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If you’re in an abusive relationship, it is advisable to create a personalised safety plan. A safety plan outlines practical steps to stay safe and prepares you for emergencies. If you have children, your safety plan should include them too.

  • Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger to you and your children before it occurs.
  • Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.
  • Don’t run to where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
  • If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
  • Have a phone accessible at all times. Save emergency numbers in your phone such as:
    • 999
    • the nearest police station’s number
    • WAO Hotline (+603 3000 8858)
    • WAO SMS/WhatsApp line, TINA (+6018 988 8058)
    • trusted family or friend’s number
    • You may want to save the WAO Hotline and TINA numbers under different names, to prevent your partner from discovering them.
  • Let trusted friends and neighbours know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.
  • Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.
  • Plan for what you will do if your children tell your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.
  • Keep weapons like knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
  • Make a habit to reverse-park in the parking lot or somewhere easy to leave and keeping your car fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked — for a quick escape.
  • Try not to wear scarves or long jewellery that could be used to strangle you.
  • Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
  • Teach your children when and how to call 999 and what information to provide (e.g. name, address, and phone number)
  • Instruct them to leave the home if possible when things begin to escalate, and where they can go.
  • Create a code word that you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency  — make sure that they know not to tell others what the secret word means.
  • In the house: identify a room they can go to when they’re afraid and something they can think about when they’re scared.
  • Instruct them to stay out of the kitchen, bathroom and other areas where there are items that could be used as weapons.
  • Teach them that although they want to protect their parent, they should never intervene.
  • Help them make a list of people that they are comfortable talking with and expressing themselves to.
  • Enrol them in a counselling program.  

How to Have These Conversations

  • Let your child know that what’s happening is not their fault and that they didn’t cause it.
  • Let them know how much you love them and that you support them no matter what.
  • Tell them that you want to protect them and that you want everyone to be safe, so you have to come up with a plan to use in case of emergencies.
  • It’s important to remember that when you’re safety planning with a child, they might tell this information to the abusive partner, which could make the situation more dangerous (eg. “Mom said to do this if you get angry.”) 
  • When talking about these plans with your child, use phrases such as “We’re practising what to do in an emergency,” instead of “We’re planning what you can do when dad/mom becomes violent.”

Your emotional wellbeing is important. Here are some tips to protect and maintain your emotional health while in an abusive relationship.

Seek Out Supportive People: a trusted friend or family member can help you think through difficult situations and explore potential options.

Identify and Work Towards Achievable Goals: An achievable goal might be calling the WAO Hotline. You don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can help options feel more possible when you are ready.

Create a Peaceful Space for Yourself: Find a place where your mind can relax and feel safe.

Remind Yourself of Your Great Worth: You are important and special. It is never your fault when someone chooses to be abusive to you, and it is not a reflection of your worth as a person.

Be Kind to Yourself: Take time to care for yourself, even if it is only for a few minutes every day. It’s healthy to give yourself emotional breaks and step back from your situation sometimes.

Adapted from: National Domestic Violence Hotline, United States of America, ‘Path to Safety’ <>

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