Creating a safety plan
In an abusive relationship during corona lockdown – we need a plan!
Domestic abuse is terrifying, even more so when there are few options to escape the family home due to the social isolation that’s been imposed upon us. The stress felt is exacerbated when there’s no reprieve from it because the abuser has been furloughed and is now prowling the house in a state of angry discontent looking to pick a fight. Home teaching feels impossible when our nerves are frayed by his increased drinking and festering over the pub not being open. These are dangerous times and having a safety plan has never been more necessary.
A safety plan is a personalised practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while still in the relationship, planning to leave, or after you’ve left. A good safety plan will have all the information you need and be tailored to your unique situation. Although some points in your safety plan may seem obvious, at times of crisis, your brain doesn’t function in the way it does when you’re calm, and it can be easy to forget seemingly obvious things.
If you already have a safety plan, this is good, but now might be a time to review it. If you don’t have one but are living with abuse, it’s highly advisable you make a plan. The following points might help you put your personalised plan together, they won’t all be relevant to you, but some will be –
- Keep your mobile phone charged and with you at all times.
- Be ready to call 999 if you or your children are in danger. You could set speed dial on phones for 9 to dial 999.
- If you phone 999 and it’s not safe to speak, the operator will ask you to cough to sign you’re in need of police assistance. If you’re not safe enough to make any sound at all, the operator will transfer the call to an automated system asking you to press 55 if you’re in danger, the police will then attend.
- You can text a message to 999 from your mobile and the text will be picked up by one of the emergency operators.
- If an argument occurs, try to move to a space that is low risk. Avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, and kitchen — rooms without an outside exit should also be avoided.
- Plan possible escape routes for every room in the house, even practice the escape — have window/door keys readily available.
- Put essentials such as handbag/keys/money in a safe accessible place so that they can be grabbed in a hurry.
- Alert trusted neighbours about the situation and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises e.g. banging, screaming.
- Teach the children, if and when appropriate, to call for help. They should never use a phone in front of the abuser as this may endanger them further.
- Talk to children about what is happening and encourage them to call for help and not to intervene. Emergency numbers may be programmed into the phone or the children’s mobile phones.
- Create code words or a phrase for friends and children so that they know when to call for help and/or leave danger areas.
- To avoid confusion, keep the code the same for everyone and make sure that they know where the victim is if they activate the code by phone.
- Plan where to go in an emergency and have an alternative route. Remember even during lockdown, domestically abused women and their children are allowed to flea for help.
- Remember you will know the abuser well, sometimes it’s smart to give him what he wants and ‘tiptoe’ around him when you have limited options.
- Pack a survival kit so that it’s ready if needed to leave in a hurry. This ideally should include: money, change of clothes, extra house/car keys, birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, any legal documents (especially showing jointly owned property and details in relation to immigration status), credit card and bank details, medication and any documents in relation to children. Keep them in a safe place such as with a friend or relative or hidden somewhere – make sure he never finds this!
- Keep helpline numbers to hand, if you have concerns you phone might be snatched off you keep them on a piece of paper too.
- Talk to a domestic abuse support service such as Broxtowe Women’s Project who can help keep you safe and plan your next step.
- Make careful notes about what is happening including times, dates, any professionals seen and any injuries received. These notes can assist in accessing legal and welfare rights should they ever be needed.
Whatever plans and preparations you make to keep safe, it is vitally important that you do not allow the perpetrator to know if you are considering leaving the relationship. Research has shown that the point of leaving or just after is the most dangerous time for women. Although there are still options available if things get really bad, in our current situation with corona lockdown, fewer support services are available and many of those that are will be stretched. For many women, their best strategy just now will be to tread carefully, do everything possible not to antagonise the abuser, and wait for a time when our lives are more normal before making your move.
Broxtowe Women’s Project are still supporting those affected by domestic abuse in Nottinghamshire. If you are experiencing domestic abuse or are affected by past domestic abuse, we are here to help you. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our mobile support line – 07914 634190.