Reporting the abuse
When women file a report or seek treatment, they may have to contend with police and health care officials who have not been trained to respond adequately or to keep consistent records. On the other hand, shame, fear of reprisal, lack of information about legal rights, lack of confidence in, or fear of, the legal system, and the legal costs involved make women reluctant to report incidents of violence.
Call 911 if this is a spousal violence incident in progress, or if the threat of danger is immediate
Try to give the police your name, address and phone number
Provide as much additional information as circumstances allow
Let them know if:
- your life is in danger
- you are injured and will need an ambulance
- there are weapons being used and if so, what type
- there are drugs and alcohol involved
- there are children (or others) present in the home
- there is a history of violence
- there is a protection order, peace bond or restraining order in effect
If there is not an immediate concern for your safety, i.e. you are at a place of safety unknown to the abuser, report to the regular police line
Police & Ambulance: 911
Distress & Crisis Lines:
Police Complaint Line
Safety at home
Develop a safety plan and discuss it with your children and review the plan as often as possible. Make sure your children’s school, day-care center, or camps know who is authorized to pick up your children. Tell your neighbours and landlord that your abuser no longer lives there and ask them to call the police if they see him or her near your home. Change the locks and install devices to secure your windows.
Safety at work or out in the public
If you have an order of protection, keep it with you at all times. Inform building security and coworkers you trust of your situation. If possible, provide a photograph of your abuser to building security. Vary your routes to and from work and arrange for someone to escort you to your car, bus, or train. Plan what to do in various situations if the abuser confronts you.
Safety during the violence altercation in the home
If an argument seems unavoidable, move to a room or area with easy access to an exit – not a bathroom, kitchen, or anywhere near weapons. Identify which door, window, stairwell or elevator offers the quickest way out of the home and practice your route. Have a bag packed and ready. Keep it in an undisclosed but accessible place where you can retrieve it quickly. Find neighbours you can tell about the violence and ask that they call the police if they hear a disturbance. Devise a code word to use with your children, family, and friends when you need the police. Decide where you will go if you have to leave, even if you do not think it will come to that. Use your instincts and judgment. Consider giving the abuser what he or she wants to defuse a dangerous situation. You have a right to protect yourself when you are in danger. You do not deserve to be battered or threatened.
Personalized Safety Plan
A personal safety plan is a way of helping you to protect yourself and your children. It helps you plan in advance for the possibility of future violence and abuse. It also helps you to think about how you can increase your safety either within the relationship, or if you decide to leave. You cannot stop your partner’s violence and abuse: only they can do that. But there are things you can do to increase your own and your children’s safety.
You’re probably already doing some things to protect yourself and your children – for example, there may be a pattern to the violence, which may enable you to plan ahead to increase your safety. Plan in advance how you might respond in different situations, including crisis situations. Think about the different options that may be available to you
The following steps represent a plan for increasing your safety and preparing in advance for the possibility for further violence. Although you do not have control over your partner’s violence, you do have a choice about how to respond to him/her and how to best get yourself and your children to safety.
Preparing to leave
Whatever coping strategies you have used – with more or less success – there may come a time when you feel the only option is to leave you r partner. If you do decide to leave your partner, it is best if you can plan this carefully.
Sometimes abusers will increase their violence if they suspect you are thinking of leaving, and will continue to do so after you have left, so this can be a particularly dangerous time for you. It’s important to remember that ending the relationship will not necessarily end the abuse.
Plan to leave at a time you know your partner will not be around. Try to take everything you will need with you – including any important documents relating to yourself and your children – as you may not be able to return later. Take your children with you – otherwise it may be difficult or impossible to have them living with you in future. If they are at school, make sure that the head and all your children’s teachers know what the situation is, an d who will be collecting the children in future.
Step 1: Safety during a violent incident
Women cannot always avoid violent incidents. In order to increase safety, battered women may use a variety of strategies.
I can use some or all of the following strategies:
If I decide to leave, I will ___________________. (Practice how to get out safely. What doors, windows, elevators, stairwells or fire escapes would you use?)
I can keep my purse and car keys ready and put them ________________________________
_______________________ (place) in order to leave quickly.
I can tell _____________________________________________about the violence and request they call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my house.
I can teach my children how to use the telephone to contact the police and the fire department.
I will use ___________________________________________ as my code for my children or my friends so they can call for help.
If I have to leave my home, I will go _______________________________________________
___________________________________ (Decide this even if you don’t think there will be a next time). If I cannot go to the location above, then I can go to
I can also teach some of these strategies to some/all of my children.
