If you are experiencing violence, whether or not you have decided to leave there are steps you can take to keep you and your children as safe as possible.
An Emergency Escape Plan
An emergency escape plan focuses on things you will need if you have to escape quickly to find safety. Many of the suggestions below can be carried out while you are living with an abusive partner and are items you can set aside in the case of an emergency evacuation from your home.
The following emergency escape plan is taken from Victim Services Toronto.
- Contact a shelter or 24-hour line for women to discuss in detail how to leave safely and what resources are available to you
- Request police come to your home when you are leaving
- Pack and hide an emergency bag of essentials that you can grab quickly when leaving
- If you have to leave quickly, you can ask for a police escort back to your home to pick-up your personal items that you were unable to grab.
- Get a safety deposit box and or a post office box to store important documents and items
- Use a payphone or borrow someone else’s cell phone to make calls that you do not want your abuser to know about
- Open up a bank account in a bank the abuser does not know about and arrange for statements to be picked up, sent electronically only, or sent to a friend’s home
- Use a trusted friend or family member’s address for any mail
- If you have a pet that you can’t take with you, contact the Toronto Humane Society
- Locate the closest food bank in order to help with groceries for you and your family
Suggestions of what to pack in an emergency bag
- Medication for yourself and your children
- Important keys (house, vehicle, office, garage, safety deposit box, etc.)
- Cash – your abuser may be able to trace your activity through your credit and debit cards. If they have access to your accounts they may be able to close/empty the accounts before you can access your money. Have enough money to cover transportation, lodging, and food for a couple of days.
- Use tokens or tickets for transportation – avoid using Presto Card, if your abuser has access to your account they can track where you are utilizing transit.
- Clothing for yourself and your children
- Necessities for children (formula, diapers, etc.)
- Prepaid phone cards
Important Documents and Paperwork (Originals or photocopies)
- Identification for self and children: driver’s license, health cards, birth certificates, SIN card, passports, work permits, visas, etc.
- Copies of all court orders: restraining orders, peace bonds, bail papers, custody and access agreements, divorce papers, etc.
- Lease/rental agreements, deeds, mortgage agreement, insurance policies and other papers concerning assets
- Professional licenses, certificates, diplomas, and membership cards (unions, professional organizations, etc.)
Creating a Safe Environment
- Below are some suggestions to create a safer environment if you are living with your abusive partner/ spouse
- Have an emergency escape plan in mind, and go over it often
- Create a list of numbers you may need if you have to leave quickly (like; shelters, the police, crisis lines, friends, family members and counsellors.)
- Make arrangements with friends, so that you can stay with them if needed
- Teach the children to let you know if someone is at the door
- Teach your children how to use the phone to contact the police
- Create a code word with your children and friends so they know to call for help or get out
Safety Planning with Children
- Teach children how to use the phone to call for help. If possible have them call from a “safe room” that you have decided on such as a bedroom away from dangerous objects, a closet etc. (REMEMBER: if your kids are calling the police from a landline, most times the police will call back! If your partner does not know they have called this can become dangerous. Teach your children to leave the phone off the hook after calling. Unplugging the phone may not always work if there are multiple phones in the home.
- If you live in a building avoid having children hide on the balcony or any place that can potentially become unsafe.
- Create a code word with children so they know when to leave or call for help.
- Teach your children not to open the door, or to let you know when someone is at the door.
Below are some suggestions to keep you as safe as possible if you are not living with your abusive partner/spouse:
- Change the locks on your doors and windows, and install a peep hole
- Teach your children to let you know if someone is at the door and not to answer the door themselves
- Have your telephone number unpublished
- Consider getting a cellular phone and have emergency numbers saved
- If you are living in an apartment building check hallways when you are exiting the elevator, and speak to building security, or make an anonymous call requesting safety in your building
- Consider the advantages of getting a guard dog or security system
- Install a motion activated lighting system outside your house