Safety Planning Guidelines for Survivors and Advocates during COVID-19
Adapted from the National Domestic Violence Hotline


Why safety plan

  • Safety planning is an important tool for survivors to stay safe. Abusers often try to have power and control over a survivor’s life, and a safety plan is one way a survivor can have power and control over their own situation.  
  • Survivors experience multiple barriers in their journey to safety. During this pandemic, isolation, social distancing and fear of exposure to the virus are additional barriers survivors have to overcome. 
  • We want to share a few considerations for survivors, those supporting survivors, and advocates about strategies for safety planning. As always, it is best to contact an advocate who could help create a personalized safety plan. Please see our list of member agencies to contact your local domestic violence agency.

During an emergency situation:
If there’s a threat of imminent harm to you or your loved ones, please call the police.

Emergency Contacts:

  • Call/text 911: In case of an emergency at any time, please call or text 911. To notify first responders of your location, include the address in your text.
  • Emergency SOS on iPhone: Here is a link to a shortcut to using Emergency SOS to quickly and easily call for help and alert your emergency contacts if you have an iPhone: How to Use Emergency SOS on your iPhone.
  • Emergency Location Sharing on Androids and iPhones: Here is a link for how to set up emergency location sharing on your phone, in case you want to share your location with a trusted friend or relative in case of emergency: How to Use Emergency Location Sharing.

Code Words and Signals: 

  • Identify a “code word” or signal with at least two people who you can contact with to let them know you need help. Plan what their response will be when they receive your code word.
  • Teach code words to children that you will communicate when there is urgency. Plan for their response when they hear your code word.
  • Teach children who are old enough emergency numbers to call when abuse is happening.
  • Maintain social connections via phone and email with trusted friends and relatives.
  • During quarantine, going for walks in the neighborhood is encouraged by our state’s leaders. To alert neighbors of the abuse you are experiencing, go for walks as a strategy to reach out to neighbors or signal to them that you need help.

Preparing to leave:

Leaving is an option. Domestic violence shelters are open. Contact a local agency for more information.

  • If possible during an abusive episode, move to the safest room where there are no potential weapons, such as kitchen knives.
  • If an incident is occurring, try to stay out of rooms with no exits, such as bathrooms and bedrooms.
  • When developing a safety plan, develop a plan completely before attempting to leave the abuser.
  • Anticipate your abuser’s response or reaction when they find out you have left; abuse often escalates when a victim attempts to leave, and it is the most dangerous time for victims in abusive relationships.
  • Memorize your plan or write down key words only you will understand.
  • If shelter is not an option for you, consider family or friends who may be able to let you stay with them.

Important Documents and Personal Items:

  • Make copies of important documents and send pictures of them or copies of them to a trusted relative or friend.
    • Important documents may include driver’s license or IDs, social security cards, immigration documents, birth certificates, financial information, health insurance information, and orders of protection.
    • Legal documents may include a protective order, copies of leases or rental agreements, car registration and insurance papers, medical records, work permits or visa, passport, divorce or custody papers, and/or marriage license.
    • Emergency contact information may include a local police department, local domestic violence program or shelter, friends and family members, local hospital, and district attorney’s office. If it feels safer to do so, save this information under a different name in your contacts that only you would recognize. 
  • Put together an emergency bag with clothing, extra set of keys, medications, and the above important documents, and place it somewhere it won’t be found.
  • Bring medication and/or prescriptions and other medical information
  • Slowly put away small amounts of cash and money in a safe space to have when you are attempting to leave.

Resources:

  • Contact your local domestic violence shelter and find out about emergency shelter resources, such as temporary hotel stays, that may be available to you. 
  • Hospitals currently have high security protocols due to COVID-19 if you need to seek support from an emergency department. Victims of domestic and sexual violence have the option of speaking to an advocate over the phone 24/7 at the hospital. 
  • Find out if you are eligible for unemployment insurance or paid sick/safe leave
  • Work with an advocate through your local domestic violence agency to create a personalized safety plan. 
  • Research laws and other resources available to you. Refer to WomensLaw.org for state-specific information.

Excluding the abuser from the home:

  • If the abuser has caused you physical harm or if you are in fear of physical harm, you may qualify for a restraining order. 
  • A restraining order can order the abuser to stay away from the home. It will also order the abuser to relinquish firearms. 
  • You can find more information about restraining orders here.

For comprehensive safety planning resources, please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the NCADV’s Personalized Safety Plan.


Hotlines and Digital Safety:

  • Victims who are isolated in their home due to COVID-19 with their abuser may face additional barriers in reaching out for help. Please see the hotlines below along with options for online chat and textlines. 
  • Email and chat is not always safe due to spyware. It is always best to call if it is safe to do so.
  • If you need to chat or text a hotline for help, try to use a computer or phone your abusive partner does not have direct or remote (hacking) access to.
    • Learn about digital safety through www.LoveIsRespect.org: If your abuser knows too much about things you’ve only told people via email or instant messenger or things you’ve done on your computer, there may be spyware on your computer.
    • See Technology Safety and Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors from the National Network to End Domestic Violence for additional strategies for safe use of technology.

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