Domestic violence can be more than just physical abuse. Domestic violence occurs when one partner controls the other using physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or economic abuse. Take this Domestic Violence Quiz if you feel that you may be a victim of domestic violence.
Domestic violence victims are most likely to be attacked when they leave the abuser and/or when they seek legal help. The questions below will help you be more prepared to stay safe. You can print this and fill it out, or just use the questions to come up with your own written plan.
What is this plan for?
This is a plan for increasing your safety and preparing you in advance for violence that may happen in the future. You don't have control over your partner's violence, but you do have a choice about how to respond, and how best to get you and your loved ones to safety.
Important telephone numbers
- Police: 911 and __________________ (Non-Emergency)
- Domestic Violence Program/Safe Home: __________________
- District Attorney's Office __________________
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Keep these numbers, along with spare change or a calling card, with you at all times for emergency phone calls.
How can I be safe during an assault?
You can't always avoid violence, but you can do a number of things to increase your safety during violent incidents.
Decide to do some or all of the following:
- If I decide to leave, I can get out of the house by __________________. (Practice how to get out safely. What doors or windows will you use?)
- I can go to __________________. (Decide this even if you don't think there will be a next time.)
- In order to be able to leave quickly, I can keep my purse or wallet and vehicle key ready by putting them __________________.
- I can tell __________________, (neighbors) about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from the house.
- I can teach my children how to use the telephone or radio to contact the police and to get help in an emergency.
- I can use __________________ as my code word with my children and/or friends when I am in danger, so they will call for help.
- When I think an argument is about to happen, I can try to move to __________________, a space near an outside door that has no guns, knives or other weapons (usually bathrooms, garages and kitchen areas are dangerous places).
- I can use my judgment and instincts. If the situation is very serious, I can give my partner what he or she wants to calm him or her down. I have to protect myself until I am out of danger.
- I can avoid arguments that will trap me in spaces where there isn't an outside door.
- I can call the police when it is safe, and I can get a protective order from the court.
How can I be safe when I leave my abuser?
Leaving must be done with a careful plan to increase safety. Abusers often strike back when they believe their partner is leaving the relationship.
Decide to do some or all of the following:
- So I can leave quickly, I can leave money, an extra set of keys, extra clothing and important documents with __________________.
- I can keep a bag packed and ready to go in case I need to leave quickly.
- I can open a savings account or apply for a credit card to increase my independence.
- I can check with __________________ and __________________ to see who would be able to let me stay with them or lend me some money.
- The National Domestic Violence hotline number is: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). By calling this free hotline, I can get the number of a shelter near me.
- I can rehearse my escape plan and, if possible, practice it with my children.
- I can get a cell phone and keep it with me at all times. (Many times, you can get emergency cell phones from your local domestic violence program.) I can give my cell phone number to people I know are safe.
- I can prevent my email and internet activity from being discovered.
- Other things I can do to increase my independence. This is a checklist of what you may want to take with you, if it is safe to do so:
- Green card
- Address book
- Credit cards
- Social Security Cards
- Keys (house/car/work)
- Welfare identification
- Driver's license/vehicle registration
- Address book
- Marriage certificates, birth certificates of children
- Checkbook, ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) card and other bank books
- Work permit
- School and vaccination records
- Lease/house deed/title
- Divorce papers
- Copy of protective order
- Pets (if you can)
- Photo Album
- Children's special blanket, doll or stuffed animal
If you are fleeing an abusive spouse, ignore any threats relating to being charged with spousal abandonment. Illinois does not have a law against spousal abandonment.
How can I be safe at my home?
There are many things that abuse victims can do to increase safety in their homes. It may be impossible to do everything at once, but safety measures can be added step by step:
- I can tell __________________, that my partner no longer resides with me and they should call the police if they see my partner at my residence.
- As soon as possible, I can change the locks on my doors and windows and get an apartment that is not on the first floor.
- In my house, I can remove all sharp objects and weapons from sight.
- I can replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors.
- I can install security systems including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, an electronic system, etc.
- I can purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from second floor windows.
- I can install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for my home.
