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Safety Planning
Domestic Violence

Safety Planning for Survivors of Domestic Violence

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Step 1: Safety During a Violent Incident

It is not always possible to avoid violent incidents.  In order to increase safety, I can use some or all of the following strategies:


  • I can keep a cell phone on me AT ALL TIMES that has a charged battery so I can contact 911 if necessary. (Phones that are charged, whether or not they have service, minutes, or a plan, will still contact 911). 

  • I can teach my children how to call 911 to contact the police and fire department. 

  • I can tell _________________ about the violence and request they call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my house. 

  • I will use ____________ as my code word with my child(ren)/family/friends so that if they hear this word they can call for help if I am unable to do so. 

  • I will check with ____________________ and __________________ to see who would be able to let me stay with them or lend me some money. 

  • When I expect we are going to have an argument, I will try to move to a space that is lowest risk, such as, ___________________. (Avoid bathrooms, kitchens, or rooms/areas with weapons). 

  • I will use my judgment and intuition.  If the situation is very serious, I can give my abuser what they want to calm them down. 

  • I can keep my purse/wallet and car keys ready and put them _______________ in order to leave quickly. 

  • If I decide to leave, I will ____________________. (Practice how to get out safely, i.e., what door, window, etc. will you use?)

  • If I have to leave my home, I will go to _____________________ or ______________________.

  • If I cannot go to the locations above, then I can go to ________________________________________________.

  • I can teach some/all of these strategies to my child(ren). 


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The following steps can serve as a customized guide to help you increase your safety and provide for the possibility of further violence.  Although you do not have control over your abuser's violence, you DO have a choice about how you respond to them and how to best get yourself and your child(ren) to safety.  If at any time you feel that your current plan is not working, you can change any part of it to meet your needs.  If written, be sure to keep the safety plan in a safe place and out of reach from your abuser.  If you need help completing a safety plan, you can ask a domestic violence advocate at Sarah's Friends or a trusted friend or family member. 

Safety When Preparing to Leave

Abused individuals frequently leave the residence they share with the abuser.  Leaving must be done with a careful plan in order to increase safety.  Abusers often strike back when they believe that the person they are abusing is leaving.  I know it is important for me to consider safety when preparing to leave to I can use some or all of the following strategies:


  • I will leave money and an extra set of keys __________________ so I can leave quickly.

  • I will keep copies of important documents ______________________. 

  • I can leave extra clothes, personal items, and money with/at __________________________________.

  • To increase my independence, I can obtain my own post office box or forward mail to someone I trust.  If I am moving to a new address in Ohio, I can contact my advocate or the Safe at Home program to keep my new address confidential. 

  • If my abuser monitors my phone, I must either use calling cards or borrow a friend's cell phone for a limited time when preparing to leave and just after I have left.  Sarah's Friends may be able to assist me with obtaining a new cell phone that I can safely access. 

  • I will memorize family member's/friend's numbers so that I/someone else can contact them if my phone is taken.

  • House of Ruth is our regional domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking center that offers a 24-hour hotline, which can be contacted at 1-800-782-8555.  If necessary, I can seek shelter by calling this hotline. 

  • I understand that if I share a cell phone account with my abuser, the following month the phone bill will tell my abuser those numbers that I called after I left. 

  • I will sit down and review my safety plan every _______________ with _______________ in order to plan the safest way to leave the residence. 

  • I will rehearse my escape plan and, as appropriate, practice it with my child(ren). 


Items to Take When Leaving: 























Safety in My Own Home

There are many things that I can do to increase my safety in my own residence.  It may not be possible for me to do everything at once, but safety measures can be added step-by-step.  Some safety measures I can use include:​


  • I can change the locks on my doors and windows as soon as possible.

  • If I live in a rental property, I can talk to my landlord about what we can do to improve the safety of my home. 

  • If I own my home, I can visit a hardware store and get information on improving the safety of my home.

    • I can install additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, and/or inexpensive door/window alarms. (If I am unable to obtain these items, I will ask my advocate for help).​

  • To keep my address confidential, I will not post my name on the outside of my house/apartment. ​

  • I can purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from second floor windows.

  • I can install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for each floor in my home.

  • I can install outdoor cameras or a motion-detecting lighting system to alert me when others are close to my home. 

