Stay Safe Tips

Experiencing partner abuse in any form can create fear.  It is normal to feel out of control when you are in an unhealthy relationship or concerned about what might happen next.  While preparing to leave, during violence, and after leaving an abusive partner are times that each present unique challenges and emotional impacts.  The following are a few tips that survivors can use to keep themselves safe.

Thinking about leaving can feel frightening.  A survivor might worry that their abuser knows about their plans to leave.  Please take steps to protect your safety on the computer.  Some people do not want to leave right away, but want to know more about how to stay safe in their relationship.  There are resources about staying safe in a relationship here.  Some people do want to leave their partner.  These survivors may try to leave their partner multiple times before they can leave an abusive partner.  Preparing can help a survivor be successful in leaving their partner and help them to feel more secure as they plan to leave.

Preparing to Leave

  • Get copies of all of important documents, money (if possible), medications, and a change of clothes and leave them with a trusted friend.
  • Try to save some money before leaving, if possible.  If it is not possible to save money, find a trusted friend who might loan some money temporarily.
  • Discuss setting up a temporary living situation with a friend.
  • Consider going to a shelter specializing in partner abuse.
  • Locate a partner abuse shelter that is friendly to LGBT people, if possible.
  • Contact local partner abuse providers to find out what services are available.
  • Change phone numbers or get a prepaid cell phone (some partner abuse organizations can help provide free prepaid cell phones if a survivor doesn’t have the money to buy one).
  • If a survivor has children, tell the child’s school what is going on.

In the middle of an abusive situation, a survivor might feel especially afraid or powerless.  Being in a violent or abusive situation is never the survivor’s fault.  Although it isn’t their responsibility to end the abuse, following a few of these steps can help to keep a survivor safe if they suspect that they may be at risk for abuse.

During Violence

  • Keep important items such as a driver’s license, money, and birth certificate in a bag that can easily be taken when leaving, if you are thinking about leaving.
  • Go to a place that is safe.  Avoid kitchens, workshops, or basements that might have sharp heavy objects an abuser could use to inflict harm.
  • Alert friends and neighbors of the situation so if they hear or see suspicious activity they can call for help.
  • Try to walk to cars, to homes, and from place to place with a friend.
  • Travel from place to place using different routes each time.
  • Do not wear scarves or jewelry that could be used to cause injury.
  • Survivors with children should tell them about safe places to hide or ways to escape prior to abusive incidents.
  • In a public place, yell “HELP!” This is the most likely call for help that will be answered.

If a survivor chooses to leave an abuser, the time after leaving can be filled with mixed feelings.  A survivor may feel relieved that they are no longer forced to spend time with the abuser, scared that an abuser may find out where they are staying, anxious that they may run into their abuser, hopeful about starting a new life, an urge to return to the abuser, numb, or they may feel many of these emotions.  If a survivor feels like they want someone to share their feelings with or listen to them as they heal, there are service providers who can help in this journey.  Also taking a few of the following steps might help a survivor stay physically safe after leaving an abuser.

After Leaving an Abuser or After an Abuser Leaves

  • Change locks on residence doors, windows, and vehicles.
  • Install motion sensitive lights.
  • Install an alarm system.
  • Buy a mobile phone.  Some partner abuse organizations can help you get one for free or at a reduced price.
  • Put chains on doors and gates.
  • Put a safety bar or dowel in sliding windows so they will not open.
  • Inform friends, family, employers, neighbors, and child care providers that they should call the police if they see the abuser in the area.
  • Cut back hedges or remove items in the yard or porch that could conceal the abuser or limit ready escape.
  • Use a PO Box or a friend’s address on any documents that need to be mailed to the survivor.

Adapted From

Domestic Violence Crisis Services and Women’s Law

Additional Resources