The most important step you can take to protect yourself and your children from abuse is to build a safety plan. National Women’s Aid have created a safety plan as a way of helping you to protect yourself and your children.
Making a safety plan
A personal safety plan helps you plan in advance for the possibility of future violence and abuse. It also helps you to think about how you can increase your safety either within the relationship, or if you decide to leave.
You can’t stop your partner’s violence and abuse – only they can do that. But there are things you can do to increase your own and your children’s safety. You’re probably already doing some things to protect yourself and your children – for example, there may be a pattern to the violence which may enable you to plan ahead to increase your safety.
Your plan may include some of the following:
- Plan in advance how you might respond in different situations, including crisis situations.
- Practice how you will leave the home safely in an emergency.
- Keep with you any important and emergency telephone numbers (for example, BWA’s Helpline 0208 301 1536; the police domestic violence unit on 999; your GP; your social worker, if you have one; your children’s school; your solicitor; and the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247).
- Teach your children how to call 999 in an emergency, and what they would need to say (their full name, address and telephone number).
- Tell trusted family or friends what is going on.
- Tell trusted neighbours what is going on, and ask them to call the police if they hear sounds of a violent attack.
- Rehearse an escape plan, so in an emergency you and the children can get away safely.
- Arrange to have a safe place to go to
- Pack an emergency bag of clothes, important documentation (such as proof of identity, driving license, birth certificates, passports, financial and insurance information, benefit letters, court orders, address book, diary, and so on), medication and other essentials for yourself and your children. Hide this somewhere safe (for example, at a neighbour’s or friend’s house).
- Try to keep a small amount of money on you at all times – including change for the phone and for bus fares.
- Know where the nearest phone is, and if you have a mobile phone, try to keep it with you.
- If you suspect that your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower risk area of the house – for example where there is a way out and access to a telephone. Avoid the kitchen or garage where there are likely to be knives or other weapons; and avoid rooms where you might be trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
- Be prepared to leave the house in an emergency.
I have left my abuser, but I am still in danger
If you leave your partner because of abuse, you may not want people to know the reason you left.
It is your decision whether or not you tell people that you have suffered domestic abuse; but if you believe you may still be at risk, it might increase your safety if you tell your family and friends, your children’s school, and your employer or college what is happening, so that they do not inadvertently give out any information to your ex-partner. They will also be more prepared and better able to help you in an emergency.
If you have left home, but are staying in the same town or area, these are some of the ways in which you might be able to increase your safety:
- Try not to place yourself in a vulnerable position or isolate yourself.
- Try to avoid any places, such as shops, banks, cafes, that you used to use when you were together.
- Try to alter your routines as much as you can.
- If you have any regular appointments that your partner knows about (for example, with a counsellor or health practitioner) try to change your appointment time and/or the location of the appointment.
- Try to choose a safe route, or alter the route you take or the form of transport you use, when approaching or leaving places you cannot avoid – such as your place of work, the children’s school, or your GP’s surgery.
- Tell your children’s school, nursery or childminder what has happened, and let them know who will pick them up. Make sure they do not release the children to anyone else, or give your new address or telephone number to anyone. (You may want to establish a password with them, and give them copies of any court orders, if you have them.)
- Consider telling your employer or others at your place of work – particularly if you think your partner may try to contact you there.
If you have moved away from your area, and don’t want your abuser to know where you are, then you need to take particular care with anything that may indicate your location; for example:
- Your mobile phone could be ‘tracked’; this is only supposed to happen if you have given your permission, but if your partner has had access to your mobile phone, he could have sent a consenting message purporting to come from you. If you think this could be the case, you should contact the company providing the tracking facility and withdraw your permission; or if you are in any doubt, change your phone.
- Try to avoid using shared credit or debit cards or joint bank accounts: if the statement is sent to your ex-partner, he will see the transactions you have made.
- Make sure that your address does not appear on any court papers. (If you are staying in a refuge, they will advise you on this.)
- If you need to phone your abuser (or anyone with whom he is in contact), make sure your telephone number is untraceable by dialling 141 before ringing.
- Talk to your children about the need to keep your address and location confidential.
If your ex-partner continues the abuse
If your ex-partner continues to harass, threaten or abuse you, make sure you keep detailed records of each incident, including the date and time it occurred, what was said or done, and, if possible, photographs of damage to your property or injuries to yourself or others.
If your partner or ex-partner injures you, see your GP or go to hospital for treatment and ask them to document your visit.
If you have an injunction with a power of arrest, or there is a restraining order in place, you should ask the police to enforce this; and if your ex-partner is in breach of any court order, you should also tell your solicitor.
In an emergency, always call the police on 999.
You are not alone, we can help
Helpline: 9.30am – 3.00pm, Monday to Friday
0208 301 1536
For more information about keep safe, see Women’s Aid’s Survivor Handbook.
Clare’s Law – Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme
The scheme, also referred to as ‘Clare’s Law’, gives any member of the public the right to ask the police if their partner may pose a risk to them. Under Clare’s Law, a member of the public can also make enquiries into the partner of a close friend or family member.
How to make an application under Clare’s Law
To make an application you will need to attend a police station in person where a police officer or member of police staff will take the details of what prompted your enquiry. A safe means of contacting you will be established. You will need to give your name, address and date of birth.
Applications can be made by contacting Bexley Police by phone on 101 or attending a Police Station.
Hollie Guard App
The Hollie Guard App is a free app for smartphones, designed to protect both men and women from possible danger.
Hollie Guard was developed by Panic Guard for the Hollie Gazzard Trust. The Hollie Gazzard Trust was set up after the murder of Hollie Gazzard at her salon in Gloucester in 2014 by her then boyfriend – Asher Maslin, who had actively stalked Hollie during an abusive relationship.
Hollie Guard turns your smartphone into an advanced personal safety device at the touch of a button. If in danger simply shake your phone to generate an alert, your location, audio and video evidence of the incident will automatically be sent to your emergency contact via text and email. Shake it again and it sends out a high pitched alarm and the flash starts to strobe, in order to attract maximum attention.
From the moment Hollie Guard is activated, your location is tracked and can be viewed in real time by your emergency contact. Evidence is not stored on the smartphone but on secure servers so that it can be used as future as evidence.
Hollie Guard is ideal for children, teenagers, athletes, lone workers, stalking and domestic violence victims.