How to keep safe
If you are living in an abusive relationship but are not ready to leave, we recommend you try to keep yourself and your children safe. You may not be able to stop the violence and abuse but you may be able to minimise the risk to yourself and your children.
Risk factors to be aware of:
- Research shows that during pregnancy and immediately after the birth there is often an increase in violence in domestic abusive relationships.
- Trying to leave an abusive relationship also increases your risk of harm - it is therefore important to plan carefully to minimise the risks.
- Be aware of mobile phone tracking as perpetrators often put spyware or tracking app on their partner’s phone.
One step you can take to increase your safety is to make a safety plan.
Recognise the signs in the abuser's behaviour e.g. a certain mood or look, use of drugs or alcohol. By recognising these early warning signs that things are about to turn violent, you can plan in advance a way of dealing with this.
- Know where your phone is and keep it charged. If you have children teach them how to call 999 and provide their name and address.
- If possible, tell a neighbour about the violence and ask them to call the Police if they hear or see any suspicious noises.
- If the situation is about to turn violent, try to get to a safe place, if possible a room with a clear exit or more than one exit route. Avoid the kitchen, bathroom and garage where knives, guns, other weapons and hard surfaces may be used to harm you.
- Ultimately try and leave the house or situation and raise the alarm.
- If there is no way to escape the situation and violence occurs, make yourself into a small target. Get to a corner and curl into a ball protecting your face and head with your arms.
- If you are in a public place shout 'Fire', this cry for help gets a quicker response than any other.
- Keep a diary of incidents as they happen and keep it somewhere safe.
Preparing to leave
If you decide to leave an abusive relationship it can be a very risky time, forward planning is essential to minimise the risk.
- If possible make up a bag containing the following and find a friend or neighbour you trust to keep it safe until you need it:
- Legal and financial documents, such as: marriage and birth certificates, NI Number, court orders, NHS cards, legal papers, passports, driving licence, child benefit book, bank account details, cards/books and credit cards.
- Keys to the house, car and place of work.
- A few personal and sentimental possessions and your child(ren)'s favourite toy.
- Enough clothing for a few days.
- If possible consider opening a bank account for saving money; remember to ensure you don't get any paper work sent to your home address but try to manage your account online; also try to keep a small amount of cash with you at all times.
- If you can, leave when the abuser is not around, in some circumstances the police may offer an escort.
- Try to take all of your children with you.
- If you have pets, there are services that can foster them until you are resettled. For example contact RSCPA for advice.
- Any prescribed medication for you or your children. Sometimes there is no time to plan to leave, so you may have to leave in a hurry. It may not always be possible to take all your possessions, sometimes your safety has to come first.
If you leave anything behind that you later need, a police escort may be arranged for you to return and collect them.
Once you have left the relationship the abuse may still continue, here are some tips to consider to minimise ongoing abuse:
- Change your phone number.
- Remember social networking sites can be used to track your activities and whereabouts; check your privacy settings and block anyone you don't trust from accessing your information.
- Change any regular appointments the abuser may know about.
- Try to alter your daily routine.
- Let the children's nursery/school and your work know your situation to ensure your new address is kept confidential.
- Avoid using joint bank or credit cards as transactions can be traced to locations.
- Talk to your children about keeping your address and location private.
- You can join the electoral register anonymously should you suffer harassment or stalking.
- If the abuser continues to harass, threaten or abuse you, keep detailed records of each incident including photographic evidence of damage to yourself or your property and report this to the police.
- If you feel you are being followed, report it immediately to the police.
- Consider legal advice on child contact arrangements. For more information you can contact Rights of Women.
If the abuser leaves and you remain in the home
- Talk to your Outreach Worker about a referral for the Sanctuary Scheme or similar local security scheme.
- Change the locks on the doors and windows.
- Install a peep hole and a security chain on the door.
- Install smoke detectors on each floor.
- Change phone numbers, landline and mobile.
- Screen calls and block caller ID.
- Install security lights which automatically come on when somebody approaches.
- Teach your children not to answer the door.
- Vary your patterns of travel to and from school and work.
- Inform the neighbours about what is going on and ask them to call the police if they hear or see anything suspicious around your home.
- Consider obtaining a 'No-contact Order' known as Non-molestation order and/or an 'Occupation Order'
If you need any help or advice about domestic abuse related situation please ring our 24/7 specialist helpline number: 01483 776822