I cringe each time someone asks a victim of domestic violence, “So why didn’t you just leave?” I cringe because it assumes the very thing that often victims do not have: the power to ‘just leave’. I also cringe because if a victim did ‘just leave’, without first putting in place a safety plan, the consequences could be quite disastrous. In fact, the most serious incidences of family violence occur at the time of separation when the victim is leaving.
If you, or someone you know, is escaping the grasps of family violence, here are some of the things you should consider putting in place before, and after, you choose to leave the violent relationship.
Planning before the separation:
- Identify the same areas of your home where you can’t be trapped, and find the easiest escape routes from the house via doors and windows.
- Plan where you will go if you had to leave your home, and if possible, practise travelling to the location beforehand. This can either be to a family or friend’s place, or to a refuge, preferably at a place where you are unlikely to be found easily.
- Keep money aside for a taxi, bus or train for emergency transport to a safe place.
- Keep extra keys to your house and car in a safe place.
- Collect all important documents, such as birth certificates and passports. Make certified copies of all important documents, particularly those that can be used as forms of identification. Keep these documents in a safe place in case you need them at short notice.
- Keep these important documents, along with some clothing, any medications, prescriptions, keys, emergency money and anything else you might need in a safe place or with someone you trust.
- Identify all the people who you can call on to tell them about the violence and ask them to call the police if you signal to them that you are in danger. A trusty neighbor nearby is always helpful.
- Only tell friends and family you are sure you can trust of your plans.
- Make a list of emergency phone numbers and support services. If they are stored in your mobile phone and you are concerned someone might search your mobile, store them under a false name.
- If your children are exposed to the conflict, warn them to stay out of the conflict and show them a safe place to go if they feel unsafe. Teach your children to call the police on 000 and any other emergency phone numbers, including family members who understand your situation.
- Ask your doctor to carefully note any evidence of injuries on your patient records.
- Obtain advice from the Domestic Violence Line by calling 1800 656 463. The Domestic Violence Line is a statewide free-call number and is available 24 hours, seven days a week.
Staying safe following separation:
- Inform your children’s school or child care centre who has permission to collect your children. If you have any family court orders, leave a copy with the school.
- Change your passwords, particularly for banking, telephone, mobile, email, accounts.
- Check your security settings for your Facebook account and revisit any mutual friends who would allow your ex-partner access to information on your Facebook page.
- Arrange for your mail to be redirected to a post office box instead of your new address.
- Change the locks on your house and ensure the windows are secure. Have security chains fitted to all entry doors.
- Increase the security for your home, such as installing outdoor sensor lights.
- Keep a mobile phone with you at all times and pre-program any numbers you might need in an
- emergency; including the Police and the Domestic Violence Line.
- Vary your travel routes to and from work, and try not to frequent the places you used to go to.
- Contact the Australian Electoral Commission and ask for your name and address to be excluded from the published electoral role.
- Speak to a family law lawyer about what options you have in securing court protection and certainty for you and your children.
For more detailed information in creating your own Safety Plan, I recommend you read this booklet called “My Safety Plan” prepared by the Western Integrated Family Violence Partnership. You can download it by clicking here: Safety Plan for DV
To access the Domestic Violence Line for counselling and assistance, call 1800 656 463, which is available 24 hours, seven days a week.
For legal advice tailored to your situation, contact Metta Legal and we can help put you through to the right people.
* This article is written by Tina Ng to provide some ideas for creating a safety plan. The Terms of Website Use (which you can access here) is applicable to this article.