How do I keep myself and my children safe?
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If you are living in an abusive relationship and are not ready to leave you must try to keep yourself and your children safe. You may not be able to stop the violence but you may be able to minimise the risk to yourself and your children.
Safety tips for those living in abusive relationships
- Move to a safer room if you anticipate violence - avoid the kitchen or bathroom where there may be items that can be used as weapons and hard surfaces.
- Plan an escape route from every room in the house.
- Put your handbag, keys and money in a safe accessible place so that they can be grabbed in a hurry.
- Let friends/neighbours that you trust know about your situation and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises.
- Teach your 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.
- Create "code words" for friends and children so that they know when to call for help and/or leave danger areas.
- Plan where to go in an emergency and have an alternative route.
- Use your judgement of the abuser to protect you and your children. You are in no way colluding with the abuser if you give them what they want in order to protect yourself.
- Keep or learn a list of important phone numbers e.g. police public protection investigation unit, outreach worker, solicitor, doctor, school etc. In an emergency always dial 999.
You may also be able to do some of the following:
- Keep a record of their violent and controlling behaviour to support any future action, civil or criminal. Log incidents with the police even if you do not wish to press charges at present.
- Increase your financial independence by opening a separate bank account or transferring your money (including benefits) into your name.
- Seek legal advice (some solicitors offer an initial free appointment).
- Keep important documents in a safe place, either hidden in the home or at a friend or relative’s house (for example birth/marriage certificates, national insurance card, passport, driving licence). You may also want to hide items that have a sentimental value to you or your children.
Safety planning for leaving an abusive relationship
You may not feel able to leave immediately, but you can plan for leaving so that you are prepared if an emergency does arise. Leaving is often the most dangerous time. To increase your safety you can:
- Ensure that all important documents are kept together, including items of sentimental value, so they can be grabbed in a hurry.
- Put aside money for travel and other expenses.
- Only tell people you trust where you are or will be. Lie if you have to - this will protect them and you.
Things to take with you:
- ID - Passport, birth/marriage certificate, National Insurance number, driving licence.
- Money - cheque book, bank cards, credit cards, benefit books.
- Medical - prescribed medicines, prescriptions, medical cards, vaccination certificates.
- Legal - injunction/divorce papers, mortgage documents.
- Special Items – child’s favourite toy, photos, jewellery.
Safety once the relationship has ended
Unfortunately, abuse may not end even when your partner has left the shared home. In order to increase your safety you can:
- Let trusted friends and neighbours know that you are no longer together and that they should call the police if they see your partner trying to get into the house
- Change the locks on your doors, ensure that doors and windows are as secure as possible and use the chain when answering the door.
- More expensive options are to install security lighting, which switches on when someone approaches, and burglar alarms.
(For information on making security adaptations to your home please contact your local Outreach Service, details of which can be found here)
- Tell people who look after your children - for example teachers - which people have permission to collect them and if your ex-partner is not permitted to do so.
- Change your phone number and at work ask people to screen your calls.
- Change your shopping, travel and social habits. For example shop elsewhere and at different times and take a different route home.
If you feel threatened at any time - call 999
Further information about dealing with safety planning and harassment can be found in The Survivors Handbook, produced by Women’s Aid and available here: www.womensaid.org.uk