1. Create a Safety Plan
The most important thing you need in preparing for a separation is a safety plan. When you are in a domestic violence relationship, separation is typically the most dangerous time and when the risk of lethality is highest. Leaving immediately and urgently for your safety and to preserve your life or your children’s lives is something you must do if needed. If there is an imminent risk to your safety, you need to get out the first chance you get, whether you can prepare in advance or not. You can file for a protective order and request possession of the house, a car, and no contact at any point that you do not feel safe.
If you are at a high risk of lethality (click here to review the lethality risk assessment) it is vitality important that you start working on a safety plan. This will help reduce some of the risks to you and maximize your ability to maintain your safety if things escalate quickly and dangerously. In the moment, you may need to use compliance and appeasement to calm your abuser down until there is a safe window for you to leave.
Under North Carolina law, you can take your children with you as long as you stay within North Carolina. There is a risk of emergency custody being filed if you leave the state so do keep that in mind when constructing your safety plan. You may need to contact an attorney to help you create the safest exit plan.
So, what is a safety plan? A safety plan is the steps and actions you take in advance to prepare a safe way for you to leave your abuser and a safe & secure place to go when you do. Here’s what you should consider, gather, and do:
A. Have a Safe House:
a. This is not going to be a place you will likely stay long-term but somewhere you can go temporarily.
b. It’s likely going to be family member’s house (parent, sibling, grandparent) or close friend and confidant.
c. Ask yourself this question, “If I had to run out of the house and I didn’t have my phone, whose doorbell could I ring at 3:00 a.m.?” The answer to that question is probably the place you’d go. It has to be someone you trust and who will let you in with no questions asked.
d. The safest place may be a place where your abuser would not think you would go to first.
B. Prepare a Transitional Bag:
a. Pack a bag with a couple weeks’ worth of clothing, toiletries, and medication. You may want to also pack any important papers or mementos.
b. Also have a back-up cell phone that is prepaid and not connected to your current plan. Preferably something that is with an entirely different carrier and not connected to your cloud. However, you want to make sure you keep a contacts list or address book for important phone numbers if you don’t upload them manually.
c. Cash is also very important to gather if you can because your abuser may cancel your bank card or credit cards and you may need money for gas, food, shelter.
d. Keep this bag at your safe house. That way you don’t have to worry about packing or grabbing everything you need at the last minute or while you’re fleeing your home.
C. Prepare a Go-Bag:
a. This is different from your transitional bag. This will be something that you keep in the house with you (maybe under the bed, in your closet, or in the truck of your car) that you would grab as you run out the door.
b. You’ll want to have one change of clothes for you and your kids, your driver’s license, your passport & social security cards, the kids’ passports & social security cards, the spare key to your car, any work/immigration permits, a cell phone charger, your child’s favorite toy/blanket, your computer, a copy of any court orders especially protective orders, a few irreplaceable photos or mementos, medications, and anything you’d absolutely need if you left the house.
c. When you leave, make sure you turn your cell phone off in case he has a tracking application on your phone. Keep it turned off and keep it off your person until you can have it checked and you know that you are safe.
D. Safety Ideas
a. If your husband/boyfriend has firearms, if things are escalating and you have an opportunity to hide them before you leave, doing so can decrease your risk of lethality.
E. Electronic Safety
a. As mentioned, it’s a good idea to have a separate cell phone that your husband/boyfriend does not know about which you keep at your safe house.
b. It’s also a good idea to establish a separate, unconnected e-mail account so that you can communicate once you do leave.
c. When you leave, it’s a good idea to have your devices (cell phone, tablet, computer, and especially your children’s devices) checked for spyware and tracking applications. If you can replace the device with something new, that is preferred but make sure you don’t link it back to the same cloud account. (click here for our referral for forensic specialists who can help)
d. Once your devices are ensured to be safe, make sure that you click log out of all locations, reconnect but make sure you don’t connect to the same cloud account.
e. Change all of your passwords to something completely atypical for you.
Leaving is never easy and it leaving doesn’t flip a switch to make things easy. However, it is the necessary step to take if your life is in danger. Having a safety plan in place can benefit you whether you ever need to use it or not (and hopefully you won’t). Please contact us for more information or to discuss how to create your own safety plan.