Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Safety Planning for Domestic Violence and Abuse Victims

woman with pen in hand planning for safety in an abusive relationship

What Is Safety Planning for Domestic Violence?

Safety planning for domestic violence is the act of thinking through practical options for escape and enacting physical and emotional protection from domestic violence and abuse.

Why Is Safety Planning for Domestic Violence Important?

domestic violence safety plan promo with title and background of leaves

Practical options for protection from domestic violence are important to have before you need them (again). When your anxiety makes your thinking fuzzy during an abusive event, your mind will remember your safety planning strategies so you can act on them instead of on emotion.

When adrenaline is pumping through your veins it can be hard to think clearly or to make logical decisions about your safety. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Free download of the Domestic Violence Safety Plan workbook

Safety planning for domestic violence is the best way to protect yourself, emotionally and physically, from the effects of abuse and the acts of your abuser.

Working through a safety plan for domestic violence is important for several reasons:

  1. Safety planning for domestic violence helps you stay calmer and better able to protect yourself while living in an abusive relationship, as you prepare to leave, and after you’ve left.
  2. It reveals problem areas in your emergency escape plan. Knowing the problem areas beforehand empowers you to find solutions for them before you must escape a violent incident.
  3. Safety planning forces you to acknowledge the abuse in your relationship. When you’re in denial about the abuse, nothing can change and you remain at risk for violence, including rape and death.
  4. Safety planning for domestic violence and abuse is the best way to detach from verbal and emotional abuse. When you can detach from abusive words, you’re likely to deflect the emotional damage they can cause.
  5. Thorough planning will help you to leave and be able to refrain from returning to the relationship. 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.

Secrecy While Safety Planning

It is very important that you keep your safety plan confidential. Be very careful who you ask to help you with your safety planning for domestic violence. Ensure the people that 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).

Safety planning for domestic violence encompasses much more than a plan to leave the abusive relationship. However, most people, including your abuser, do not know that. Your abuser will most likely assume you plan to leave him if he knows you have a safety plan.

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

I began my safety planning for domestic violence with the Army’s DD Form 2893, 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 Workbook 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 this safety plan is, I highly recommend that you speak with a counselor, hotline representative, and/or peer support mentor. 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, and planning for your safety can be heartbreaking. You don’t have to do this alone.

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, emergency response teams, and anyone who deals with domestic violence personally or professionally.

Featured photo by Unseen Studio