If you are in a domestic and family violence situation, the decision to leave is often a difficult one. It may take time to feel positive and hopeful about the future. This is quite normal. Some people may think it should be easy for a person to leave a relationship where domestic violence is happening. The truth is that it may be very difficult to leave an abusive relationship. Some people experiencing domestic and family violence may also choose not to leave a relationship, as they believe staying in the relationship to be their safest option.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, one of the first things you might consider doing is to make a safety plan. A safety plan is a guide to protecting you and your children (if you have any) from violence. Safety plans are tailored to your situation, so if that situation changes, your safety plan should too. You are the best judge of your situation, and the person best placed to decide what is right for you and your children.
If you would like help making a safety plan, call DVassist on 1800 080 083 to speak confidentially with one of our trained and experienced counsellors who can help you with this.
A safety plan can be:
- A guide to staying safe while remaining in the relationship and/ or house
- A plan for leaving an abusive situation
- A plan for after you leave your relationship and/ or house
Here are some situations you might consider making a plan for:
- What to do during a violent incident:
- What you should do
- What your children should do
- How to prepare to leave
- How to escape the house
- How to keep safe after having left
Some tips for safety planning
Staying safe in the relationship, and in your home
- If there is a threat of a violent incident or your partner is being physically violent, do your best to get to a safe place or, if possible, leave the situation.
- Call the police on 000 if you or someone you know is in danger.
- Find an area of the house to go to with at least two exits, which does not contain items that can be used as a weapon (e.g. you should avoid kitchens or sheds).
- Know what the points of escape are within your house.
- Teach your children not to get involved with any conflict, and agree on a way to communicate to them when they should leave (e.g. use a code or other signal).
- Decide on a safe space for your children to go to if the person using violence becomes violent.
- Pack an Escape Bag.
- Teach your children how to call the police on 000 and provide the operator with your address.
- Keep your mobile phone with you along with the numbers of your local crisis support service, and 24 hours crisis support numbers (Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline 1800 007 339 or Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline 1800 000 599).
- Following an incident, call the police on 000 when it is safe to do so, in order to report the incident.
- Plan other ways to keep safe if the police are not able to respond immediately, or if you live far out of town.
- Find out how to apply for a restraining order.
- Keep a small amount of money to make emergency calls, key cards, house keys, essential medication and important documents together in a place that is quick to access.
- Consider leaving a copy of important documents with someone you trust.
- If you do decide to leave the house, you can request the police to accompany you back to the house so that you can retrieve your personal possessions. Do not put your safety at risk to retrieve property or possessions.
Preparing to leave:
- Make plans to find safe, alternative accommodation. This may include staying with a friend, family member or at a women’s refuge. You can find local accommodation in our online directory.
- When you are preparing to leave, plan to take your children with you.
- It may be unsafe for you to tell the person using violence that you are leaving, so consider whether you disclose this information to that person.
- If you need to leave a rented property, learn about the new laws that allow you to terminate your lease or stay in the property on domestic violence grounds.
- Pack only what you need. If you need more information on what to pack, we have an escape bag checklist which also contains a list of personal papers and items you might need to take with you.
- If you have debit/credit cards, contact the bank and ask for them to be cancelled so that they cannot be used by your partner.
- If you feel as though the person using violence is tracking your movements, consider buying a second mobile phone and a spare SIM card, and hide them in a safe place. After you have left, you will need to turn off your main mobile phone to ensure that the person using violence cannot track or contact you via that device. Remember to pack a suitable charger..
- Try to arrange your transport in advance. Be careful when booking shared ride services (such as Uber or Didi) as your drop-off address will be tracked.
- Set up a separate bank account in your own name at a different bank to your normal bank. Keep some money in this account, and hide the debit card in a safe place (for example, under the sole of one of your shoes). Deposit a small amount of money into this account every week (or other regular interval), so that it will not be noticed.
- Choose a day that your partner will be away for a few hours. Consider making plans for the weekend or the day after that day, in order to make the person using violence less suspicious.
- Contact your friends and family and discuss your plan. Even if you have lost contact with friends and family, they may still try to help you. Only discuss your plan with people that you are sure you can trust.
- Let the police know of your plan.
- If the person using violence commits violence against you, threatens you or your property, harasses or intimidates you, and you are concerned that it will continue, you can apply for a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) online.
- If you have pets that you are concerned about, the RSPCA may be able to help find temporary accommodation for them.
After you have left:
- If you need to obtain a domestic violence restraining order, you can apply for one in person or online. If the person using violence breaches the protection order, telephone the Police and report the breach and contact your advocate or a legal service for assistance.
- Keep any restraining order with you at all times and let your friends, family, your children’s school(s) and employers know you have .
- If you are renting, you may want to terminate your lease.
- After you have left, change all your passwords to email, social media and bank accounts.
- Turn off your main mobile phone (if you have two), and turn on the spare mobile phone. If you do not have a spare phone, turn off the location services on your phone.
- Change the name/s associated with your social media accounts, and do not post on social media. Be prepared to shut down/ delete social media
- Block your partner and any mutual friends of your partner on social media to ensure that they cannot contact or trace you.
- Check your children’s phone/s and make sure they turn off any location services. Do not allow your children to use their phones if you do not think they will be able to do/ maintain this.
- If you have children, arrange a meeting to discuss your situation with the school.
- Arrange for your mail to be redirected to a PO Box, or to your new address, if you have moved.
- Try not to visit the same shops/ bank/ other places that you might have gone to frequently in the past, if possible. If you cannot avoid visiting these places, try to arrange for someone you trust to accompany you.
- Plan for extra safety between where you park your car and where you enter your home (e.g. an automatic garage door opener, safety lighting or removal of shrubs or trees in the area).
- Change the locks on your house, and ensure the windows are secure. Have security chains fitted to all entry doors and make sure they are used at all times when the door is answered by you or your children. The new domestic violence tenancy laws in WA allow you make security changes to make your rental property safer.
- Tell neighbours that the person using violence does not live with you, and ask them to call the police if they are seen near your home.
- If you work, tell your employer about your situation, so that the person using violence will not be able to go to them for information.
- Contact the Australian Electoral Commission and ask for your name and address to be excluded from the published electoral roll.
- Contact Centrelink or the Family Assistance Office to notify them of your change in circumstances.
- Find local family and domestic violence counselling for support.