What is a Safety Plan?
A Safety plan is a personalised, practical plan that you can create in order to help you avoid potentially dangerous situations. Safety planning empowers you as it allows you to assess your risks and plan accordingly, it gives you control and reduces feelings of helplessness by creating a sense of action by forward planning and preparing a safety network. It lists ways to react to situations, and who to contact if you are in danger and need help.
Your plan can be amended to suit the situation you are in, for instance you can plan to create a safer environment if you intend to remain in the relationship, or you can amend it to suit you if you have left the relationship and still feel at risk.
How do I create my own safety plan?
You don’t need to do this on your own. One of our domestic violence workers can assist you in this process where they can talk through different options with you. As they are familiar with the local community, they can help with referrals to other support agencies and be able to offer contact numbers. It is important to devise your safety plan when you are in a position to think things through. There are also numerous websites which can offer support to create a Safety Plan but make sure to delete your browser history after searching.
When you have your safety plan, be sure to keep it in a place where your partner won’t find it, perhaps keep it with a friend/relative or where you work.
Creating a safer environment while remaining in the relationship
Remember that you are the expert with regards to your own safety.
It is crucial to remain connected to a support network of friends and family. They can be great allies at a time of stress and can build you up. Domestic violence organisations also provide support during periods when you feel low and can help in working through what the key issues are for you. Try to remain involved with hobbies / activities to prevent isolation. Self-care is crucial.
Identify the places in your home that are the safest – ones where there are no potential weapons. The kitchen is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Once you have identified your safe space, try to get there at the beginning of an argument, or if you can’t try to be in a room with a clear exit.
Consider making a plan for each room in your home – assess each room of your home, know which doors lock and think about how you would get out of it, can you reach the ground floor safely?
If you have a friend and/or neighbour that you can trust, develop a system to let them know when violence is happening, and when you need help. This can be the use of a code word if you can manage to phone them prior to or after an incident.
If you can, try to avoid any violence by leaving. However, if leaving feels unsafe, get to your safe area and make yourself a smaller target by curling into a ball, protect your face by wrapping your arms around your head.
Consider making a plan for an Emergency Exit.
Safety Planning with Children
If you have children, a Safety plan is needed to plan for both their physical and emotional safety. Have a conversation with them at a safe time where you can teach them what steps they need to take to be safe and how to get help.
Come up with a code word together which makes them aware that they need to take those steps, to either hide themselves or run to a friend / neighbour. A practice run can be devised so they can see how this works. When they go to a friend, the main objective is that they are safe and that the Gardai can be called by that friend.
In an incident, fight your instinct and don’t run to them to protect them, and tell them that they must not run to you. Instruct them not to become involved in any arguments.
The Plan to Leave
This is a plan that is devised when a woman has made the decision to leave. It is far better to do this in a planned way than in an emergency, however it is more common that this occurs in a crisis. Even when a woman decides that leaving might be in her best interests, there are many emotional, physical, and financial issues, combined with danger, that make leaving difficult. Leaving does not guarantee that the violence will end. Because of this danger, it helps to be prepared. Leaving a relationship is one of the most dangerous times for victims.
Your support worker will help you to plan the appropriate time to leave and assist you in making arrangements around your finances and accommodation needs to facilitate the transition.
The Emergency Exit Plan
This is a plan to organise for an emergency exit, which may occur in a crisis.
Have a list of friends or family members that you can go to if you need to leave in a hurry, remember it may be at night and it might be a good idea to have discussed it with them first. If you can, leave a bag somewhere and fill it over time with clothes, toiletries and these essential items:
• Important Documents
• Spare car and house key
• ATM Bank Card
• Children’s allowance books or other payments
• Passport and driver’s license
• PPS number, birth/marriage certificates
• Legal documents - Legal Orders
• Items of sentimental value
If you have to leave immediately, call the local Garda station for help or to find out where your nearest refuge and support services are.
Decide how to get out of your home:
Keep your purse and keys in a safe place, so that you can leave quickly.
If you have a car, make sure that there’s enough fuel in the tank.
If you leave by car, lock the car doors immediately.
If you have a mobile phone, have it charged and in credit. Have coins for a public phone.
Think of public places you can access 24 hours a day.
Know the route to Garda Stations, Hospitals, support services and refuges in your area.
Keep any court orders of protection on you at all times.
Memorise important numbers:
Remember: the key priority is to your safety. When you leave the house in a hurry, you cannot bring everything with you, a Garda accompaniment can be arranged at a later stage if you need to return home to collect items.