- I can place a phone in a room that locks from the inside (like a bedroom).
- I can install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my house.
- I can tell my children to not let the abuser in my home if he or she is not meant to be there.
- I can have a signal with my neighbors to call the police if they hear banging on the floor or wall, or see a flashing front porch light.
- In case my partner takes my children, I can teach them how to use the telephone to make a collect call to me and __________________ (friend/advocate/minister/other).
- I can tell people who take care of my children which people have my permission to pick up my children, and that my partner does not have permission. The people I will tell this are:
______________________ (day care)
How can I be safe on the job and in public?
Each domestic abuse victim must decide if and when to tell others about the violence. Friends, family and co-workers can help to protect you, and you need to consider carefully who to ask for help.
Decide to do any or all of the following:
- I can tell my boss, the security supervisor and __________________ at work of my situation.
- I can give my boss and coworkers a copy of my protective order and a picture of the abuser and a description of the abuser's car. I can tell them to call the police if necessary.
- I can ask __________________ to help screen my telephone calls at work.
- When I leave work, I can walk with __________________ to my car or the bus stop. I can park my car where I will feel safest getting in and out of the car.
- I can trade cars with my friends or relatives so that the abuser can't locate me.
- When traveling home, if problems occur I can __________________.
- I can use different grocery stores, shopping malls and banks. I can do business at hours that are different from those I used when I lived with my abusive partner.
- I can also __________________.
How can I be safe while using drugs or alcohol?
Many people use alcohol and drugs. Using illegal drugs and abusing alcohol can be very hard on domestic violence victims both physically and emotionally, and may hurt their relationship with their children. It may also put the victim at a disadvantage in court. Finally, the use of alcohol or other drugs can make it harder for you to act quickly to protect yourself from your abusive partner. Therefore, in the context of drug or alcohol use, you need to make specific plans.
If drug or alcohol use has occurred in my relationship with my partner, I can enhance my safety by doing some or all of the following:
- If I am going to use, I can do it in a safe place and with people who understand the risk of violence and are committed to my safety.
- If my partner is using, I can __________________.
- To protect my children, I can __________________.
- I can also __________________.
How can I protect my emotional health?
The experience of being battered and talked down to by an abuser is exhausting and emotionally draining.
The process of building a new life for yourself takes much courage and lots of energy. To conserve your emotional energy and to avoid hard emotional times, decide to do some of the following:
- If I feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can __________________.
- When I have to talk with my partner in person or by telephone, I can __________________.
- I can use "I can" statements with myself and be assertive with others.
- I can tell myself__________________, whenever I feel others are trying to control or abuse me.
- I can read __________________ to help me feel stronger.
- I can call __________________, __________________ and __________________ who will support me.
- I can have __________________ call me every day at a set time to check on me.
- I can attend workshops and support groups at the domestic violence program or __________________ to gain support and strengthen my relationships with other people.
- Other things I can do to help me feel stronger are: __________________.
What do I do with a protective order?
Protective orders are available from the court. An advocate is available at the nearest domestic violence/sexual assault program to help you get one. Many abusers obey protective orders, but some do not.
You may need to ask the police and the courts to enforce your protective order. Decide to do some or all of the following to increase your safety:
- I can keep a copy of my protective order with me at all times.
- I can check with my local police department to make sure my protective order is on record with them. If not, I will give a copy of my protective order to them.
- I will also give a copy of my protective order to police departments in the community where I work and in those communities where I usually visit family or friends.
- I can give a copy of my protective order to my children's daycare or school and to the place where I work.
- I can tell my employer, my domestic violence program advocate, my minister, my closest friend, and __________________ that I have a protective order in effect.
- If my partner destroys my protective order, I can get another copy from the courthouse by calling __________________.
- If my partner violates the protective order, I can call the police and report a violation. I can call my attorney, an advocate at a domestic violence program, and/or advise the court of the violation.
Learn more about Getting an Order of Protection for domestic violence.
How do I stop my abuser from seeing my internet activity?