When I expect we are going to have an argument, I will try to move to a space that is lowest risk, such as ________________________ or ____________________________________. (Try to avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, and kitchen, near weapons or in rooms without access to an outside door)
I will use my judgment and intuition. If the situation is very serious, I can give my partner what he/she wants to calm him/her down. I have to protect myself until I/we are out of danger.
Step 2: Safety When Preparing To Leave
Battered women frequently leave the residence they share with the battering partner. Leaving must be done with a careful plan in order to increase safety. Batterers often strike back when they believe that a battered woman is leaving the relationship.
I can use some or all the following safety strategies:
I will leave money and an extra set of keys with___________________ so that I can leave quickly
I will keep copies of important papers and documents or an extra set of keys at ___________________________________________
I will open a savings account by ___________________________, to increase my independence
Other things I can do to increase my independence include
The domestic violence program’s hot line telephone number is ___________________________ and I can seek shelter by calling this hot line
I can keep change for phone calls on me at all times. I understand that if I use my telephone credit card, the following month the telephone bill will tell my batterer those numbers that I called after I left. To keep my telephone communications confidential, I must either use coins or I might get a friend to permit me to use their telephone credit card for a limited time when I first leave
I will check with ______________________________________________ and
______________________________ to see who would be able to let me stay with them or lend me some money in an emergency
I can leave extra clothes with__________________________________
I will sit down and review my safety plan every ___________________ in order to plan the safest way to leave the residence ______________________________________________ (domestic violence advocate or friend) has agreed to help me review this plan
I will rehearse my escape plan and, as appropriate, practice it with my children.
Step 3: Safety In My Own Residence
There are many things that a woman can do to increase her safety in her own residence. It may be impossible to do everything at once, but safety measures can be added step by step.
Safety measures I can use include:
I can change the locks on my doors and windows as soon as possible
I can replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors
I can install security systems including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, an electronic system, etc
I can purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from second floor windows
I can install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for each floor in my house/apartment
I can install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my house
I will teach my children how to use the telephone to make a collect call to me and to _________________________ (friend/minister/other) in the event that my partner takes the children
I will tell people who take care of my children which people have permission to pick up my children and that my partner is not permitted to do so. The people I will inform about pick-up permission include:
Day care staff: _____________________________________
Sunday school teacher: ______________________________
I. I can inform ___________________________________________ and
_____________________________ (neighbors), _______________________
(pastor), and,___________________________ (friend) that my partner no longer
resides with me and they should call the police if he is observed near my residence
I can find out my risks with Rate Your Risk Tests
Step 4: Safety With An Order Of Protection
Many battered women obey protection orders, but one can never be sure which violent partner will obey and which will violate protection orders. I recognize that I may need to ask the police and the court to enforce my protection order.
The following are some steps that I can take to help the enforcement of my protection order:
I will keep my protection order____________________________________ (location) (Always keep it on or near your person. If you change purses, that’s the first thing that should go in)
I will give my protection order to police departments in the communities where I usually visit family or friends, and in the community where I live
The Clark County Sheriff is the county registry of protection orders that all police departments can call to confirm a protection order. I can check to make sure that my order is in registry. The telephone number for the county registry of protection order is _________________________________
For further safety, if I often visit other counties in Indiana, I might file my protection order with the court in those counties
I can call the local domestic violence program if I have questions or if I have some problem with my protection order
I will inform my employer, my minister, my closest friend, my relatives, and
___________________________________________that I have a protection order in effect
If my partner destroys my protection order, I can get another copy from the Courthouse by going to the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, or by contacting the Domestic Violence Unit of the County Prosecuting Attorney
If my partner violates the protection order, I can call the police and report a violation, contact my attorney, call my advocate, and/or advise the court of the violation
If the police do no help, I can contact my advocate or attorney and will file a complaint with the chief of the police department
I can also file a private criminal complaint with the Prosecuting Attorney in the jurisdiction where the violation occurred. I can request that charges be filed against my battering partner for violation of the Protective Order and all the crimes that he commits in violating the order. I can call the domestic violence advocate for help.
Step 5: Safety On The Job And In Public
Each battered woman must decide if and when she will tell others that her partner has battered her and that she may be at continued risk. Friends, family and co-workers can help to protect women. Each woman should consider carefully which people to invite to help secure her safety.
