Escape Plan Ideas: How to Find a Safe Place
It’s time to leave your abusive partner, but where do you go?
It’s a cruel irony: The most dangerous time for a survivor of domestic violence is the moment when he or she decides to leave their abusive partner. At the moment when a batterer realizes they’re losing control over the victim, they often take drastic, and sometimes deadly steps to regain it.
Having a safety plan in place is vitally important to ensuring a survivor’s safe escape from an abuser’s control. Even if an abuser has primarily used non-physical forms of abuse before—mental, emotional or verbal abuse—it’s important a survivor doesn’t underestimate what could happen when he or she decides to leave.
After deciding when to go, the next question is where to go. Options may include a nearby shelter or a shelter in another city or state; a friend or family member’s house; or, starting over in a new house or apartment. Below, some important questions to ask if you’re the survivor contemplating leaving:
- Does your abuser have a history of threatening other people in the your life, such as family members or friends? If yes, it makes sense to assume that staying with someone the abuser knows will put that person at risk as well, says Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In that case, a shelter could be the best bet.
- How close to or far from your original home do you need to be? If you’re escaping with children who are in school, you may need to (or feel you need to) stay within that school district. In which case, seeking out a shelter or other safe housing option in your area could be the best thing for your children. If you’re afraid your abuser will find you if you don’t flee further away, look for a shelter that provides schooling options until you can figure out a more permanent solution.
- Do I need drug or alcohol counseling, or support groups? If so, ask an advocate to help you find a shelter that offers these things on site or can refer you to a nearby program. According to the domestic shelters.org database, about 80% of shelters provide some level of counseling or support groups.
- Do I need to escape immediately? If you have no time to make a plan before fleeing, staying with a friend or family member, preferably one that your abusive partner is not familiar with, may be your best option at that moment. It’s always a good idea to then call an advocate (find one near you by entering your city or ZIP on our home page) who can walk you through the next steps to remain safe.
Sometimes, says, the safest option is going nowhere at all. “It may seem illogical to those of us observing what’s happening to the survivor, but sometimes, the safest place is exactly where she [or he] is right now.” That’s not to say one should stay indefinitely, either. “Victims continue an ongoing assessment of their safety,” and leave when they feel they have a safe plan in place.
Also check out “Important Questions to Ask a Shelter,” for things you can ask a shelter before deciding to go. If you believe escaping to a different city or state would be safer, read “Flying the Survivor Skies,” about a nonprofit that will fly survivors to a new location, free of charge.
If at any time you feel threatened or are being abused, dial 9-1-1 immediately!
No one deserves to be abused! These tips have been designed to help you with your situation.
Tip 1: Preparing for a violent incident
- When with the abuser, try to keep away from rooms containing dangerous objects, such as the kitchen or the bathroom.
- Identify rooms with an exit. Know which doors, windows, elevators or stairs to use.
- Keep a packed bag with a friend, a relative or a neighbor. Be sure to include copies of important documents.
- Tell one or more neighbors about the violence and ask them to call the police if they see or hear a disturbance.
- Create a code word to use with your children, family, friends and neighbors when you need the police.
- Have a plan! Know where you will go if you decide to leave your home.
Tip 2: Preparing to leave
- Get your own post office box.
- Open a checking/savings account in only your name.
- Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents, extra clothes and/or medicine in a safe place or with someone you trust.
- Identify a friend or relative willing to provide a safe place for you and your children to stay or who can lend you money.
- Always keep with you important numbers and some change or a calling card for emergency phone calls.
- If you have pets, make arrangements for them to be cared for in a safe place.
Tip 3: Safety with a Protective Order
- Always keep a copy of your protective order with you, including in your car, at work, at home and with close relatives.
- Inform family members, friends, and neighbors that you have a protective order in effect.
- Call the police if your abuser violates the protective order.
- Always have a backup plan you can use while waiting on the police to respond.
- Always ask for police report numbers after calling the police.
Tip 4: Safety in your day to day life
- Keep all windows and doors locked.
- Develop a safety plan with your children.
- Inform your children’s school, day care, or anyone who cares for your children what individuals have permission to pick up your children.
- Inform neighbors if your abuser no longer lives with you and ask them to call the police if they see the abuser.
- Request to have your telephone number unlisted/unpublished.
- Never call the abuser from your home or tell him where you live.
Tip 5: Safety on the job and in public
- Have someone with you at all times.
- Use a variety of routes to and from home each day.
- At work, inform management, a co-worker and security of your situation and if possible provide them with a picture of your abuser.
- If possible, make arrangements to have calls screened.
Be sure to have the following items when you leave:
- Driver’s License
- Birth Certificate
- Children’s Birth Certificates and Photos
- Social Security Cards
- Military ID Cards
- Social Security Cards
- Money and/or Credit Cards (in your name)
- Checking and/or Savings account books
- Other identifying financial information
- Safety deposit box key
- Protective Order
- Divorce/Custody Papers
- Marriage License
- Lease/Rental Agreement
- House Deed
- Car registration and insurance papers
- Health and Life insurance papers
- Medical records for you and your children
- School records
- Work permits/Green Card/Visa Passport
- House and Car keys
- Valuable jewelry
Police Emergency Number
Battered Women’s Shelter
Department of Family and Protective Services
The Rape Crisis Center Hotline
(210) 349-RAPE (7273)
Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office
Victim Assistance Division
Bexar County Sheriff’s Office
Victim Information & Notification Everyday (VINE)