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How to Create a Safety Plan

If you or a loved one are in an unsafe environment call the Center for support and/or resources at our 24/7 hotline: 757-236-5260.

October is Domestic Violence awareness month. The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors takes this time to bring awareness to domestic violence and to support survivors. According to the CDC, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this is more than 10 million women and men. When survivors of domestic violence want to leave their situation, safety planning is one of the most important steps.

What is Safety Planning, and Why Does it Matter?

Simplified, safety planning is brainstorming ways for survivors to reduce their risk of future harm, stay safe, and/or safely leave an unsafe situation. They can include physical safety planning and emotional safety planning.

Safety planning is important for two reasons. First, safety plans allow for survivors to feel safe, and they can help calm any anxiety they may have. Second, it allows survivors to create a plan of action they can stick to during times of crisis.

There is no guarantee that a safety plan will keep a survivor safe, but it can reduce the risk of harm.

How to Safety Plan

A safety plan can include a focus on physical and/or emotional safety. When creating a plan it is important to trust the survivor's instincts and to be practical. The process of safety planning involves asking numerous questions about the survivor's current situation and creating action plans for times of crisis.

A fantastic resource is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They have an interactive platform where survivors can create a personalized safety plan.

Physical Safety

One focus for the physical safety section is to create safe ways to leave unsafe locations. These locations can include home, school, work, or any place a survivor is regularly. To work on this part of the plan ask: what can the survivor do if those places are no longer safe? This could include creating a list of public places survivors could go to be safe, or reaching out to a friend/family member and creating a plan.

It is also important for survivors to create a list of items they need to take with them if they need to leave home quickly. These can include:

  • Legal documents such as Identification (e.g., driver's license, school ID, military ID, immigration documents)

  • Cell Phone

  • Cell phone charger

  • Medication (e.g., asthma inhaler, insulin, Epi-Pen)

  • Cash ATM card

  • House key

  • Car key

  • A change of clothes

  • Comfort items (e.g., favorite stuffed animal or photograph)

  • Baby supplies (formula, diaper, wipes, change of clothes)

  • Copy of Protection/Restraining Order

  • Child's birth certificate

  • Health insurance card

  • Other

It might also be helpful to put this in a bag or keep them at a relative/friend's house if it is safe to do so.

Physical safety planning can include outside resources as well. A great first step is calling your local domestic violence agency/shelter to talk through the survivor's options, and the services they can provide.

Click here for information on how to safety plan with children.

Emotional Safety

While the focus of safety plans is often on physical safety, emotional safety is just as important. An emotional section of a safety plan addresses what a survivor can do in case of an emotional crisis and/or how to protect a survivor's emotional state.

This can be done by creating a list of things to do during an emotional crisis. This list can include:

  • Contacting Supportive People

    • This can be calling a friend/family member or calling The Center's hotline at 757-236-5260.

  • Create a peaceful space for yourself

    • Having a place where the survivor can decompress is important and can be extremely beneficial to the survivor's mental health. This can be a public space like a coffee shop, or even a park where the survivor can walk around.

  • Remember This is Not Your Fault

Click here for information on how to emotional safety plan with children.

If you or a loved one are in an unsafe environment call the Center for support and resources at 757-236-5260.

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