I might do any or all of the following:
I can inform my boss, the security supervisor and____________________ at work of my situation
I can ask ________________ to help screen my telephone calls at work
When leaving work, I can ______________________________________
When driving home if problems occur, I can ________________________
If I use public transit, I can ______________________________________
I will go to different grocery stores and shopping malls to conduct my business and shop at hours that are different than those when residing with my battered partner
I can use a different bank and take care of my banking at hours different from those I used when residing with my battered partner
I can also_________________________________________________
Step 6: Safety And Drug Or Alcohol Use
Most people in this culture use alcohol. Many use mood-altering drugs. Much of this use is legal and some is not. The legal outcomes of using illegal drugs can be very hard on a battered woman, may hurt her relationship with her children and put her at a disadvantage in other legal actions with her battering partner. Therefore, women should carefully consider the potential cost of the use of illegal drugs. But beyond this, the use of any alcohol or other drug can reduce a woman’s awareness and ability to act quickly to protect herself from her battering partner. Furthermore, the use of alcohol or other drugs by the batterer may give him/her an excuse to use violence. Therefore, in the context of drug or alcohol use, a woman needs to make specific safety plans.
If drug or alcohol use has occurred in my relationship with the battering partner, I can enhance my safety by some or all of the following:
If I am going to use, I can do so in a safe place and with people who understand the risk of violence and are committed to my safety
I can also___________________________________________
If my partner is using, I can_____________________________
I might also_________________________________________
To safeguard my children, I might ________________________________ and ______________________________________________.
Step 7: Safety And My Emotional Health
The experience of being battered and verbally degraded by partners is usually exhausting and emotionally draining. The process of building a new life for myself takes much courage and incredible energy.
To conserve my emotional energy and resources and to avoid hard emotional times, I can do some of the following:
If I feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can _____________________________________________
When I have to communicate with my partner in person or by telephone, I can _____________________________________________
I can try to use “I can . . . ” statements with myself and to be assertive with others
I can tell myself -”_____________________________________________
__________________” whenever I feel others are trying to control or abuse me
I can read ____________________________to help me feel stronger
I can call ___________________, ___________________and _________________ as other resources to be of support of me.
Other things I can do to help me feel stronger are____________ ______________, and _______________________________.
I can attend workshops and support groups at the domestic violence program or
_________________________________________________, or ________________________ to gain support and strengthen my relationships with other people.
Step 8: Items to take when leaving
When women leave partners, it is important to take certain items with them. Beyond this, women sometimes give an extra copy of papers and an extra set of clothing to a friend just in case they have to leave quickly.
Even if I have never worked, I may be entitled to the funds in the checking and savings accounts. If I don’t take any money from the accounts, he can legally take all money and/or close the account and I may not get my share until the court rules on it if ever.
Items with asterisks on the following list are the most important to take. If there is time, the other items might be taken, or stored outside the home. These items might be placed in one location, so that if we have to leave in a hurry, I can grab them quickly.
Making a Safety Plan – When you are ready to leave
Be prepared to leave the house in an emergency.
If you suspect that your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower risk area of the house – for example where there is a way out and access to a telephone. Avoid the kitchen or garage where there are likely to be knives or other weapons; and avoid rooms where you might be trapped – such as the bathroom – or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
Keep with you any important and emergency telephone numbers – e.g. your local Women’s Aid organization or other domestic violence service; the police domestic violence unit; your social worker, if you have one; your children’s school; your solicitor; and the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline. Teach your children to call 911 in an emergency, and what they would need to say; e.g. their full name, address and telephone number.
Is there a neighbour you could trust, and where you could go in an emergency? If so, tell them what is going on, and ask them to call the police if they hear sounds of a violent attack. Rehearse an escape plan, so in an emergency you and the children can get away safely.
Pack an emergency bag for yourself your children, and hide it somewhere safe – e.g. at a neighbour’s or friend’s house. Try to avoid mutual friends or family. (There are some suggestions below for what you need to take with you when you leave).
Thinking about leaving and making the decision to leave can be a long process. Planning it doesn’t mean you have to carry it through immediately – or at all. But it may help to be able to consider all the options, and how you could overcome the difficulties involved. If at all possible, try to set aside a small amount of money each week, or even open a separate bank account. What to pack if you are planning to leave your partner ideally, you need to take all the following items with you if you leave. Knowing ways to protect yourself is essential. Please take into account the following suggestions as you plan for your safety and the safety of your children. Some of these items you can try to keep with you at all times; others you may be able to pack in your “emergency bag”.