  • I will tell those who take care of my child(ren) which people have permission to pick up my child(ren) and that my abuser is not permitted to do so.  The people I will inform about pick-up permission include:


      School: _______________          

      Day Care Staff: _________

      Babysitter: ____________      

      Faith Leader: __________

      Teacher/Principal: _____       

      Other(s): ______________


  • ​I will inform _________________ and __________________ that my abuser no longer resides with me and that they should call the police if they are observed near by residence. ​


Safety with a Protection Order

Protection orders are another way that I may be able to increase my safety, but I will be mindful that one could possibly cause my abuser to escalate.  Because obtaining a protection order can inform my abuser of my address, I can ask the courts to keep my address confidential or enroll in the Safe at Home program. Since a protection order will not be valid until it is served to the abuser, I must make sure the courts have their current address.  In Ohio, the type of protection order I file will depend on a variety of factors and can include protection for my child(ren) and/or pet(s). 

Many abusers obey protection orders, but one can never be sure who will obey and who will violate protection orders.  I recognize that I may need to ask the police and the courts to enforce my protection order.  The following are some steps that I can take to help the enforcement of my protection order:


  • I will keep a copy of my protection order with me at all times.  I will also keep a copy of my protection order ______________ and _________________ (locations). 

  • Although I do not have to for it to be effective, I can take my protection order to police departments in the community where I work, in those communities where I usually visit family or friends, and the community where I live in order for them to be aware of my situation. 

  • A Civil Protection Order is enforceable throughout Ohio.  However, if I visit other counties in Ohio often, or move to another county, I should file my protection order with the court in those counties.  I will register my protection order in the following counties: _________________ and __________________.

  • I can call the local Prosecutor's Office or Clerk of Courts if I am not sure about the above or if I have problems with my protection order. 

  • I will inform ___________________ and ____________________ (employer, friend, daycare provider, school, landlord, faith leader, etc.) that I have a protection order in effect and provide copies, as appropriate. 

  • If my abuser destroys my protection order, I can get another copy from the Clerk of the Common Pleas Court's office in my county. 

  • If my abuser violates the protection order by contacting me by phone, text message, email, voicemail, or social media post, I can call the police to report the violation, contact my attorney, call my advocate, and/or advise the court of the violation.  If I have a smart phone I can use the "screen shot" feature to document the violation.  I can print these "screenshots" and keep them in a safe place or forward them to my email for safe keeping.  If I do not know how to do this, I will ask my advocate or wireless phone provider. 

  • If the police do not help, I can contact my advocate or attorney to file a complaint with the police department. 

  • I can also file a private criminal complaint with the Prosecutor's Office in the jurisdiction where the violation occurred or call my domestic violence advocate to help me with this. 


Safety on the Job and in Public

Each abused individual must decide if/when to tell others that abuse is occurring and if there is a possibility of continued risk.  Friends, family, and co-workers can help to provide protection.  I should consider carefully which people to invite to help me secure my safety.  I might do any or all of the following:


  • I can keep a cell phone on me AT ALL TIMES hat has a charged battery so I can contact 911 if necessary.  (Phones that are charged, whether or not they have service, minutes, or a plan, will still contact 911). 

  • I can inform my supervisor, my Human Resources department, the security supervisor, and _________________ at work of my situation.

  • I can provide my security department, supervisor, and coworkers with a recent photo of my abuser and request that they intervene properly if they are seen at work.

  • I can talk to my supervisor about changing my schedule/shift and, if possible, about not closing alone. 

  • I can ask ______________ to help me screen my phone calls at work.

  • I will observe exit routes in my work area and plan ahead in case I have to leave quickly.

  • When leaving work, I can ________________________________________________________.

  • If problems occur when I'm driving home, I can _________________________________________.

  • If I use public transportation, I can ______________________________________________.

  • I will go to a different grocery store, shopping mall, and bank to conduct my business. 

  • I will conduct my business at hours that are different from those I used when residing with my abuser.

  • If I am in school, I can use some or all of the strategies mentioned above to increase my safety.

  • I can be aware of my surroundings and all exits in new public places. 


Safety and Drug or Alcohol Use

The legal outcomes of using illegal drugs can be very hard on a victim of domestic violence, may hurt the relationship with their child(ren), and put them at a disadvantage in other legal actions with the abuser.  Therefore, I should carefully consider the potential cost of using illegal drugs.  If drug or alcohol use has occurred, I can enhance my safety by some or all of the following:


  • The use of alcohol or other drugs can reduce my awareness and ability to act quickly to protect myself from my abuser.  I understand that choosing not to use alcohol or other drugs would be safest.  If I am going to use, I can do so in a safe place with people who understand the risk of violence and are committed to my safety. 

  • If my abuser is using, I can ________________________________________________.

  • To safeguard my child(ren), I might ______________________________________________________.


