February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and in honor of this, I’ve decided to develop an Intimate Partner Violence Series that is intended to equip individuals with the information necessary to 1) determine if they are in an abusive relationship, 2) develop a safety plan for while they are in the relationship, 3) seek support and resources to help them get out of the relationship and finally 4) identify signs of healthy relationships. This series is intended to be educational in nature and is not a substitute for seeking professional help. Please seek the help of a therapist in your area. Today’s post is Part Two of this series. If this is a topic that has special relevance for you, stay tuned for future posts.
Once you’ve identified abuse within your relationship, you might think “okay, now what?” Leaving an abusive relationship is incredibly difficult because you may be financially dependent on your abusive partner, you may be fearful of leaving due to retribution, you may love your abusive partner immensely and not want to leave, or many other factors making it challenging to pick up and take off. Whether you have decided to leave or whether you are looking to increase your safety while staying in an abusive relationship, you'll want to develop a safety plan for yourself. Here are 7 elements of abuse safety planning:
1 | Find a safe location
The first step of a safety plan is to find a safe location away from the abuser when you feel in danger of physical abuse. Although this may seem obvious, when experiencing abuse, one's levels of confusion and fear are so high, it's hard to know exactly what to do first. A safe place might be the cafe down the street or another room in the house (choose a room with no weapons and with a way to escape.)
2 | Keep a phone available
Keep a phone with you at all times. If you don't have access to one, or if your partner takes it away from you, know where the closest public phone is to your home.
3 | Call 911
If you feel you are in imminent danger, call the police immediately. If you are not in immediate danger, move down the steps of the safety plan.
4 | Utilize the Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is an important resource to include in a safety plan. The phone hotline (1-800-799-7233) is a 24-hour a day free service and the live chat option on the website is available from 5 a.m. to midnight PST (also free.) Domestic violence advocates can help connect you to community resources (if that is something you’d like to take advantage of), can help you sort through your thoughts to make a decision about what to do next and can help you develop and execute a safety plan. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website also provides an abundance of useful information and resources for abuse survivors.
5 | Seek social support
A vital aspect of a safety plan is the phone numbers of a few friends, family members or neighbors who you trust to be able to help deliver you to safety in a dangerous situation with your partner. People on this list should be able to help drive you, house you or feed you temporarily if you feel you are at risk. If you need a place to stay or just someone to talk to, give the people on your list a call for support. The people who choose for your safety plan should be local and willing to help you when you need it.
6 | Put together an overnight bag
It's important to be prepared for the next potential act of violence. If you are currently living with your partner and not ready to leave the relationship, it's essential that you have a "get away" bag with cash, some clothes, and an extra car key. You can also make a habit of backing your car into the driveway for a quicker escape.
7 | Inform professionals
Any care professionals who you work with (i.e. a therapist, your doctor, etc.) that you trust should be included toward the end of your safety plan as individuals to keep in the loop of recent developments. Although most professionals maintain boundaries around their out-of-office hours and are typically not available for crisis management, you still want them to be informed of updates. Your therapist or other care professional may be able to accommodate an earlier appointment to help you decide on your next step.
Keep in mind, everyone’s situation is unique and each safety plan is tailored to the individual’s circumstances and needs. This post outlines elements that are generally included in safety plan, but is not an exhaustive list. If you'd like to learn more about safety planning, I suggest you visit this link. If you feel that you are in imminent danger, please seek help immediately, by calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or by calling 911. If you are not in immediate danger, but would like to find someone to talk to, you can find a therapist at PsychologyToday.com or if you are in the Los Angeles area, feel free to contact me for therapy. I hope you found today’s post informative. Please leave a comment below if there’s anything you’d like to add or ask. Stay posted for future articles in this series. Be safe and be well.
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.