Have a code word with your children that will let them know to leave and get help. Let children know whose house they can run to
If possible leave the home or call police before any violence starts
If you need to leave your home or workplace, know the best escape routes and practice your emergency exit plans. Teach children the escape routes
Keep a small bag of clothes packed and hidden
Keep copies of important documents and money in a safe place
Keep your purse/wallet nearby in case you need to leave quickly
Keep spare keys for your home and car with you in a safe place at all times
Let children know where the cordless phone or cell phone is and how to use them
Plan where to go if you need to leave. This needs to be a safe place of for you and your children in a time of crisis
Tell trusted friends, neighbours or relatives about the abuse and create a code word or signal with them to call the police if you need help
Items to bring with you
- All identification for yourself and children
- Birth certificate – for yourself and children
- Driver’s license and car registration
- Medical records – for all family members
- Passports (including passports for all your children), visas and work permits.
- School and vaccination records
- Social insurance cards / Social security cards
- Welfare identification, work permits, Green Card, Passport, divorce papers
- Address book
- Bank books, Insurance papers
- Checkbook, ATM (Automatic Tellers Machine) card, credit cards and debit cards.
- Lease/rental agreement, house deed, mortgage payment book
- Cards for payment of Child Benefit and any other welfare benefits you are entitled to
- Clothing and toiletries for you and your children
- Copies of documents relating to your housing tenure, e.g. mortgage details or lease and rental agreements Insurance documents, including national insurance number
- Family photographs
- Items of special sentimental value Small saleable objects
- Your diary
- Keys for house, car and place of work You could get an extra set of keys cut and put them in your emergency bag
- Prescribed Medication – for you and children
- Your children’s favourite small toys and/or blankets
- You should also take any documentation relating to the abuse (if applicable)police reports
- court orders such as injunctions and restraining orders
- copies of medical records if you have them
- Protecting yourself after you have left if you leave your partner because of abuse, you may want not want people to know the reason you left. It is your decision whether or not you tell people that you have suffered domestic violence; but if you believe you may still be at risk, it might increase your safety if you tell your family and friends, your children’s school, and your employer or college what is happening, so that they do not inadvertently give out any information to your ex-partner. They will also be more prepared and better able to help you in an emergency.
Living in the same town after leaving
- Change the locks on all doors, put (new) locks on all windows
- Consider telling your employer or others at your place of work – particularly if you think your partner may try to contact you there.
- Change your telephone number and making it unlisted, put your number under another name
- If you have moved away from your area and don’t want your abuser to know where you are, then you need to take particular care with anything that may indicate your location Your mobile phone could be “tracked”; this is only supposed to happen if you have given your permission, but if your partner has had access to your mobile phone, he could have sent a consenting message purporting to come from you. If you think this could be the case, you should contact the company providing the tracking facility and withdraw your permission; or if you are in any doubt, change your phone.
- Try to avoid using shared credit or debit cards or joint bank accounts: if the statement is sent to your ex-partner, he will see the transactions you have made.
- Make sure that your address does not appear on any court papers. (If you are staying in a refuge, they will advise you on this.)
- Talk to your children about the need to keep your address and location confidential.
- If you don’t have them already; installing smoke detectors on each floor, and providing fire extinguishers
- If you have any regular appointments that your partner knows about – e.g. with a counsellor or health practitioner – try to change your appointment time and/or the location of the appointment.
- If you have left home, but are staying in the same town or area, these are some of the ways in which you might be able to increase your safety:
- If you need to phone your abuser (or anyone with whom he is in contact), make sure your telephone number is untraceable by dialing *** before ringing.
- Informing the neighbours that your partner no longer lives there, and asking them to tell you – or call the police – if they see him nearby
- Install an outside light (back and front) which comes on automatically when someone approaches
- Keeping copies of all court orders together with dates and times of previous incidents and call-outs for reference if you need to call the police again
- Tell your children’s school, nursery or child minder what has happened, and let them know who will pick them up. Make sure they do not release the children to anyone else, or give your new address or telephone number to anyone. (You may want to establish a password with them, and give them copies of any court orders, if you have them.)
- Try not to place yourself in a vulnerable position or isolate yourself.
- Try to avoid any places, such as shops, banks, cafes, that you used to use when you were together.
- Try to alter your routines as much as you can.
- Try to choose a safe route, or alter the route you take or the form of transport you use, when approaching or leaving places you cannot avoid – such as your place of work, the children’s school, or your G.P.’s surgery
- Use an answering machine to screen calls
If your ex-partner continues to harass, threaten and abuse you
- Make sure you keep detailed records of each incident, including the date and time it occurred, what was said or done
- If possible – photographs of damage to your property or injuries to yourself or others
- If your partner or ex-partner injures you, see your GP (doctor) or go to hospital for treatment and ask them to document your visit
- If you have an injunction with a power of arrest, or there is a restraining order in place, you should ask the police to enforce this
- If your ex-partner is in breach of any court order, you should also tell your solicitor