Safety Planning for Domestic Violence and Abuse Victims

Safety planning for domestic violence and abuse victims and survivors is priority number one. Don't wait. Download this safety planning workbook now.

Safety planning for a domestic violence emergency can save your life (and your sanity). Your safety planning helps you stay calmer while living in an abusive relationship and as you prepare to leave.

Safety Planning Brings Up Tough Emotions

One of the toughest things about safety planning is that it forces you to face the abuse in your relationship. When you look at your abusive relationship truthfully, the panic to leave begins. You rush to judgment on yourself, thinking things like,

  • “How could I have been so blind?”
  • “Holy crap! How did I let this happen?!”
  • “Staying here proves how stupid I am.”

Please, refrain from judging yourself. Not one of those reactions takes into account how your abuser manipulated you into the relationship. If you think about those thoughts, you’ll find that they are false judgments. Your abuser lied about who he was and wanted to be. You believed him because he seemed so damn real. There’s no way you could have seen his deception, and you couldn’t have read his mind. He tricked you. Period.

Let his shoulders bear the weight of responsibility for his actions.

Safety Planning When There’s No Physical Violence

Unless your abuser physically hurts you or your kids, you don’t have to walk out the door this minute. (If your partner physically abuses you or threatens to do so, it is important to leave now.) Thorough planning will help you to leave and be able to refrain from returning to the relationship. Remember that you have made it this far and you can make it a bit longer as you get yourself together.

It’s better to think through your domestic violence safety plan than to pick up and leave immediately, only to go back to the abusive relationship because you weren’t ready to stay away.

Safety Planning Felt Like a Betrayal to Me

I wrote the following 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.

That was such a relief! I wasn’t ready to leave; there was no plan, no job, no money, nothing. I wanted to stay another two years until I completed my bachelor’s degree.

And secretly, I didn’t want to safety plan because planning without telling him felt horrible and scary. It forced me to acknowledge, in writing, that my children and I were in danger.

Safety planning for myself and children felt like a betrayal. My abuser conditioned me to tell him about everything I did so I wouldn’t get in trouble. I thought I had two choices: tell him everything so I didn’t betray him, or don’t plan at all. He was so successful at the brainwashing that I chose to not plan. Isn’t it crazy how abuse makes you see in black and white–to limit yourself to the choices your abuser gives?

I wrote about my safety planning mistakes in Emergency Plan = Emotional Pain.

Safety Planning and Secrecy

Secrecy and confidentiality in safety planning for domestic violence and abuse is priority 1.It is very important that you keep your safety plan confidential. Be very careful who you ask to help you with your safety planning. Ensure the people you trust understand how important it is to keep your plan a secret. Honesty with your helpers is important, but be honest only to the extent that you feel safe.

Realize that deciding to help a domestic abuse victim is difficult for your helpers, too. The fewer people who know, the safer you will be. Even if you want to stay in the relationship, helpers who tell your abuser about the plan are not helpers. Your abuser will not like that you’ve talked to anyone about the abuse.

Choose Survival over The Whole Truth

Perhaps you prefer to be open and honest with your abuser. Lying or omitting information can feel like a compromise to your integrity. However, it is more important for you to survive than to be honest. If you feel tempted to tell your abuser about the plan, ever, please reconsider. Once your abuser knows you have a safety plan, life becomes more dangerous for you (and your kids).

The statistics are that women in abusive relationships are about 500 many times more at risk when they leave. Domestic violence is all about power and control, and when a woman leaves, a man has lost his power and control. ~Wendy Mahoney, executive director for the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Yes, leaving is dangerous. That’s why safety planning is so important, and why secrecy during safety planning is paramount.

Safety Planning for Leaving, and for While You Stay

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.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 abuse happening right now is as important as safety planning for when you leave. Both ends of safety planning are important. The Domestic Violence Safety Plan you see here ties the ends together. It will help you to stay safer while living with your abuser and guide you toward planning a safe escape.

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. Living with domestic abuse is suffocating, planning for your safety is heartbreaking. You don’t have to do this alone.

Download a Free Domestic Violence Safety Plan

Download the Domestic Violence Safety Plan to print at home for free.

Purchase Domestic Violence Safety Plan: A comprehensive plan that will keep you safer whether you stay or leave at Amazon. Great for counselors, domestic violence organizations and people who want to keep important papers in one place.

Add your suggestions for improvements to this plan below.

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Comments

  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.

    OUTSTANDING job!

    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. catherine.king@royalgreenwich.gov.uk 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 him..now I hear myself praying to God to take me ..it 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 http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/ 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.

    • Steph sounds like you are awake now to the abuse. Make sure you are comfortable with the safety and escape plan. Be prepared for him to intrude on any support you have. Tell family, friends, etc. you are unhappy (you don’t have to disclose that you are leaving) but that things are not well even bad. Let them know so they can (maybe) ask you later. It’s a guarantee your ex will go to them and tell them how awful YOU have been, how sad they are that you suddenly left, and so on. Continue to educate yourself on narcissistic personality abuse.

  10. As a mental health professional, this safety plan is bar none the absolute best, concise, and to the detail of what needs to take place~!

    • Thank you. I’m always looking for suggestions, so should you run across something that should be included, let me know. It would be awesome if you bought the safety plan from amazon.com, but the free version will always be here for you and your clients to use. It’s exactly the same as the one you buy, but not put together so nicely 🙂

  11. Taylor Vettese says:

    My boyfriend is kicking me out. We’ve been together for 8 years since I was 21. He’s 14 years older than me. And very controlling, emotionally and verbally abusive and sometimes will either threaten to be physically abusive or when he’s really mad, hes actually done thing like drag me off the bed and drag me across the carpet giving me rug burns. Or punch the wall beside my head. I cower or flinch when he gets close sometimes and he’s angry. And he thinks I’m crazy because he’s never given me a black eye or put me in the hospital so I his mind, hes not abusive.

    When I tell him that no matter what he should never get physical or threaten to, he says “so because you’re a woman, that gives you a free pass to say whatever you want to me? You don’t get to talk to me like that!”…. He always says I can’t “talk to him like that” and I should respect him. Over stuff like me defending myself.

    He wants me to just agree and say “yes sir” at all times. Even if he’s wrong. He doesn’t even give me any respect but he wants me to respect him.

    When we first met he was so nice. I didn’t even have a boyfriend before him because I didn’t want to waste my time on relationships I didn’t think would last. And I never planned on being with someone that much older than me but he was so nice. And now, he kicks me out of the house right in the moment of his anger. With my pyjamas on and everything. He’s even done this in winter. And I have no car because he sold it. The phone is under his name so he can cancel it at any time.

    And I have a cat I love dearly like a child. I couldn’t leave her. I wish I could read your safety plan! I don’t know if a shelter would let me bring my things? my cat? I have no family either because I moved away with him and all my friends are back home too.

    • Here’s a direct link to the safety plan –> http://verbalabusejournals.com/pdf/comprehensive-safety-plan-print.pdf You need a PDF reader like this one: https://get.adobe.com/reader/ for your computer or https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.adobe.reader for android phones. There should be a pdf reader for any phone you’re using – just do a search.

      Most shelters do not allow animals, and there’s no room for many of your possessions, either. In some cities you can find pet shelters for domestic abuse victims, but there aren’t many options there. Could you contact a no-kill animal shelter and see if they could babysit your cat for you?

      However, the best advice I can give you is to call your family and friends back home. Tell them what a mess you’re in and that you need to leave asap. Someone will take you and your cat in, or at least be able to find help for you. Go home. Pride has no place in this situation. You need help, the the people who can help you need to hear it from you.

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