There are several things you can do to make it harder for your abuser to look at your internet activity. However, taking all of the actions listed below may not prevent an abuser from discovering your email and internet activity. You don't need to be a computer programmer or have special skills to monitor someone's computer and Internet activities – anyone can do it, and there are many ways to monitor with programs like Spyware, keystroke loggers, and hacking tools.
Computers can store a lot of private information about what you look at via the Internet, the emails and instant messages you send, internet-based phone and IP-TTY calls you make, web-based purchases and banking, and many other activities.
The safest way for you to find information on the internet is to go to a safer computer. For example, you can go to a local library, a trusted friend's house, your workplace, or an internet café. If you suspect that someone is monitoring your computer, limit your usage of the computer to simple tasks such as checking the weather.
Read through the links included in Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors for a comprehensive list of ways you can protect your digital privacy, including phone, computer, internet, and email safety.
Email/text messaging (IM)
Generally, email and text messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to tell someone else about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, call a hotline instead.
If an abuser has access to your email account, he or she may be able to read your incoming and outgoing email. If you believe your account is secure, make sure you choose a password he or she will not be able to guess. Change your password often, do not pick obvious words or numbers for your password, and pick a combination of letters and numbers for your password.
If you must use email or text messaging, use a safer computer or an email or text messaging account your abuser does not know about. It is easy to create an additional email account for free from services such as Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo.
If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing email messages, print them and save them as evidence of the abuse. The messages may also be a federal offense. For more information on this issue, contact your local U.S. Attorney's Office.
Website and navigation history
It is nearly impossible to delete or clear all the "footprints" of your computer or online activities. Also, if you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behaviors, such as suddenly deleting your entire browsing history.
If you do decide to delete your browsing history, see the "Help" menu on your browser for instruction on how to do it.
Cell phone safety for domestic violence victims
Trust your instincts. If you suspect someone is monitoring your calls, location or conversations, they might be doing so. Narrowing down how they are monitoring your activities will help you determine your next steps. Here are some general safety tips for you to consider:
- Lock your cell phone with a pass code and don't share it with anyone.
- Turn off the GPS on your phone and leave it on emergency calls only. Be aware that some phones may limit this capability and some apps will not work with the GPS off.
- Some apps will allow you to opt out of it gathering location information; if an app will not give you that option, consider not downloading the app. For apps that do allow you to opt out, turn off the location feature and check regularly to ensure that your preference doesn't get changed during an update.
- If you have apps connected to online accounts on your cell phone, do not stay logged in. Log off after each use.
- Turn off the bluetooth on your cell phone when it is not in use.
- Check your cell phone account every now and then through your wireless carrier's website to ensure that you know all the features that are running on your phone.
- Run antivirus and security software on your phone. Some software will even list all the programs that are running on your phone.
- Avoid purchasing a "jail‐broken" phones or jail-breaking your phone (removing the manufacturer and carrier's restrictions) since these phones are much more vulnerable to spyware and malware.
When you're choosing apps for your phone, consider the tips in the App Safety Center. These tips apply to everyday apps and apps specifically designed to help domestic violence survivors.
How do I safely talk to my lawyer?
It is important that you speak to your lawyer in private. If the abuser lives at home with you, before you let your attorney call you at home, you need to know if this is safe.
Even if you determine it is safe for your lawyer to call you at home, you need to think about the following things:
- Tell your lawyer that he or she should only ask to speak with you when he or she calls your home.
- Tell your lawyer that he or she should not leave messages with anyone (or on an answering machine) unless you absolutely know it is OK for your lawyer to do so.
- Develop a system with your lawyer so that you can signal your lawyer that the abuser is present so that the phone call will not make the abuser suspicious.
- If available in your area, have your lawyer block his/her phone number from showing up on your caller ID display. Then, the abuser cannot see who has called you by using "caller ID." In Illinois, your lawyer can block his/her number from coming up on your caller ID by dialing "*67" before he or she dials your number.
- Ask your lawyer to make sure that your address does not appear on any court documents. Many abusers track their victims through third party information.
- Ask your lawyer to let you know before the abuser will be served, or when a hearing will be scheduled. Domestic violence victims may be at greater risk during these periods.