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How to Make a Safety Plan for Domestic Violence

November 28th, 2023


Love is respect. However, not all actions that are perceived as love are respectful. If you have found yourself in a relationship that doesn’t feel safe or gentle, please keep reading.

As a Couples Therapist who has witnessed disrespect in relationships many times, I understand that deciding “enough is enough” can be a lot harder done than said. Therefore, a plan may be beneficial to you now or in the future, a plan to get help and minimize harm – a safety plan!

Definitions to Know

  1. According to the Department of Justice, “Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”
  2. A safety plan is a set of do-able steps that you can put into place to keep yourself safe (and children) and/or minimize harm when experiencing abuse at the hands of another person.

Consider Making a Safety Plan if...

If you have experienced domestic violence, a good step to maintaining your safety and well-being can be to create a safety plan. This plan is intended to outline how to improve your safety while you are experiencing abuse and what to do after an abusive experience. Although you can never know exactly when you might need a safety plan, the following tactics are commonly used to gain and maintain power and control in a relationship, and are thus indicators of abuse:

  1. Coercion and threats
  2. Intimidation
  3. Emotional manipulation
  4. Isolation
  5. Minimizing, denying and blaming
  6. Using male privilege
  7. Economic Abuse

The above tactics are outlined in what is called the Power and Control Wheel and was created by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. You can find a copy of this wheel here, at the National Domestic Violence Hotline website. To conclude, if you do not feel safe in your relationship, seeking help and refuge sooner rather than later is always best.

Steps to Making a Safety Plan

First, if you have told someone about your relationship, come up with a word or phrase to use with them if you are in danger and need help. If you are comfortable telling your neighbor about your relationship, create a code word with them as well to use if you need them to call 911. If you have children, teach them this word or phrase as well. Moreover, tell the security personnel where you work about your situation so they can be on the lookout if your abusive partner shows up there.

Next, below is a list of items to keep in a safe place in the event you must leave a violent situation quickly. If you can obtain a copy of these items to store away from the originals, that would be best.

  • Identification
  • Social security card
  • Cellphone
  • Cell phone charger
  • Medication
  • Cash
  • ATM card
  • House Key
  • Car Key
  • Car registration and title
  • A change of clothes
  • Comfort items/special toys for children
  • Supplies for children
  • Court orders, restraining orders
  • Police reports or documentation of previous abuse
  • Lease or rental agreement, house deed
  • Childs birth certificate
  • Health insurance card
  • Medical and school records

In conclusion, the following are actions to keep in mind before, during, and after any domestic violence:

  1. Create a safer environment
    1. Create an emergency escape plan
    2. Create a list of relevant telephone numbers and addresses
    3. Plan arrangements with a family/friend that you can stay with if necessary
    4. If you have pets have temporary arrangements in place for them
    5. If you have children, teach them to call 911
    6. Practice your escape
    7. Be aware of your partners access to weapons
    8. Think about how to stay safe if the police do not get to you right away
  2. During a violent incident
    1. Try to escape, if you have children take them with you
    2. Stay close to a door or window so you can leave asap
    3. Defend yourself, trust your instincts, and take pictures of your injuries later
    4. Call for help as loud as you can
    5. Call 911 and soon as you can
    6. Have a bag packed with the items listed above
    7. Use the code word with your kids/neighbors
  3. After a violent incident
    1. Know where to go if you must leave your house
    2. If you had to leave your children, make it a priority to get them back as soon as possible
    3. Keep notes about any abusive contact you have with your partner, verbal and/or physical
    4. Report any domestic violence to the police
    5. Ask the court for a protective order

Resources and Tools to Help You Stay Safer

Please click here for information on the Illinois Domestic Violence Act to learn about how you can obtain an order of protection. Domestic violence is a crime, and there are ways you can be protected from your abuser by the court system, police, and your community. The resources below were obtained from a guide written by the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

  1. The National Domestic Violence Hotline
    1. 1 (800) 799-7233
    2. Text “START” to 88788
    3. o
  2. Legal Aid Chicago
    1. (312) 341-1079
  3. Family Rescue 24-Hour Crisis Hotline
    1. English: (312) 325-930
    2. Hablamos Español: (800) 863-6338
  4. Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network
    1. 24-Hour Emergency Domestic Violence Hotline: (877) 863-6338
  5. Metropolitan Family Services
    1. (312) 986-4000
    2. Languages: English, Spanish, Arabic
    3. Locations: Multiple throughout Chicago
  6. Life Span
    1. (312) 408-1210
    2. Languages: English
  7. Greenhouse Shelter - Connections for Abused Women and their Children (CAWC)
    1. 24-Hour Hotline: (773) 278-4566, (773) 489-9081
    2. Language: English, Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, Ukranian
  8. CPD, Domestic Violence Advocacy Project
    1. (312) 742-5290
    2. Languages: English
  9. Mujeres Latinas en Acción
    1. (312) 738-5358
    2. Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese
  10. Neopolitan Lighthouse
    1. 24-Hour Crisis Line: (773) 722-0005
    2. Languages: English
  11. Apna Ghar
    1. 24-Hour Emergency Hotline: (800) 717-0757
    2. Languages: Hindi, Urdu, Swalhili, French, Spanish, Persian, Bangla, English
  12. Between Friends
    1. 24-Hour Hotline (800) 603-4357
    2. Languages: English
  13. Center on Halsted
    1. LGBTQ Violence Resource Line: (773) 871-2273 (Mon - Fri business hours)
    2. Languages: English, Spanish
  14. House of the Good Shepherd
    1. (773) 935-3434
    2. Languages: English, Spanish
  15. Korean American Women In Need (KAN-WIN)
    1. 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (773) 583-0880
    2. Languages: English, Korean
  16. Shalva
    1. 24-Hour Crisis Line: (773) 583-4673
    2. Languages: English, Hebrew, Russian
  17. Heartland Alliance - Violence Recovery Services
    1. (773) 847-4417
    2. Languages: English, Spanish
  18. Crisis Center for South Suburbia
    1. 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline: (708) 429-7233
    2. Languages: English
  19. Anew: Building Beyond Violence and Abuse
    1. 24-Hour Hotline: (877) 335-3028
    2. Languages: English, Spanish
  20. Pillars - Constance Morris House
    1. 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline: (708) 485-5254
    2. Languages: English, Spanish
  21. Sarah's Inn
    1. 24-Hour Crisis Line: (708) 386-4225
    2. Languages: English, Spanish
  22. YWCA Evanston/Northshore
    1. 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877) 718-1868
    2. Languages: English, Spanish

Love is Respect

If you are considering going back to an abusive partner, seek out support from a trusted loved one or a mental health professional. Think about other alternatives to going back and remind yourself how far you have come. Attend a support group, call a friend, indulge in self-care. Repeat to yourself, “I deserve to be loved in a respectful and gentle manner”.

Sources used throughout this article:

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