Creating a safety plan
You cannot stop your spouse from being abusive – only they can do that. But you can do various things to increase your safety as well as your children’s if you have children.
Important things to always carry
- Necessary phone numbers for different circumstances. For example number of the Emergency Phone Line 112, the Women’s Shelter’s (561 1205) or other local resources, and the phone number for your children’s school.
- A small cash amount. It can come in handy for example for a taxi or buying something that is needed. Cash cannot be traced but it is easy to trace cards.
- A phone. If you suspect that your spouse is tracking your movements through the phone, you could have a prepaid phone card and an old phone to use in emergencies.
Preparations to be able to leave your home without notice
- Find out what help is available and where you can find shelter, day or night.
- Make an escape plan and practice it so you can get away from a dangerous situation with your children. Consider how you get out in the safest and quickest way.
- Notify friends or family if you fear for your safety or if you need help. For example, you can agree on a safe word that you can use if you want to be fetched.
- If you have neighbours whom you trust, you can tell them what is happening and enter their home in emergencies.
- Pack an emergency bag with necessities for you and the children, which you could keep with a trusted friend or neighbour.
Create safe conditions as much as possible
- Try to figure out in what situations the abuse is more likely to happen.
- Learn to recognize when tension rises that is likely to lead to abuse.
- If you fear that your spouse is about to attack you, then stay in places in the home where the risk is small and it is easy to get out. For example, avoid the kitchen and garage where knives and tools are, as well as bathrooms where there is usually no way out.
- Go out with a group of friends or other couples rather than just the two of you.
- Ask a neighbour to call 112 if they notice abuse or noise that could be abuse.
- Teach your children to call 112 in emergencies and what they must say, for example, full name and address.
- Secure your tech and yourself online.
Whatever methods you have used to deal with the abuse the time may come when you feel that the only way is to leave the home and perhaps break up the relationship. Deciding to leave the home doesn’t mean that you have to do it immediately. Take the time needed to prepare yourself well. Considering a breakup and making a decision on it can be a long process.
Preparing departure from the home
Sometimes the abuse gets worse if the abuser thinks that the abused intends to end the relationship. This can therefore become a dangerous time for you. It is important to remember that breaking up the relationship will not necessarily stop the abuse.
Consider the finances. Perhaps you can save a little amount every week. You may have to open a new account at the bank that only you have access to.
Decide on a time when you know that your spouse will not be home. Try to take everything you need with you, including important documents and data concerning you and the children. It is not certain that you can come back to get these things.
If you have children in the home, take them with you. It could become difficult to get them later if you leave without them. If they are in preschool or school, make arrangements for all the teachers to know what the situation is. Let them know who will fetch the children from school.
What do you need to take from home?
The following items could be necessary, depending on what applies. You can carry some items and others you could place in the emergency bag.
- Personal identification for you and the children, passports and driver’s license.
- Money and debit or credit cards.
- Necessary medication.
- Documents regarding the mortgage, rent or the car.
- Clothes and toiletries for you and the children.
- Photos, personal items, diary, jewellery and other items that have sentimental value for you.
- The children’s favourite toys.
- If you have documents such as injury reports, police reports or anything connected to the abuse, then take it with you.
Your safety after a breakup
If you leave your spouse due to domestic violence you might not want to tell others about this reason.
It is entirely your decision whether you tell people that you have lived with abuse. But if you think that you might still be in danger it could increase your safety to tell your family, friends, your children’s teachers and your employer about the situation. It will then make it less likely that they accidentally give your ex-spouse information that has nothing to do with the respective person. They will also be better prepared to assist you if needed.
If you have left home but still live in the same community or area, there are a few things you should consider to increase your safety.
- Try not to isolate yourself or be in circumstances where you are vulnerable.
- Avoid places where you used to go when you were together, such as shops, banks or cafés.
- Try to change your routine as much as you can.
- Review the list of those who are allowed to fetch your children from school and preschool and notify the school about the importance of complying with the list.
If the abuse continues
In some cases, the abuse continues after the breakup. Then there are various things to consider.
- Keep a diary of the harassment you are subjected to.
- If you need to see a doctor due to injuries at the hand of your ex-spouse, ask for an injury report.
- Make arrangements to ensure the safety of the home, such as having active smoke detectors, safe window latches, motion detectors on outdoor lights and change locks if there is uncertainty about who has a key.