Staying safe after domestic or sexual violence

If you need help to plan a safe escape from an abusive or violent relationship, contact the Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline. They can help you develop a plan to keep you and your children safe. They can give you advice about how to prepare before you leave.

Living in the same house as the abuser

If a family member or partner threatens you with violence or attacks you in the home, this is an emergency. To stay safe or get help, you should:

  • keep away from the kitchen and any room with sharp cutlery or other weapons
  • go to a room with a window or access outside
  • go to a room where you can lock the door
  • go to a room with a landline telephone and telephone 999 immediately
  • use your mobile telephone to contact the helpline or police immediately

Keeping safe if you stay with the abuser

If you don’t leave the abuser, it’s important to take some steps that can help you and your children feel safer.

Tell someone

You should tell someone about the domestic abuse or violence. By talking to:

  • a friend
  • a relative
  • a colleague
  • your employer
  • your GP
  • a health visitor

they’ll know what’s happening to you. They could help you get the support you need. You can also contact the Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline and ask for support. They're available 24 hours a day.

Awareness of how to get help

You should keep contact numbers nearby for emergency and support organisations including:

Telling your children what’s happened

If you have children, it’s important they know the abuse or violence happening in their home is wrong. To help them understand what to do if they feel unsafe in the home, you should teach them:

  • how to telephone 999 in an emergency
  • the personal information they’ll need to give in an emergency telephone call

Your children should know their:

  • full name
  • address
  • telephone number

Leaving the house in an emergency

Even if you aren’t planning to leave the abuser, it’s important to think about what to do if you had to leave the house in an emergency. This means:

  • having an exit plan to help you cope
  • knowing your exit plan

You should:

  • identify a safe place where you and your children can live temporarily
  • plan to leave when the abuser isn’t in your home
  • decide who you would need to contact
  • decide what you’ll need to bring with you

Preparing an emergency bag

It’s important to pack an emergency bag for you and your children. You should pack:

  • medical cards
  • medicine and information about medicine you or your children take
  • birth certificates
  • passports
  • bank cards
  • information about the abuse such as police reports or court orders
  • school uniforms

If your children are very young, make sure you pack their favourite toys, books or clothes.

If possible, leave the emergency bag:

  • in a friend’s house
  • with a family member you trust

Staying safe after you leave an abuser

If you no longer live with the abuser, you should take steps to keep yourself safe. If you have a court order against the abuser, always keep this with you. Save the emergency number 999 as a contact in your mobile telephone. Always bring your mobile with you.

Use your support networks

Don’t become isolated. Contact friends and people you trust. Ask them for help and support.

Alter your routine

You might need to change your regular routines the abuser knows such as:

  • going to work
  • leaving and collecting children from school
  • visiting doctors and dentists

To change your routine, when possible, you should:

  •  change your route
  • use different types of transport
  • alter the times you travel
  • arrange lifts to and from work
  • shop in different places 

Emergency alarm

Carry an emergency alarm in your pocket. When pressed, the alarm makes a loud sound. Ask the police if they can give you an emergency alarm. 

Tell your children’s school 

It’s important to tell your children’s teachers or childcare staff about the violence or abuse that happened in your home. You should make sure they know who you allow to collect your children from school. You should explain they need to contact you if anyone comes to the school asking for the children. 

When you move to a new area

If you move and live in a new area, you might need to hide your whereabouts from the abuser. You should be careful in case they find you by asking other people or noticing your banking activity.

To stay safe and prevent the abuser tracking you:

  • don’t use joint credit cards, debit cards or bank accounts
  • cancel joint credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts
  • change your mobile telephone and number
  • keep your telephone number untraceable by dialling 141 before you telephone the abuser or anyone they know
  • explain to your children why they shouldn’t tell anyone their new address
  • tell your friends and family you don’t want them giving your new address to anyone
  • make sure your new address doesn’t appear on any legal papers

Contact the helpline and ask for advice on how to hide your whereabouts from the abuser.

When your abuser no longer lives with you

If the abuser leaves the family home or you have a court order preventing the abuser living with you, you might want to stay in your home. You should increase your home security to keep you and your children safe. It’s important to:

  • change the locks on all doors and windows
  • install outside lights at the back and front to come on when someone approaches the house
  • tell neighbours that your partner no longer lives with you
  • ask neighbours to tell you or telephone the police if they see your partner at your house or in the area
  • change your telephone number and tell the telephone company you want it ex-directory
  • use an answering machine to screen telephone calls

Keeping a record of violence or abuse

If you live apart from the abuser, they might continue to threaten, harm or abuse you. You need to keep a written record of what they do. Each time they contact, harm or threaten you, you should note:

  • date
  • time
  • type of abuse or violence

Keep email messages they send you. If they injure you or damage your property, take photographs. Each time you contact the police about the abuser, keep reference numbers from police visits.

In an emergency, you should always contact the police:

  • telephone 999

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