If you still live with your partner
- Tell someone about your situation – a friend, neighbour or colleague who can give you help and support
- Try to seek professional advice
- Teach your children to call 999 (see advice about children witnessing domestic abuse)
- Plan in advance how you might respond to different situations, including crisis situations (see Personal safety plan below)
- Use your own judgement and instincts
If you are thinking about leaving
If you do decide to leave your partner it is best if you plan this carefully. Sometimes the risk of violence increases if the abuser thinks you are about to leave.
Plan to leave at a time when you know your partner will not be around. Contacting a specialist agency who can assist you plan to leave is the safest way to leave an abusive relationship.
Coming to the decision to leave is not always easy. At lot of people stay in an abusive relationship for many reasons such hoping things will get better, fear of the consequences, disruption to family, lack of funds/housing or self confidence to believe they can cope on their own. However, it is likely to be safer emotionally, psychologically and possibly physically to be on your own.
Take your children with you when you leave. Make sure you have a safe place to go before you leave. Information about refuges can be found on the How to get help page. Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 for advice and guidance. You may ask for a police officer to be present when you leave.
If you have just left
It is your decision whether or not to tell people you have experienced domestic abuse. However if you still feel unsafe, it might increase your safety if you tell friends and family, your children’s school or nursery or college, and your employer what is happening. You can ask them to not to share information about you to your ex-partner.
- If your partner comes to the door, don’t open it and call 999
- Do not make contact with your ex-partner or reply to texts or messages
- Consider safe handover arrangements if your ex-partner has contact with the children and teach them what to do if the abuser contacts them unexpectedly
- Also teach them to check before opening the door, who is allowed in the house and how to deal with phone calls, including keeping addresses confidential
- Turn off location settings on your phone and other devices and do not disclose your location on Facebook and social media
- Make sure your new address is not apparent on court papers or from bank or credit card details. If the abuser continues to harass you, keep a record and contact the police.
A personal safety plan can help you to protect yourself and your children. Your personal safety plan is not a way to stop the abuser’s violence or abuse (that is something only they can do but there are several things you can do to increase your safety).
Always remember that no one person’s situations or experiences are the same, meaning that some of the advice in this part may not always be applicable. You may need to take all or only some of the steps in order to help keep yourself safe.
Personal safety plan
Points to consider to keep yourself safe:
- Escape route - plan and practice how to get out of your home quickly and safely. You can start by knowing which windows, doors, lifts or stairways would work best.
- Mobile phone - make sure it is charged and has credit and identify a place you can make a call from in case of emergencies. Ensure you have all emergency numbers stored in the phone, or you have them written down and somewhere safe. You could have a separate pay as you go phone if necessary.
- ‘Buddy’ system - choose a close family member or friend (avoiding mutual friends if possible) that you can trust to tell about your situation and where you can be safe. Similarly, talk to a neighbour about your situation and ask that they call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home.
- Code word - to use with your children, friends, family or neighbours for when you need them to call the police. Ensure that they use 999 in an emergency. With your children, make sure they know what they should say when they call 999, full name, address and phone number.
- Emergency bag - pack an emergency bag and store this somewhere safe (friend, family member or neighbour's house, school or work place locker) in case you need to leave in a hurry. Things to pack may include:
- Pay-as-you-go mobile phone with emergency numbers stored
- Copy of birth certificates, passport, bank details, savings accounts
- Duplicate of child favourite toy
- Money – think of the essentials you would need
- Place of safety - consider where you could go should you have to leave in a hurry. Again, identify neighbours, family or friends – if possible avoid mutual friends. Alternatively, go to your nearest police station where you can safely contact the National 24 hour Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
- Keep a diary - you may not be ready to open up to anyone or leave the relationship but keeping a log of incidents of abusive behaviour can help you evidence your experience at a later date. Diaries can be used in court and can help you tell your story further down the line. Just remember to keep this somewhere safe where is will not be found.
If you leave the relationship, have a safety plan in mind for when you leave work or any of the regular places you visit in everyday life. These can include:
- Having someone accompany you to your car, bus or train and wait with you until your journey is underway
- If possible, use a selection of different routes to go home and stay in public places as much as possible (do not isolate yourself)
- If you feel you are being followed call 999 and head to your nearest police station
Consider counselling and/or using specialist domestic abuse support services to get assistance, advice and to build your confidence. There are a wide range of support services available for you.
Our checklist will help you be as prepared as possible should you need to leave your property quickly. Having these items ready will allow you to come to terms with the idea of leaving and ensure you are able to do so safely.