Safety Planning for Domestic Violence and Abuse Victims

Safety planning for a domestic violence emergency can save your life (and your sanity). Safety planning helps while living in an abusive relationship or while you plan to leave.

One of the toughest things about safety planning is that doing so forces you to face what happens in your relationship realistically. When you truthfully analyze your abusive relationship, the panic to leave sets begins. Try to keep your anxiety low with the thought that you have made it this far and you can make it awhile longer as you decide whether to stay or go. I wrote the following long before I left my marriage:

My Department of Social Services counselor has told me that it’s okay for me not to leave this relationship, this marriage, this family. I don’t have to leave just because I know what’s going on. It’s better to plan and think through a domestic violence safety plan than to pick up and leave but have to go back because you weren’t ready.

When I left, I wasn’t ready. My safety planning stopped with the assumption that I would stay with my abuser until I completed my bachelor’s degree. Part of me felt like I betrayed my husband by safety planning. Writing out felt what I could do if he acted out felt horrible. I wrote about my mistakes in Emergency Plan = Emotional Pain.

Important Safety Planning Considerations

It is very important that you keep your safety plan confidential. Be very careful who you ask to help you with your safety planning. Make sure the people you trust will not run back to your abuser and spill the beans. Even if you’re planning to stay, your abuser will not like that you’ve talked to anyone about what he does.

I began my safety planning with the Army’s DD Form 2893 (their safety plan), but it didn’t help me think through my safety while living with my abuser. Safety planning for right now is as important as safety planning for when you leave. To put both ends of safety planning together, I created a safety plan  that will help you to stay safer while living with your abuser and guide you toward planning a safe escape when (and if) you’re ready.

Download the Verbal Abuse Journal Safety Plan

If your partner abuses you, then safety planning is priority number 1. It doesn't matter if your partner hit you before ... eventually he or she will.

As good as I think my safety plan is, I highly recommend that you speak with a counselor or hotline representative too. They have done this sort of planning before, and talking with them will make your planning easier and less stressful to complete.

Purchase Domestic Violence Safety Plan: A comprehensive plan that will keep you safer whether you stay or leave at Amazon.

Download the Domestic Violence Safety Plan to print at home.

Please add your comments and suggestions for improvements to this plan below.

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  1. Caroline Abbott says:

    Dear Kellie Jo,

    This is the most comprehensive safety plan I have ever seen. Here are some of the things I like about it, and that I think are special about it:
    1. The signs that a partner is about to become abusive
    2. The things I can do when I sense abuse is about to occur
    3. What to do if you decide to return after an abusive episode.
    I like that you repeat many times that the victim SHOULD NOT tell the abuser she is planning to leave. This is SO important!

    The only thing I didn’t notice that I would add is to tell the victim if she does leave to leave her cell phone behind, so that the abuser cannot use it to track her.


    Caroline Abbott

    • I added your suggestions to the plan, Caroline. My blackberry was so crucial to my escape that I didn’t consider how a more technologically savvy abuser could use it as a weapon. Great idea!

    • what if you don’t have the money for a divorce

      • find social welfare programs and centres in your area. they can provide legal help. don’t let money stop you. that will work itself out. Good luck.

  2. Peter Richards says:

    Your safety plan is extremely well thought out. I particularly liked the what to do if the abuser if forced to leave section. A lot of the time the abuser is sent away from the home but what is keeping them from getting back in and exacting revenge? You have taken the time to inform people how to make their house safe for DV and how to make your home safer from everyone. There is one lock out there that can fix all these issues. It’s called the Ultimate Lock. I have them on my home. These are great for domestic violence because they have a lockout button. At night, for example, when I go to bed I push a mechanical button on my deadbolt that will ‘lock it down’ making all keys useless. If your abuser has been forced to leave and you are afraid he/she may have keys to get into your home then the Ultimate Lock can help reassure you when you are in the home.

  3. says:

    So what happens if you are 23 no family to have a safety plan to go to and when you plan to leave you dont want to tell the police what support could you give?

    My relationship has be ongoing for 4 years i moved after 2 years after getting really violent and then moved back a few months later the physical abuse has calmed down but the emotional abuse has completely destroyed myself esteem. The only reason i stay is because ive convinced myself because the abuse calmed down things will get better, plus the family love me and i love them.

    I dont know what to do i feel like im constantly walking around in a bubble of what if’s! If there is anyone who could help me please reply.

  4. I’ve been in a mental abusive relationship for almost 2 yrs but I only started to realize it about 9 months now..many of my friends and family would tell me that the things he said or did was not ok but I thought they just didn’t like I hear myself praying to God to take me feels like the only way out ..if don’t know to go from here..I’ve tried many times to end it but in the end the panic sets in ..what if it’s me I’ll never find someone who would want me..and I actually beg him to stay..I’m embarrassed how I fell into this roller-coaster. .I’m afraid to ask for help..or I have asked for help and received none..I guess I feel like I’m at the end..either my sanity or my life..I want out I just don’t know how to I’m scared and afraid

    • Kim, you don’t always get help the first time you ask for it. Sometimes the person has no understanding, sometimes they don’t know what to do. The trick is lining up the specific request to the right person.

