Safety Planning

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What is Safety Planning?

Safety planning related to domestic violence may involve taking actions or making choices that lower our risk of being hurt. Safety planning cannot guarantee our safety, but may help us feel more prepared in difficult or unsafe situations.

Safety planning needs to be individualized and completed with survivor’s input because survivors are experts in their own experience and needs. When we approach safety planning by telling survivors what to do instead of identifying options with them, we are likely to not account for important safety considerations such as unique individual circumstances and personal traits or habits of abusers.

At YWCA Spokane, we recognize that survivors do not always have the luxury of safety planning in advance. Advocates at YWCA Spokane are here to support all survivors. We want survivors to know that no matter where you may find yourself and no matter what has led you to the place you are at now, we see you, we believe you, we respect you, and we are here to support you in what you are wanting moving forward.

Below are some actions related to safety planning that survivors of domestic violence may consider. The items below are not meant to be considered a “to-do” list for all survivors. Advocates at YWCA Spokane can help survivors of domestic violence safety plan individually.

Advocates at YWCA Spokane can be reached 24/7, any day of the year, by call to 509-326-2255, text to 509-220-3725, or email to help@ywcaspokane.org.

Things to Consider

** Please be aware that many abusers will use technology as a way to find out what you are planning. Consider deleting your history after visiting this page.

When planning to leave
During an argument
In your home
Your children
In public / on the job
Protection Order
Use of technology (cell phone, computer, etc.)

When planning to leave:

  • If possible, leave money, an extra sets of keys, copies of important documents, extra medicine and clothing with someone you trust.
  • Think of places you could stay if you leave home; do you have any safe friends or family members?
    • If you do not have a safe place to stay, you could contact the advocates at our 24/hour helpline by calling 509-326-2255 and ask to do a shelter screening. Learn more about our shelter here.
  • If possible, independently open a checking account, savings account or credit card in your name.
  • Confidentiality at your new address:
    • Be aware that motor vehicle records, including addresses, may be available to the public.
    • Be aware that certain actions, such as registering to vote or applying for public benefits, make your address public record. If this is a concern for you, know that you can contact the advocates at our main office by calling 509-326-1190 to discuss the address confidentiality program and other address confidentiality measures you might take.

Be aware that during the time when survivors of domestic violence choose to leave a relationship, it is common for safety concerns to significantly increase. An abuser’s desire to maintain power and control over a survivor can escalate abusive behavior when a survivor is leaving or trying to leave the relationship. 

Safety during an argument:

  • Use your instincts and judgment. If the situation is dangerous, consider giving the abuser what is necessary to calm the situation. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
  • When possible, use your awareness of your location:
    • Consider being aware of all of the exits or potential exits in your living space. When in an argument with your abuser, it may be helpful to identify the closest possible exit.
      • If possible, practice getting out of your home through less conventional exits, such as windows, during a time when your abuser is not present.
    • When interacting with your abuser, if you think the interaction may escalate into an argument, as much as possible, try to stay away from the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, or anywhere else weapons might be available.
  • When possible, consider what may be helpful in advance:
    • If this would be a safe option for you, consider telling one or more neighbors who you trust about the violence and ask that they call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home. At YWCA Spokane, we are aware that calling the police is not a safe option for all survivors, especially BIPOC survivors.
    • Consider using a “code word”:
      • With your children that indicates that you would like them to leave the room.
      • With your neighbors that indicates that you would like them to take a specific action to intervene, which could involve calling the police.

Safety in your home (if your abuser is out of the home):

  • Consider changing locks on your doors.
  • Consider buying additional locks, window bars, and/or poles to secure windows and sliding doors.
  • Consider installing a lighting system outside.
  • Consider purchasing a home security system.
  • Install a peephole on external doors if possible.
  • If there are children in the home, if possible, show them how to keep doors, windows and garage doors locked.
  • Install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers for each floor in your house/apartment.
  • If you believe this may be helpful, consider purchasing a rope ladder which may be used to exit from a non-ground level floor.
  • When setting up bank, utility, phone and other services, request a security code to restrict access to account information.
  • Inform your neighbors and landlord that your partner no longer lives with you and to take a specific action, such as call the police and/or notifying you, if they see your partner near your home.
  • Explore whether your phone line is secure or if the line could be cut.
  • Contact the YWCA Domestic Violence Service Center by calling 509-326-1190 to request an emergency 911 cell phone if you believe it would be helpful for you to have a second phone you could use just to call 911.