Safety and My Emotional Health

The experience of being abused and verbally degraded is usually exhausting and emotionally draining.  The process of building a new life for myself takes much courage and incredible energy.  I must remember that I am not at fault for the abuse I have experienced.  To conserve my emotional energy and to avoid hard emotional times, I can do some/all of the following:


  • If I feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can ______________________________________.

  • To prevent further emotional stress, I can limit conversations with my abuser.

  • If I have to communicate with my abuser in person or by telephone, I can __________________. (Tell someone where I'll be, limit the conversation, etc.).

  • I can try to use "I can...." statements with myself and be assertive with others.

  • I can tell myself " ____________________________________" whenever I feel others are trying to control or abuse me. 

  • I can read __________________________ to help me feel stronger.

  • I can call ______________________ and ______________________ to be of support to me.

  • Other things I can do to help me feel stronger are ________________________ and _________________________.

  • I can ask my domestic violence advocate for a counseling referral.

  • I can call my advocate or the local domestic violence hotline 24 hours a day/7 days a week for additional support.

  • I can attend workshops and support groups at the domestic violence program or ___________________________ to gain support and strengthen my relationships with other people. 

  • Some things I could do for myself today include __________________________________ and __________________________.

  • If I am especially down I can call ____________________ and _______________________ for support.

  • If I feel I am at risk  for harming myself, I can ____________________________________ and use the Suicide/Self-harm Plan created by myself and my advocate or clinician to guarantee my safety. 

  • I could also text or call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for support. 

  • Lastly, if I feel there is potential I could harm myself or someone else, I can call 911 or get immediate help at a local hospital emergency department. 


Technology Safety

Technology can be helpful in linking me to outside supports and resources.  However, it is important to remember that technology can also be used to harm me and allow my abuser further access to power and control.  I can use some or all of the following strategies:


  • Having phone access is important in reaching outside resources.  I can consider obtaining another donated phone from a shelter or domestic violence program or buy a pay-as-you-go phone.  (All cell phones that are charged, whether or not they have service, minutes, or a plan, will still contact 911.  I can keep an extra phone in my car, purse, bedroom, etc.). 

  • I can set a privacy pin or password on my cell phone so that my abuser does not have access to it. 

  • I can use Caller ID, voicemail, or an answering machine to screen my calls. 

  • Technology can be used to convey threats or intimidate the recipient.  If I receive such messages I can ______________.

  • If I have a smart phone I can use the "screenshot" feature to save threatening emails/texts/messages and forward them to my email.  If I do not know how to do this, I will ask my advocate or my wireless phone provider. 

  • I can use a tape recorder/phone recording equipment or apps to record communication with my abuser, especially if I have a protection order in place. 

  • If I am being harassed by my abuser, I can consider getting a new, unlisted phone number. 

  • GPS settings on my phone or car can allow my abuser to track my movements.  I will remember to _____________________ (consider new accounts).  NOTE: Social media accounts will post my whereabouts if my phone location services are on. 

  • I realize my computer activity can be traced.  If I believe my computer activity is being monitored, I can _____________.

  • Email accounts have the ability to reveal a lot of information about my online behaviors and intentions.  I will ____________ to minimize access to my email account. 

  • If I have shared my passwords/pins with my abuser, I will _______________________________________________.

  • For more information on how to keep myself safe with technology or to help me decide which safety apps are best for me, I can go to


Financial Safety

One common barrier to leaving an abuser is a lack of finances.  Gaining financial independence is important but can take some time.  While in the relationship or home with the abuser, it is best to make small changes at first-changes that will go undetected or can be easily hidden. I can use some or all of the following strategies:


  • As I can, I will put small amounts of money away in a safe place or my own bank account. 

  • If I get paid in cash or receive tips, I can save a portion of the money.

  • I can try to earn extra income from babysitting, recycling, selling clothes or belongings, etc. 

  • I can open my own bank account or purchase prepaid debit cards so that my abuser cannot track my purchases. 

  • I can consider obtaining a safety deposit box for money and other valuables.

  • I will ensure that my financial documents (bank statements, credit card bills, etc.) are in a safe place where I can grab them in a hurry. 

    • When leaving, I can use some or all of the following strategies:

      • If I share a joint account with my abuser, I can withdraw money from that account to keep myself (and my child(ren)) safe.  But I know it is always important to do what is safest for me!

      • If possible, I will open my own bank account at a different bank/location. 

      • I will change direct deposit information as soon as possible. (This process may take a few billing cycles so I may need to request paper checks sent to my new address until changes can be made). 

      • If my abuser is not listed as a joint account holder but has access to my accounts, I will request new bank/ATM cards and change all passwords and PIN numbers. 