      For example, if you asked me to come pick you up and take you to your mother’s, well, that couldn’t happen. Not because I don’t WANT to, but because I don’t know you (or where your mother lives). In that case, you would call your mother. She’s the one who could help.

      But, if you need a safety plan, which is basically a way to get your mind and heart prepped for dealing appropriately with your situation, then you’re asking the right person. I can’t do the work for you, but I can give you the guidance. Download this: Scroll to the bottom of this page and download the plan for free

  5. I like this. I’m in the beginning stages of my “escape plan.” My plan is to hAve my older brother here and a screener that works in mental health. My boyfriend is being treated for mental disturbances but it not complying with doctors orders.

    He has episodes of extreme anger over the smallest things and while he does not touch me, he does do damage in the house. It’s very scary. Sometimes when he gets on his tangents he calls me bad names and often wakes me up just to yell at me. I tried once to get him to leave and he threatened lethal (commit suicide.) I know what I have to do and I can’t wait for my inner peace to come back.

  6. Linda VanAcker says:

    Thank you!

  7. Everything is good but when he says you fuckin bitch. I don’t care about what we have ,things we did. I had enough of the name calling. This wants me to give it all up. Over 25 years of that talk I am done. I am 53 and pretty stupid for getting married because it has always been this way. Well that’s it in a nut shell.

  8. So many of these comments hitting so close to home; I’m just so sad today. He’s so unhappy with me – last night (sober!) he told me I’m “a sexless bitch” and that he “resents and hates” me. I’m “so fucking fat he can’t even have sex with me”. (Wonder why I’m a “sexless bitch?”)Let’s see … usually I’m a “fat fucking bitch” so I’m trying to watch what I eat – sometimes don’t eat at all, especially when I’m particularly upset – so during his most recent blow-up two weeks ago I was a “skinny fucking bitch”. And yes, last night, I was “fat” again. I left with my daughter for the weekend a couple of weeks back because we had some Girl Scout activities to do … and came home to find furniture (a desk) destroyed and its contents all over the living room floor (and I had to clean it up before my daughter came home and saw it and got scared or sad AGAIN about what a complete ass he is to me) and holes bashed in several living room walls with a hammer. I purchased this home before I even met him, and he’s been living in this house with me for nearly thirteen years – but he’s always been pissed that this is “my house” and that “he has nothing”. Despite the fact that I’ve shouldered most of our household bills over the years – including a couple of years when he wasn’t working at all – which has enabled him to start his own business and save tens of thousands of dollars which he’s saving as a down payment on another home for us. He’s slapped me, kicked me, pulled my hair, pushed me against walls, pulled me out of a vehicle and thrown me on the ground, spit in my face … not to mention ruined holidays, disrespected my family members, and scared our daughter so many times. Even she’s told me she wants him gone. He refuses to leave me because “he loves me” (really I think it’s because he has nowhere else to go because he has alienated everyone in his family by being an overall jerk to them as well) – yet he’s frustrated with my sexlessness (as compared to someone he’s cheated on me with, which he completely denies despite my having found texts talking about how he “can’t stop thinking” about what they did) … I have always been relatively independent, which drives him nuts … more than anything I want some peace, even if just for a trial separation, and for him to see how fucking great he’s had it and get some fucking appreciation!

    • Hi,
      Thank you for sharing. My name is Janet and I work here at Verbal Abuse Journals. I am sorry you have had to go through all of this, you definitely do not deserve any of it. May I suggest our Mentoring Program? You may find it very helpful. We have a group of wonderful women who have all been there. They offer to Mentor via email for free, giving guidance and support. If you would like to sign up please go to Having a good support system is important when you are dealing with abuse. I hope you sign up! Take care Janet

  9. I’ve been married for almost 11 years. While we were dating, he told me that his stepfather abused his mother and after having seen that go on, he swore he would never be abusive to a woman. I honestly believe that he thinks he is keeping that promise, because he has not been as physically abusive towards me. In fact, in the nearly 11 years we have been married, the physical abuse has only happened 5 or 6 times. I know it should never happen, but to be honest, the limited amount of physical violence is what enabled my denial for so long. I’ve been worried for quite some time that this relationship was more abusive than I realized, but did not want to face the truth. It wasn’t until my doctor’s wife posted something on Facebook about the subtle signs of verbal and mental abuse that the wall of denial was broken down. I am in an abusive marriage. Everything from blaming me for things that he has done, to saying that if he ever left me he would have to kill my family to keep them from coming after him. He drives recklessly with me in the car when he is angry. Usually pulling out in front of vehicles on my side of the car, or driving towards bridges, poles, trees etc. He also punches the steering wheel while muttering things like “this is your face.” When I have called him on these behaviors he vehemently denies that they happened, instead saying I am crazy and making things up. Also, because he knows my faith plays an important part in my life, he will lower his voice to a gravelly “demonic” sound and make blasphemous statements and threats. The thing is, I know he knows exactly what he is doing and enjoys it, but he is so charming to those not close to him, that it’s hard even for me to believe that he is abusive some times. I am disabled, unable to drive or provide for myself, which is one of the main reasons I have stayed. But I am creating a safety plan, using the information referenced above, I honestly feel that if I don’t get out soon, things are going to get very bad. But I need to do this rationally and intelligently, because I feel like I only have one shot to get this right.

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