Planning for yours and your children’s safety is vital. Women’s Aid can support you to develop a safety plan.

We strongly encourage you to seek suitable expert advice and help, from the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline or a PSNI Domestic Abuse Officer. There are also steps you can take to increase safety.

In an emergency

If you are at home and are threatened or attacked:

  • stay away from the kitchen and areas where weapons may be found
  • get to a room with a window or access outside
  • get to a room with a lock on the door
  • get to a room with a telephone or carry a mobile with you, and
  • call 999 and ask for the police, or
  • contact the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline (0808 802 1414)

If you are at home with your abuser

We understand that leaving is a difficult decision to make. You may not plan to leave at this time. We are here to help you whether you choose to stay or leave. If you choose to stay in your relationship, there are a few simple steps you can put in place which can help you and your children to feel and be safer.

Tell

Tell someone you trust about the abuse. There is nothing so awful or so small that we cannot talk about it with someone. While it can be difficult to open up and tell someone you know about the abuse, this can be an important first step in getting the support you need. You can tell a friend, a colleague or a professional such as a doctor, health visitor or Women’s Aid Worker. You can contact the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline (0808 802 1414) for initial and ongoing support.

Inform yourself and your children

Have accessible, important and emergency numbers for example, your local Women’s Aid Group, the police and the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline number (0808 802 1414).

Talk to your children about the importance of safety in all situations. Teach your children to call 999 in an emergency, and ensure they understand the information they would need to share for example, their full name, address and telephone number. While it can be difficult to talk to your children about abuse, it is important to help them to plan for their own safety.

Plan

Even if you are not planning to leave, it is still useful to think about how you would get out of the house if there is an emergency.

Have your exit carefully planned. Make arrangements for a safe place where you and your children can go on a temporary basis until you are in a position to make more definite plans about your future. You can speak to Women’s Aid about your options and discuss the possibility of staying in a refuge. Plan to leave at a time you know your partner will not be around. Plan and go over in your head an exit plan that you could implement in times of crisis. Think about who you would call, where you would go, what you would need to bring.

Prepare

Pack an emergency bag for yourself your children, and hide it somewhere safe. It may be better to leave it somewhere not in your house, such as a friend’s house or with a family member that you trust. If you have small children, remember to bring practical things which they might need and want such as school uniforms and favourite things. Pack important documents like medical cards, notes of any essential medicines for you and your children, birth certificates, passports, bank cards, any papers relating to the abuse (police reports and court orders). If you can, try to keep a small amount of money set aside.

Outside your home

Use your support networks

Try not to isolate yourself or place yourself in a vulnerable position. Keep in contact with friends and those who you trust. Make use of the new support and networks you have may developed through Women’s Aid and other organisations that have helped. Buy a mobile phone, programme it to 999 and keep it with you at all times.

Alter your routine

If you have any regular routines such as journeys to work, school drops and pickups, visits to the doctors, dentists etc that your partner may know about, try to change the route you take, the type of transport you use or alter the times as much as you can. Try to get lifts to and from work with someone else. Do your shopping at different places. If possible, carry an emergency alarm. These may be available from your local PSNI station.

Inform others

While it is your decision whether or not you tell people what you have been through, it might increase your safety if you tell your family and friends, your children’s school, your employer etc what has happened.

You will probably find that those surrounding you will want to help and any information you provide will help them to do this, either in an emergency or on a daily basis.

Consider telling your children’s school or childcare provider what has happened, and let them know what the arrangements for collecting children are. Be clear about who will be collecting each day and insist your children are not released to anyone without prior clarification and communication from you.

If you have a court order, keep it with you at all times.

If you moved away

If you have moved away from your area, and wish to keep your whereabouts unknown from your former partner, then you will need to take particular care with anything that may indicate your whereabouts.

Here are some things to consider:

  • cancel any joint bank accounts or credit cards and open new accounts at a different branch or bank
  • avoid using shared credit or debit cards or joint bank accounts
  • change your mobile phone and number to ensure you cannot be tracked
  • make sure your telephone number is untraceable by dialling 141 before ringing your abuser or anyone they know
  • speak to your children about the need to keep your address and location confidential
  • inform your friends and family about the importance of confidentiality, and
  • ensure your new address does not appear on any legal papers.

Women’s Aid can give you further advice about how to keep your whereabouts hidden from your partner.

If your abuser is no longer living with you

You may wish to continue to live in your home. This may be because you have an occupation order in place. To increase your safety in your home, you could consider the following:

  • change locks on all doors and windows
  • install an outside light (back and front) which comes on automatically when someone approaches
  • inform neighbours that your partner no longer lives with you – ask them to tell you, or call the police if they see him in the surrounding area
  • change your telephone number and make it ex-directory, and
  • use an answering machine to screen calls.

Template for a personal safety plan
Template for a personal safety plan

Keep records

If you find the abuse continues, keep written accounts of all occurrences including the date, time and nature of the abuse. Keep an account of any phone calls or emails received. You may wish to take photographs of any damage caused to your property or injuries sustained. Keep records of all previous police visits or call outs with reference numbers at hand.

In an emergency, always call the police on 999.

Some things to remember, if you are experiencing abuse:

It can happen to anyone

Domestic violence can affect women regardless of her sexuality, religion, culture, education, job status or background. It happens to women who are pregnant, married, dating or living with a partner Mothers, older women, teenagers…any woman can be abused

You are not to blame

You did not choose to be abused nor did or do your actions cause the abuse. No matter what your partner says, you are not to blame

You have the right to feel safe

Living your life without the fear of harm to you and your children is a basic human right. No one should make you live in fear.

You are not alone

Women’s Aid has over 30 years experience of supporting women and children in Northern Ireland. We are here to help along with a range of other agencies. We are here for you every minute of every day.

It can happen to you and to women you know. Phone the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline at any time 0808 802 1414