When helping someone to leave their abusive situation, or perhaps when leaving an abusive situation yourself, there is nothing more important than your safety or the safety of the person leaving. A safety plan is a way to organize the victim in a way that they can extract themselves from their abusive situation without causing harm to themselves, their friends/family, or their helper. This article includes a small list we have put together to help you or someone you know prepare a safety plan to leave their abusive situation.
1. Document as much of the abuse as possible - anytime there is ANY form of abuse, note it down in a secret journal somewhere the abuser will not find it. If there is physical abuse, cyber abuse, or any abuse that can be photographed, take a picture and keep it hidden, or print the picture to obtain a physical copy, and put it in the journal. This way you may prove in a court of law that the abuse did in fact happen if it goes to trial. If possible or needed, keep the documents at a separate location from where the abuse is occurring or where the abuser may find it. If this is not possible, then keep it in the safest place available.
2. Determine safe housing for the victim - Create a list of different places with the victim where they will be safe from their abuser. This might be a family or friend’s house, a shelter, or even a hotel. The primary concern here is to ensure that the abuser does not know where the victim is going, and they will not be able to find them. If that means that the abuser is aware of this friend or family member’s home address and the victim may be putting them at risk, perhaps it is best to go with the shelter or hotel approach.
3. Plan to cut off all communication with the abuser - The abuser will be desperate to get in contact with the victim. Whether it be by phone, email, social media, face to face, or any other means of communication, the victim needs to cut contact with their abuser completely. There are different ways of doing this, sometimes it might be by changing a phone number, or blocking the abuser on social media. Another key point here is to never let the abuser know exactly where you or the victim is located.
4. Prepare for the safety of all members leaving - If there is an abusive situation where children must leave with the victim, plan for this as well. Find a time where every member who is leaving is together at the same time, and plan for them all to leave at the same point, when the abuser is not there. If possible, everyone involved should go to the same safe place, though being aware of the circumstance and of any adaptations needed is crucial. The most important thing to remember is that the goal is to do the safest thing for all involved parties however is needed.
5. Prepare all documents needed - Ensure all the essential documents needed are gathered. That means drivers license, passport, proof of ownerships, bank account information, SIN number, etc. It is also wise to leave a legal note explaining the situation to the abuser, one copy for them, and the other for the victim and their lawyer. This ensures that the abuser knows that the victim is leaving voluntarily and it was not a kidnapping situation where their children (if children are involved) or the victim might be in harm’s way.
6. Seek legal help - Family law lawyers are incredibly important when leaving an abusive situation. They can help set the victim up so that they do everything in the right legal framework, and also help to prepare in the case of a court trial regarding the abuse. Not to mention most have good connections with safe-houses for victims of such abuse.They will also be crucial in any reporting to law enforcement that is needed in the situation.
7. Pack a bug out bag - The last step in our guide to creating a safety plan is to pack a bag with all the documents needed, a good set of clothes, toiletries, some cash, and anything else for immediate evacuation. If you need to know exactly what to bring, here is a link to a list of things to pack in a bug out bag: https://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/how-to-make-a-go-bag-when-leaving-an-abusive-relationship/