Dating violence: How to make a safety plan

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If you’re experiencing dating violence, it’s important to have a safety plan. These tips can help you escape a violent relationship and protect yourself.

If you’re dealing with dating violence, you may be experiencing physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. You may be fearful of your partner, isolated from your friends and family and/or afraid to leave the relationship. Although dating violence is never part of a healthy relationship, it’s not always easy to leave your partner. You may still care about them, think they may change or not want to be alone. However, it’s important to put your safety and well-being first.

Remember, violence — and violence resulting in death — are most likely to occur when you leave or plan to leave the relationship. Because it can be hard to think of what to do in the moment, it’s important to have a safety plan in place before things get out of control.

If you need to escape a violent relationship, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Do research: look up the names, phone numbers and addresses of people and places you can turn to for support. Keep them on speed dial in your phone or write them down and put your list somewhere safe. Examples may include:
    • friends
    • relatives
    • neighbours
    • emergency services (e.g. police, fire, ambulance, etc.)
    • shelters
    • hotels
    • public transit services
    • hospitals
    • support groups
    • legal services
    • resident advisors (if you live on your post-secondary school’s campus)
    • doctors
    • community centres
    • school counsellors

You can use Resources Around Me to search for violence and abuse support services in your community.

  • Tell someone: when you’re ready, let someone you trust know that you need help and why. This person can be a friend, sibling or safe adult (e.g. a parent/caregiver, teacher, counsellor, etc.). You can work together to come up with immediate next steps and a plan for the future.
  • Use a signal: talk to someone you trust about using a unique code word, phrase, sign or other signal when you need support. The person you share the signal with should know in advance what to do if you use it (e.g. call the police, pick you up at a set location, etc.). By using a signal, you can ask for help without your partner knowing.
  • Set a date and time: select a date and time to leave the relationship. Tell someone you trust (such as a friend or safe adult) about when you plan to do it. You may want to ask this person to be with you when you leave. You may also need to leave when your partner isn’t around.
  • Pick a safe place: decide on a safe place to go when you leave the relationship (e.g. a friend’s house, shelter, hotel, etc.). Look up directions for how to get there and find out if anything is required from you beforehand (e.g. your own credit card for a hotel, identification for a shelter, etc.). Tell someone in advance about where you plan to go. You can ask them to go with you or meet you there.
  • Pack a bag: pack a bag with items you may need/want to have with you when you leave. Packing in advance can help you be more prepared if you need to leave quickly. Keep your bag in a safe, accessible place. Items in your bag may include:
    • medication
    • extra clothes/underwear
    • money (e.g. cash, credit cards, etc.)
    • chargers for your devices
    • identification (e.g. birth certificate, driver’s licence, health card, etc.)
    • non-perishable food
    • emergency medical supplies (e.g. bandages, gauze, etc.)
    • toiletries (e.g. toothbrush, towel, personal hygiene products, etc.)
  • Document the abuse: hold on to call records, texts and emails that demonstrate the abuse. Take photos of any injuries and keep a journal of the incident(s). It’s a good idea to document the abuse in case you need to show someone. Save your records in a safe place.
  • Protect your privacy: change your passwords and tighten the security settings on your devices and social media accounts. Remember to clear your cache, delete your browsing history and remove any saved passwords from your devices. You may need to consider blocking your partner if they’re harassing you online.
  • Add distance: you may need to consider switching schools, moving or changing jobs to get away from your partner. You may also need to change the lock on your room, locker and/or front door to protect yourself. Try to secure anything else your partner has access to (e.g. bank accounts, vehicles, etc.). It’s a good idea to create physical and emotional space between you and your partner.
  • Contact emergency services: if you’re in immediate physical danger or are injured, you can call 911 or the emergency services in your area. They can help you leave a violent situation safely, report the abuse and get support.

Remember, if you’re experiencing dating violence, it’s never your fault. You’re not obligated to stay with your partner. Planning your escape can help you stay safe and get the support you need. You’re never alone.