What Is Safety Planning?

safety plan

What Is Safety Planning?

Safety planning is an important aspect of how advocates at The Hotline help callers protect themselves emotionally and physically in an abusive relationship.

what is safety planning

A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that can help you avoid dangerous situations and know the best way to react when you are in danger. This plan includes ways to remain safe while in the relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action, and more. We safety plan with victims, friends and family members — anyone who is concerned about their own safety or the safety of another.

Although some of the things that you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that in moments of crisis your brain doesn’t function the same was as when you are calm. When adrenaline is pumping through your veins it can be hard to think clearly or to make logical decisions about your safety. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments.

Safety planning looks different for different types of abuse. You safety plan should be tailored to your specific situation.

Physical Violence
If your partner is physically violent, identify the places in your home that are the safest — places where there are no weapons and where there is an easy escape point — and try to get there in the case of an argument. Try to avoid violence if at all possible by leaving. If leaving seems unsafe and violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Go to your safe spot and curl up in a little ball, protecting your face by wrapping your arms around each side of your head and entwining your fingers.

Emotional Abuse
If your partner is emotionally abusive, stay connected to a support network. Friends and family members can be great allies in times of need and can build you up. If you feel comfortable, talking to someone about what is happening can help you stay positive. Try to stay involved in all of the activities that you love or develop new hobbies. Keep a journal of all of the good things in your life and all of the things that you like about yourself. Make a list of things that help you to relax (like taking a warm bath) and do them one by one until you feel calm and relaxed.

If you’ve left the relationship, emotional safety planning may look different than what it would be if you were still in an abusive situation. Leaving a relationship is one of the most dangerous times for victims emotionally as well — it’s normal and expected that you’ll be encountering new feelings (ex: loneliness, struggling with being uprooted, difficulty adjusting to a new life). Our advocates are here for you during this challenging time.

Safety Planning with Children
If you have children, they need to become part of your safety plan — planning for both their physical and emotional safety. If you’re in a physically abusive relationship, don’t run to them when your partner becomes violent. This could potentially put them in danger. Teach them how to get help, but instruct them not to interfere with any arguments that are happening. You can work with them to come up with a code word that will let them know when they need to leave the house or hide to protect themselves. You can also practice how to safely exit the home with them.

If you trust your friend and/or neighbors, develop a system to let them know when violence is occurring and you need help. Your kids can go to their house to stay safe, they can call the police and you can stash an overnight bag there for quick getaways. Check back on the blog in the future for more information on comprehensive safety planning with kids.

Remember that at all times, your safety is the utmost priority. If you need help safety planning, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Comment section

16 replies
  1. I will be calling your hotline as soon as it is safe, I need help in safety planning. I am a single divorcee involved with a physically and verbally abusive married man who thinks he owns me. Very controlling and does not let me out of his sight, so far it is affecting my job to the point where I have been suspended 3 times already, not sure how much longer I will have a job at this rate but he says its ok, he will “take care of me” There are times he just gets angry and tells me that I need to transfer but I told him I am under disciplinary action and unable to transfer, he doesnt understand that and gets angry and calls me names and threatens me his latest saying is “you only have me.. you better treat me with love and respect… there is no one else but me!” My adult children live out of state, I am in Hawaii and they are in Arizone, Nevada and Korea. Will call soon, Thank you for your time

  2. Leonida,

    Thank you for reaching out to us, it takes plenty of courage and strength to share your story. It must be completely exhausting for you to go through all of that abuse. You do not deserve to be treated that way for any reason. You deserve to enjoy your job, work as much as you desire, and be able to not worry about losing your job. Advocates at The Hotline can safety plan with you on the phone and help find resources for you. The Hotline is always available 24 hours a day and the number where you can reach The Hotline is at 1-800-799-7233.

  3. im so needin ta talk 2 sum1 iv been pysially n mentally abused all my life n had just left a 10 yr relationship cuz of the abuse n thought I had meet the rite guy 2 b gud 2 me n as it turns out hes mentally abusing me alsoim not strong ne more n don’t no what ta do im so sick I cant handle this much more sum1 plz help me 2 understand this n what ta do ty have nice day

  4. Dear Disturbed,

    Thank you so much for reaching out to us. I know it can be very overwhelming to share your experience with domestic violence. It can be difficult to leave a relationship after investing so much. But I am very glad to hear that you did leave. I know it can be very disheartening when you finally have the strength to leave an abusive situation only to find yourself in another.