      • I can also request that companies/organizations put "fraud alerts" or "red flags" on my accounts (including ODJFS benefits, banks, cell phone providers, utility companies, etc.) so my abuser can no longer utilize them. 


Safety and Stalking

Stalking is known to happen most frequently with abused individuals during the leaving process. However, it can also occur while still in a relationship or home with an abuser.  No matter what, stalking can be extremely dangerous and can intensify over time so it is important for me to keep myself and my family safe during this time.  I can use some or all of the following strategies: 


  • I can be aware of my surroundings and keep a journal or log of all stalking activity in a safe place or with a trusted person (record dates, times, and events). 

  • I can save any harassing or threatening messages, texts, emails, or letters from my abuser, will consider them serious, whether indirect or direct, and report them to law enforcement immediately.  I can forward these to my email or a trusted friend or family's phone or email for safe keeping. 

  • I can vary my routines by taking different routes to ______________________ and ______________________.

  • In public, I will try not to travel alone and will stay in areas where I can reach someone for help, especially at night.

  • If I feel I am in imminent danger I can go to ____________________________ or ____________________________.

  • I will consider obtaining a Civil Protection Order (CPO) or a Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order (SSOOPO). 

  • I can also ________________________________ to ensure my safety and the safety of my child(ren). 


Safety and My Child(ren)

Survivors of domestic violence experience a certain amount of fear and stress when being abused but the abuse can also put extensive strain on the child(ren) who have witnessed the abuse or have been victims themselves.  When planning for my own safety, it is important to consider the safety of my child(ren) as well, even if I think my abuser would never harm my child(ren).  To ensure the safety of my child(ren), I can do any or all of the following:


  • Teach my child(ren) how and when to dial 911 (be sure they know their address or location and encourage them to STAY on the phone with the dispatcher). 

  • Use _____________________ as a secret code word with my child(ren) to use for emergencies. 

  • Help my child(ren) remember my full name, phone number, and home address.

  • Make a list of safe people and their phone numbers in case my child(ren) need to reach out for help.  I will be sure to put this in a safe place (backpack, coat pocket, etc.) for my child(ren). 

  • As age appropriate, plan with my child(ren) how to leave the home and identify safe places to go (it may help to practice fire, tornado, and safety drills simultaneously).

  • Help my child(ren) identify a room they can go to when they're scared (have them bring a favorite toy/stuffed animal/blanket and hide an emergency cell phone in the room if possible). I will remember to stay out of bathrooms, kitchens, and rooms with weapons. 

  • Help my child(ren) understand that although they may want to protect me, it is not safe to intervene. 

  • Teach my child(ren) to be SAFE (Stay out of the fight, Avoid getting trapped, Find a phone (to call for help), and Escape to a safe place). 

  • If I am staying at a shelter or a new location, I will explain how important it is to keep that location a secret. 

  • If I have to exchange my child(ren) with my abuser, I will make sure to do so in a busy place and during daylight hours if possible.  I can take someone with me and plan ahead by contacting the meeting location to find out if it has working surveillance cameras (some ideas are banks, fast food restaurants, and some police stations). 


Safety and Pets

Pets can be harmed when left with an abuser.  If possible, I can take my pet(s) with me when I leave.  If friends or family are unable to care for my pet(s), animal shelters may be able to help.  Some domestic violence shelters even allow pets.  I can consider asking for my pet(s) to be added to my protection order, as some states like Ohio allow this. 

When planning to leave with a pet I can consider any or all of the following:


  • Talk to friends, family members, veterinarians, or my local animal or domestic violence shelter to see who can help care for my pet(s). 

  • Take steps to prove ownership of my pet(s) and have them vaccinated and licensed in my name. 

  • Pack a bag for my pet(s) including:

    • Food​

    • Medicine

    • Documents of ownership (receipts from adoption/purchase of pet(s), licenses, etc.)

    • ID and rabies tags

    • Health documents (veterinary or vaccination records)

    • Leash, carrier/cage, toys, and bedding

  • If I MUST leave my pet(s) behind, I will be sure to leave enough food, water, bedding, etc. ​

    • I can consider asking law enforcement or animal control if they can intervene.  For information or to file a report in Williams County, I can call the Williams County Humane Society and Dog Pound at 419-636-4659 or 419-636-2200. ​


If I am able to take my pet(s) with me to my new temporary/permanent location:


  • I will keep pet(s) indoors and avoid leaving them outside alone if possible.

  • Choose a safe route and time to walk my pet(s). 

  • Try not to exercise or walk my pet(s) alone, especially at night.

  • Change my veterinarian to one my abuser is not familiar with. 


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