Safety and your children:

  • When developmentally appropriate, talk with your children about what concerns they have and what they can do to stay safe. Know that YWCA Spokane advocates can provide support for you and your children.
  • Identify people who would help your children if they need it.
    • Ask your children whether they feel comfortable asking that person for help.
  • Teach your children how to call you and a trusted friend or family member.
  • Inform your children’s school, day care, etc. as to who has permission to pick them up.

Safety on the job and in public:

  • Consider whether you want to inform anyone at your work, including HR and security staff, about the domestic violence.
    • Know that you have rights to safety accommodations, which you can read more about here.
    • It may be helpful to share a copy of your protection order and/or a picture of your abuser with trusted individuals in your workplace.
  • If you are concerned about your abuser contacting you at work, it may be helpful to arrange to have caller ID, voicemail, or a trusted co-worker screen your telephone calls.
  • Create a safety plan for when you leave work. This could include:
    • Having someone escort you to your car or the bus and wait until you are safely en route.
    • Using a variety of routes to go home, if possible.
    • Thinking about possible safe places you could stop on your routes home.
  • Use different grocery stores, gas stations, and banks and shop at different hours than you normally would. When we have concerns about stalking, changing our patterns of behavior can make it more difficult for our abusers to locate us.

Safety with a protection order:

  • Keep your protection order with you at all times, including when you change purses.
  • If it is safe for you to do so, call the police if your abuser violates the protection order.
  • Think of other ways that you may be able to be safer if police are not able to respond right away in the event that your protection order is violated. Know that YWCA Spokane advocates can provide support with talking about safety concerns and options.
  • Choose who you would like to inform that you have a protection order. This could include your friends, family members, neighbors, landlord, health care providers, as well as workplace HR staff and supervisors.
    • Consider if you would like any of these individuals to have a copy of your protection order.
  • Call the YWCA Spokane Legal Advocate Office at 509-477-3656 #1 if you have any questions about your protection order.

Safety and technology:

  • Know that it is possible for conversations on cellular, cordless phones, and baby monitors can be picked up on a scanner. If you are concerned about this, as you as you are able to, limit sharing identifying information when near these devices.
  • Know that most cell phones are enabled with GPS trackers that can be used to locate the user. Consider turning off this service on your your phone or turning your phone off when not in use if you are concerned about this.
    • Also know that GPS tracking devices are small and easy to hide on cars. If you feel you keep “running into” your abuser, it may be helpful to have your car inspected by a mechanic or police to locate any GPS devices.
  • Be aware that computer usage can be tracked. If you are using a computer that your abuser has access to, as much as possible, avoid going to websites that will make your abuser suspicious.
    • Know that we have a computer lab at YWCA Spokane that clients may use. Call our main office, 509-326-1190, for more information. Using a public computer can make it more difficult to monitor usage.
  • Know that Spyware or computer monitoring software can track computer and Internet usage.
    • If possible, use anti-virus and anti-Spyware software to keep it updated to maintain a safer computer.
    • Know that computer security professionals consider any computer that has ever had spyware to be “tainted” until restored with the original discs. Be aware that if your device has had Spyware or monitoring software on it, even anti-spyware software may not be fully functional.
  • Do not give out confidential or identifying information through questionable emails. Use caution when your information is requested online.
  • Consider creating a new e-mail or online account that your partner is not aware of or create a separate email account for custody and visitation communication.
  • Internet messaging and file sharing programs can be a safety risk. If you think that it would be helpful for you, avoid using these programs and discuss the danger of these programs with your children.
  • Certain online platforms may have increased security features. Proton mail advertises increased security for email communications and Duck Duck Go advertises increased security online internet browser use.
  • If you would like more information about technology safety specifically, know that the National Network to End Domestic Violence has created a robust Tech Safety Toolkit for survivors which you can review here.

Contact the YWCA Domestic Violence Service Center by calling our main office at 509-326-1190, and/or contact our helpline advocates who are available 24/7 by calling 509-326-2255, texting 509-220-3725, or emailing help@ywcaspokane.org to discuss additional safety ideas.