    But there is help for you. I would encourage you to call us at the Hotline, 1(800)-799-7233. We are here 24/7 and we would be happy to speak with you, perhaps develop a plan for your safety and get you connected to local resources that can support you through this difficult time.

    Until then, please do the best that you can to take care of yourself. We look forward to hearing from you.

    In solidarity,
    Hotline Advocate MC

  5. I’m seeking help.. I’m in a 8 year relationship have two small kids I’ve had a job for a ye now .. for the past four years off n on I have been verbally n mentally n physically being abused. The last year things have hit a new leave of physical abuse.. have no one to reach out to for help. N I rather not have my family knowing. Certain ppl know n I feel like it’s nor getting threw to anyone. I’m scared to call the law or make a report n I’ve asked him to just leave just says sorry. . I’m the only one working and almost every fight is started bout. Money when I don’t give him it he breaks things and calls me names n leads up to me being hit. I’m on the verge of losing my home have no money and can’t pay my bills. I don’t know where to run
    I’m lost n I don’t wanna see a bunch of ppl be in trouble by me doing this but I don’t wanna live like this anymore.

  6. Cyles,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. You do not deserve to be treated like that and you also do not deserve to live in fear. You have every right to be treated with respect, feel safe, and not worry about anyone taking your money away from you. There is help for you and there are advocates willing to speak with you about your situation. Please call The Hotline when you can and are available to speak. You can reach The Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and advocates are available to speak 24/7. Adovcates can safety plan with you and help look for resources in your area. Remember that you are not alone.

  7. Honey, get out soon as you can but get out safely. My experience with domestice violence has convinced me that the men who inflict pain and destruction on those that say they love are “mentally ill!” It doesn’t change and you can’t change it either! Please develop a safety plan asap.

  8. Linda,

    Thank you for your encouragement to our blog community. An abusive partner can seem like they have mental health issues, but abuse comes from a place of power and control. Batterers choose how they are going to treat their partners. I am glad that you were able to get out of your abusive relationship, but what worked for you may not be the same for others. Yes, a safety plan for each individual situation is always a good idea.


  9. Although I’ve never been in an abusive relationship. I think women who are in them and who have gotten out are among the most powerful women among us. The strength it must have taken for you to be able to leave and the strength of those who are still in I believe in your courage to leave. Don’t listen to anyone’s negativity. You are powerful individuals and soon you will find all your strengths. Research shows that 75 percent of women leave. God bless

  10. I’m trying to get help for my mom, she has been married for 16 years now and I know for a fact that she is unhappy with it. My father is verbally abusive and threatens my mom basically everyday, my mom says that that she staying with him because of me and my sibling….she can’t speak english and doesn’t have a job ( our visa depends on my father only he’s allowed to work in this country) he has physically abused her before and I’m scared he’s going to do it again. I was wondering that if I complained this to domestic violence will she and my father be deported (and he’ll find her again) or will he be put to jail…he says he’s not afraid to go to jail (he did before in my home country for some other thing when he was a teen) how can I help her…

  11. N,

    Thank you so much for sharing with our blog community. This sounds like a really scary situation and it takes a lot of courage to reach out. I am very concerned that your father has openly said he is not worried about going to jail. We know that abuse escalates with time and it does not sound like he is changing his behaviors. I am not sure what would happen if you were to report the abuse because every city responds to domestic violence differently. I encourage you to share your concerns with your mother as well as our number, 1-800-799-7233. An advocate is available 24/7 to offer guidance and support and we are able to connect her with an interpreter. You are also welcome to give us a call. I recommend to do it when your father is not around.


  12. How do you get away without any money and they are threatening your sons life and your afraid that your going c to die

  13. Mystery,

    I know you are afraid, but I want you to know that help is available. Please call us at our 24-7 hotline so that we can explore options with you. You and your son deserve to be safe and free from abuse. Call us at 1-800-799-7233 when you are safe to talk so that we can help you.

    Hotline Advocate MK

  14. I need someone’s help. I have been in this relasonship for 3 years and it has been very bad from the start. I have a small child to take care of. My boyfriend screams and yells and gets physical with me. He throws things around. We will go through times where I think every thing is great and it turns out it’s not. I can’t even sleep after some fights because I’m scared he’s going to kill me. I feel trapped.

  15. Dear K,

    Thank you for sharing what is happening in your life. I am sorry you are going through this violence and I am sorry your child is being traumatized by living in this abusive situation. Please listen to your instincts especially if you are afraid he could take your life. Contact us so we can get you the resources you need to look at your options, i.e. domestic violence shelter, therapy, protective order, etc. The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 799-7233. We’re here to help you.

    Hotline Advocate_MT

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