.
- Keep important documents handy like passport, birth certificate, and immigration papers and share copies with a trusted family member, friend or professional.
- Know the address of your nearest precinct and hospital.
- Always keep the phone accessible. If you can, purchase a cell phone of your own and keep it in an accessible hiding place and pre-programm 911 or the number of a safe friend or relative into the phone’s directory;
- Make a safety word with children or a trusted neighbor so that they can call a neighbor/police if need be.
- Plan and practice an escape route out of the home and communicate a safety plan and safety words for any children
If you need information about obtaining an emergency order of protection,call the NYC Family Court at 646-386-5299 between 9:00 AM & 5:00 PM. Learn more about obtaining an order of protection here.
Getting to a Safe Place
What are some places you feel safe going in case of an emergency? Keep a list of addresses handy.
Contact domestic violence shelters in case you want/need to leave your home. In case shelters go into lockdown and stop accepting new clients, keep a place in mind, perhaps that of a neighbor, friend, or family member, where you may be able to go if the need arises.
Here are some places where you might want to head in case of an emergency:
- Hospitals are open 24/7 and don’t often require identification. They can provide a quick, easily accessible safe haven
- Safe public places like, grocery stores, schools, subway stations
- Homes of trusted friends, neighbors, relatives
- Police precinct, provided you feel safe there
- PATH Assessment shelter is also open 24/7(151 E 151st St, The Bronx, NY 10451)
What to bring with you?
It’s a good idea to keep a bag ready with the following items, in the event that you need to flee suddenly:
- Personal identification documents (green card, work permit, passport, birth certificate, license, immigration papers, SSN, school information, immunization records, welfare identification).
- Note: if you cannot obtain originals of your documents, try to have pictures of these handy on a phone, email account or other device of your own that is secure and cannot be accessed by others
- Insurance papers
- Proof of lease/mortgage payments
- Order of Protection, if applicable
- If possible, a copy of the documents (passport, SSN, license etc.) of the person who’s causing you harm
- Extra Money
- Extra medicines
- Diapers or any items for the children
- Something to keep you grounded; a special or sentimental object such as a stuffed animal that brings you joy or family photographs
- School and medical records
- Ownership documents for car/house
If you are not living with someone who is actively harming you, make your home as safe as possible by:
- Changing the locks
- Adding dead bolts to the doors
- Teaching the children not to let the person who has harmed you in the home (unless they have a legal right to be there).
- Obtaining an order of protection, if desired
If you are in immediate danger:
- If it is safe for you to do so, call the police at 911 (or the local equivalent) and ask for the dispatcher’s name. When the police respond, obtain the officer’s name and badge number;
- File criminal charges if the person who has harmed you commits a crime or violates a protection order;
- Seek medical treatment if injured by
- Photograph all injuries;
- Record all contact with the harmful person in a journal or notes app
If feasible, please seek an order of protection in court
- Make extra copies of the order and keep them in safe places;
- Ask the court or your lawyer to attach a copy of the full faith and credit provision of the Violence Against Women Act to each protection order;
- Show the orders to police officers to improve response;
- Give a copy of the protection order to the schools of your children and make them aware of the situation;
- Show neighbors a picture of the person who has harmed and/or their vehicle so they can screen visitors and call the police if necessary; and,
- Develop signals to tell neighbors and friends to call the police, such as banging on the floor or wall. If possible, arrange to have a relative or friend call every day at an appointed time.
Safety at work:
Consider taking the following preventive measures in your workplace
- Keep a copy of your protection order at work. If it is safe for you to do so, a supervisor or the Human Resources Department of the existence of the order and give them a copy;
- Screen calls with voicemail or an answering machine if possible, or ask a colleague to screen calls; and,
- Travel to or from work with another person.
Safety in Court and other Public Places:
- Wait in a safe place if the person who has harmed you is nearby, such as next to a security guard or a bailiff in court;
- Sit at a physical distance from the the person who has harmed you. Always make sure other people are in between you and them;
- Do not speak to the person who has harmed you or the their family members. Safeguard children if the person or family members insist on holding them; and,
- Make certain that you are safe when you leave a courthouse or a public place. Folks often stalk survivors to discover where they live, or to punish survivors for taking legal action.
- Click here to find information about staying safe on campus.
Safety Planning might also include:
- Educating yourself about Orders of Protection, in case you would like to file for one.
- Discussing the option of changing locks of the residence to keep the abuser out of the residence. Safe Horizon offers free lock changes for survivors of Domestic Violence. More information about their lock replacement program can be found here.
- Opening a new bank account, especially if you have a joint account with the person who has harmed you
- Managing your credit debt
- Ensuring safety by changing school, workplace, or filing for order of protection
- Discussing other family members’ safety, especially if they are in the home country
- Being aware of cyber safety & educating yourself about location tracking through phone, email address and laptop.
- Staying safe online: using social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with caution, as they can compromise your physical and emotional safety
- Creating a new email address especially if the person who has caused harm is aware of the password
- Having a mechanic look for a Global Position Systems tracking device on your car to make sure you are not being tracked by the device;
- Being aware that motor vehicle records, including addresses, may be available to the public.
- Most Departments of Motor Vehicles will permit drivers to use a number other than their social security number for identification purposes and will keep information confidential upon request
- Obtaining a private or unlisted telephone number, and being selective about revealing a new address.
- Know that you can be inadvertently located victims through friends, relatives, co-workers, court or social services documents, the post office, and private investigators
- Using the block code when making telephone calls. Using an answering machine or call trace when receiving calls to collect evidence of harassment or protection order violations
- Altering routines such as changing transportation routes or timing (including picking up children from school) so that the unsafe person cannot locate you.
- Trading cars with a friend or relative so that the person who has harmed you cannot locate your vehicle.