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I'm still living with my abuser - how can I stay safer?
If you're still living with your abuser, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your children. It's important to plan in advance for the possibility of future violence and abuse.
To help you prepare to stay safer, use this plan -
domestic violence safety plan (227kb pdf)
Steps to increase safety for you and your children include:
Cover your tracks online. If you're worried about someone knowing which websites you've visited, read these
steps to increase your online safety
- Plan how you might respond in different situations, including crisis situations. Think about the different options that may be available to you.
- Keep with you any important and emergency telephone numbers, for example, domestic violence support service and helplines, the police domestic violence unit, your GP, your social worker if you have one, your children’s school and your solicitor.
- Teach your children to call 999 in an emergency, and what they'd need to say, for example, their full name, address and phone number.
- Be ready to call 999 if you or your children are in danger. You could look up how to set a speed dial on your phone so when you dial 9 it calls 999.
- Are there neighbours you can trust, where you could go in an emergency? If so, tell them what's going on, and ask them to call the police if they hear sounds of a violent attack.
- Create code words or phrases for friends and children so they know when to call for help or get to somewhere safer.
- Rehearse an escape plan, so that in an emergency you and the children can get away safely.
- Pack an emergency bag for you and your children, and hide it somewhere safe, for example, at a reliable neighbour’s or friend’s house. Your bag should include:
- Some form of identification
- Birth certificates for you and your children
- Passports, including passports for all your children, visas and work permits
- Money, bank books, cheque books, credit and debit cards
- Keys for the house, car and place of work. Get an extra set of keys cut for the emergency bag
- Cards for payment of child benefit and any other welfare benefits you're entitled to
- Driving license if you have one and any car registration documents
- Prescribed medication
- Copies of documents relating to your housing tenure, for example, mortgage details or lease and rental agreements
- Insurance documents, including national insurance number
- Address book
- Family photographs, your diary, jewellery, small items of sentimental value
- Clothing and toiletries for you and your children
- Your children’s favourite small toys
- Any documentation relating to the abuse, for example, police reports, court orders, medical records
- Try to keep a small amount of money on you at all times – including change for the phone and bus fares.
- Know where the nearest phone is and if you have a mobile phone, try to keep it with you.
- If you suspect that your abuser is about to attack you, try to go to a lower risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone. Avoid the kitchen or garage where there are likely to be knives or other weapons, and avoid rooms where you might be trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
- Be prepared to leave the house in an emergency.
- If at all possible, try to set aside a small amount of money each week, or even open a separate bank account.
How can I leave my abuser safely?
There may come a time when you feel the only option is to leave your abuser.
If you do decide to leave, it's best if you can plan this carefully.
A planned escape is the safest way to leave a violent relationship.
Sometimes abusers will increase their abuse if they suspect you're thinking of leaving and will continue to do so after you've left, so this can be a particularly dangerous time for you. We advise you to get support from a specialist domestic violence abuse agency, the police or a solicitor. They'll help explore the risk of further harm and the options available to you.
If you're planning to leave you should:
- Leave at a time you know your abuser won't be around.
- Try to take everything you'll need with you, including any important documents relating to yourself and your children, as you may not be able to return later.
- Take your children with you, otherwise it may be difficult or impossible to have them living with you in future.
- If your children are at school, make sure that the headteacher and all your children's teachers know about the situation and who will be collecting the children in future.
- Arrange a safe place where you can your children can stay after you've left.
Planning it doesn’t mean you have to carry it through immediately – or at all. But it may help to consider all the options and how you could overcome the difficulties involved.
How can I stay safer after I've left my abuser?
If you leave your abuser, you may not want everyone to know the reason. However, it might increase your safety if you tell your family and friends, your children’s school, and your employer or college what's happening, so that they don't inadvertently give out any information to your abuser. They'll also be more prepared and better able to help you in an emergency.
If you've left home, but are staying in the same town or area, these are some ways in which you might be able to increase your safety:
- Try not to place yourself in a vulnerable position or isolate yourself.
- Try to avoid any places, such as shops, banks, cafes, that you used to use when you lived together.
- Try to alter your routines as much as you can.
- If you've any regular appointments that your abuser knows about, for example with a counsellor or health practitioner. Try to change the time and/or location of the appointment.
- Try to choose a safe route or change the route you take or the form of transport you use, when going to and from places you can't avoid – such as your place of work, children’s school or GP surgery.
- Tell your children’s school, nursery or childminder what's happened and let them know who will pick up your children. Make sure they don't release the children to anyone else or give your new address or telephone number to anyone. You may want to establish a password with them and give them copies of any court orders.
- Consider telling your employer or others at your place of work – particularly if you think your abuser may try to contact you there.
If you've moved away from your area and don’t want your abuser to know where you are, take particular care with anything that may indicate your location. For example:
- Your mobile phone could be ‘tracked’. This is only supposed to happen if you've given your permission, but if your abuser has had access to your phone, they could have sent a consenting message purporting to come from you. If you think this might be the case, contact the company providing the tracking facility and withdraw your permission. If you're in any doubt, change your phone.
- Try to avoid using shared credit or debit cards or joint bank accounts. If the statement is sent to your abuser, they'll see the transactions you've made.
- Make sure that your address doesn't appear on any court papers. If you're staying in a refuge, they'll advise you on this.
- If you need to phone your abuser or anyone he's in contact with, make sure your telephone number is untraceable by dialling 141 before ringing.
- Talk to your children about the need to keep your address and location confidential.
What can I do if the abuse continues?
In an emergency, always call the police on 999.
If your abuser continues to harass, threaten or abuse you, make sure you keep detailed records of each incident, including the date and time it occurred, what was said or done and, if possible, photographs of damage to your property or injuries to yourself or others.
If your abuser injures you, see your GP or go to hospital for treatment and ask them to document your visit.
Look into your legal options. If you've an injunction with a power of arrest or if there's a restraining order in place, you should ask the police to enforce this. If your abuser is in breach of any court order, you should also tell your solicitor.