Women's Aid understands that you are probably doing many things to keep yourself safe and you are the best judge of the level of risk you are at.
When living in an abusive situation, safety, yours and your children's, is the number one priority. You cannot control the abuse but you may be able to take steps to protect yourself and your family. Women's Aid can help you put together a safety plan and refuges and local domestic violence services can do the same.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be fraught with difficulty and may not be the best option for you at a particular point. If you plan to stay in the relationship, there are certain precautions you can take. For example:
- Keep a phone in a room that locks from the inside and memorise all emergency numbers
- Carry a mobile phone.
- Decide and plan where you will go if you do leave home (even if you don't think you'll need to).
- Make up a code word to let the children, friends, family, or a neighbour know that you're in trouble and need help.
- If it is safe to do so, keep a handbag/overnight bag with important phone numbers and items in a place where you can grab it if you need to leave in a hurry.
If you are attacked and are in immediate danger
- Call the Gardaí 999/112 when you can.
- Get out, if you can.
- If you cannot get out, you may be able to avoid going into places like the kitchen and garage where there are plenty of potential weapons.
- You may also be able to avoid rooms with small areas like closets or crawlspaces where you can be trapped. You may be able to stay away from rooms without windows.
- Try to alert your friends, family, or a neighbour that you're in trouble and need help.
Preparing to leave
If you do plan to leave, decide when and where you will go.
- You may have to confide in your children that it may be necessary to leave home at some point in the future. Make sure they are old enough to understand that this must be kept secret and reassure them that you have plans for how to protect them but that you need their co-operation.
- You may be able to plan an escape route and teach it to your children.
- Agree a code word to signal to your children that it's time to leave NOW.
- If you feel you it's not safe or appropriate to confide in your children, try to have their belongings ready, if possible.
- If you can, open a savings account in your own name to establish and increase your financial independence.
- Identify who will let you and your children stay with them or lend you some money.
- Leave money, extra keys, and copies of important documents and clothes with someone you trust.
- Review your safety plan with Women's Aid or someone who is supporting you.
What to take?
If you do leave, try to bring the essentials, especially documents that may be hard to retrieve later. But remember the most important thing is getting to safety. Don't worry if you cannot take any of the items mentioned below. You can return later with someone to support you.
- Identification (driver's license, passport, birth certificates for yourself and your children)
- ATM, credit and debit cards
- keys to your car, home, and office
- Your children's favourite toys or blankets.
- Important numbers (see list below)
Other useful items:
- Health insurance information
- Social welfare documentation
- School and medical records
- Welfare ID or work permits
- Housing documents such as a lease, deed, or mortgage payment statements
- Financial records
- Marriage license
- Protective orders
- Custody papers
- Immigration papers
- Sentimental items such as photos or favourite books.
What are the important phone numbers to remember?
Keep a list of important phone numbers close to hand including:
- Friends and family
- Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline
- Local women's refuge
- Local rape crisis centre
- Social welfare office
- Housing office
- Your doctor
- Your work supervisor
- Local Garda station
Only keep a written safety plan if it is safe for you to do so. Women's Aid, your local refuge and domestic violence support service and the Gardaí can assist you as you plan your safety.
Things to do to protect safety after leaving
We know that leaving the abusive relationship does not always mean an end to the violence. Many women experience abuse from their former partners. Therefore, you may need to take measures to keep safe in your new home.
- Keep in touch with Women's Aid or your local domestic violence service. They will help you plan your safety as your circumstances change.
- Get an unlisted phone number and caller ID
- Screen calls with an answering machine.
- Save all messages that are threatening or which violate a domestic violence order.
- Open new accounts in your name only.
- Avoid staying home alone, and vary your daily routine -- change your commute to work, and don't frequent the same bank or supermarket too often. If you have to meet your partner, try to do it in a public place. Women's Aid will address these issues with you during a safety plan session.
- Prepare your children so they know what they should do if they see the abuser, and let their teachers know that you are the only one authorised to pick up your children from school. You could try to make sure that no one at the children's school gives out you contact information.
- Let your supervisor at work know about your situation, and arrange protective measures there, too. This may include not going to lunch alone, asking a colleague to walk with you to the car or bus stop. You may also give your supervisor a photo of the abuser in case of a confrontation at work.
Find out more how Women's Aid can help.