You and your children have a right to feel safe in relationships and in your home. If you are experiencing abuse, know that this is not your fault. Your safety matters. You are not alone. Know that there is support to help you.
A safety plan is about looking at your situation and thinking about what could be put into place to help you and your children. It might be a plan about what you could do in a situation if you felt scared or it might be about what other people around you can do to help.
A safety plan shouldn’t be complicated or make you feel overwhelmed by things you need to do. You are the best judge of what is going to work in your unique situation and you will already be doing things to protect yourself and your kids – even if it doesn’t feel like it. A safety plan can help you to see these actions and may help you to feel some sense of control in your life.
If you feel unsure what the first step might be to making a safety plan – many people who we support have told us that they did two things to start. They got information about their options and they told someone they trusted in their life about what was happening. If you are reading this – then you are already doing the first one!
You might choose to talk with family, a friend, neighbour or community member, but if this doesn’t feel right or safe, you could talk with a:
- 24-hour helpline such as 1800RESPECT
- health professional such as your doctor
- community worker such as a counsellor or family support worker
- specialist domestic violence service.
Below are a few questions you could ask yourself to help you in making a safety plan.
Try to think about what has worked in the past and use this as a start to develop your plan.
"I would try to go out into the backyard if my partner started up at me – we had neighbours on all sides and I guess I hoped if things got really bad, they would hear and would call the police. "
"I used to think that going quiet and appeasing my partner was weak on my part. Now I know that I was being strong and trying to protect myself the best way I could. "
You may not be able to see any patterns and that’s okay. However, you may notice the abuse happens more at certain times or there are specific triggers. If this is the case – think about what might help you to feel safer during these times.
"My ex-partner would always come around to my house drunk and yelling abuse after his pay day on Thursday nights. I started making sure my sister or a friend came over those nights so I wouldn’t feel so alone and so there would be a witness or someone to call the police if anything really bad happened."
Although you can’t know what is going to happen – think about what has happened in the past or think about ‘worse case scenarios’ and how you might be able to get help in those situations.
How could you or someone else call the police? Is it possible to alert a neighbour to help? Could you develop a code word with a friend, family member or neighbour that alerts them that you need help?
"There was this guy I was sorta seeing, but didn’t want to keep seeing, but I didn’t really know how to get him to stop coming around. I knew I would open the door when he came – and he would always hurt me. I had a neighbour who was an ex-cop and she kinda looked out for me. I asked her to call the police if she saw the guy outside my house and this helped because I knew I wouldn’t when I was in the moment. "
"My dad was pretty good in the situation. He knew things would get out of hand sometimes at home with my husband. We worked out a plan where I would text him the phrase ‘How’s Maxie going?”, which was his dog, and he would know to come around to check in on me. "
Make the plan as simple as possible, because if you are in danger, you will probably not be able to think clearly. Think about where you could go and how you might get there. If you need somewhere safe to stay you can call the Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098 (24 hours).
"I didn’t really have anyone in my life I could rely on and I didn’t have a car or anything to be able to get away easily. We lived near a main road and there was a 24-hour petrol station close by. I told myself if I had to get away, I could run to the petrol station and then work out what I needed to do. "
"My partner was really controlling of everything I did. The only time I left the house without him was to drop our daughter off at Kindy. I felt like this gave me a window of opportunity if I ever needed to get away. "
Sometimes our supports are obvious such as family or friends, but sometimes we may have people in our life that we don’t realise could be a support such as a neighbour, a manager or work mate, or a teacher at the kid’s school. Think about who you have in your life and how they might be able to help if you need.
"I ended up talking to my boss about what was going on. She was really good and helped me to get in contact with a domestic violence service. She also gave me special leave so I could meet with the counsellor. "
If you have children – talk to them about what they can do if they feel scared. Is there a neighbour they can go to? Can you teach them how to call for help? Is there a safer room in the house they can go to? You could make a plan with the children and set up a code word – so that they know to do the plan if you say the code word.
"We were in a really bad situation and were so isolated because we were living in a country property. My 12-year-old and 8-year-old would know to go into the back room. This room had two doors, one that went out to the backyard and it was down the other end of the house. This way they could get to the car easily if we needed to leave. "
Can you get copies of important personal or financial documents (e.g. birth certificates, passports, financial/business records) and keep them somewhere safe?
Is it possible to put aside some money in secret that you can use in an emergency?
If you are thinking about a separation from your partner you could:
- Get some basic legal information about your rights around property settlement. Call the legal services commission on 1300 366 424
- Gather important or essential items and put them somewhere safe you can access in the event you need to leave your home suddenly
- Get some information about financial matters – Money Smart website is a good place to start for information and tips
- Contact Centrelink to find out what income support you may be eligible for in your situation,
- Call the Domestic Violence Crisis Line 1800 800 098 to find out what resources might be out there to help you in your situation.
If it feels safe to do so - keep a record of the abuse and any injuries or property damage that occurs due to the abuse.
"I would go to the bathroom and secretly take photos of my injuries and email them to my aunty. I would then delete the photos and the email in case my partner accessed my tech. "
"After I separated from my husband – I started keeping a diary of what happened and when and things my kids said after they came back from seeing their dad. In the end I used this when I had to go to the police to take out an Intervention order. "
Stalking is against the law – you can report this crime to police or apply for an Intervention Order. If you think you are being followed – try to get to the nearest police station – and let them know your concerns.
Some individual action that may help if you are worried about being located or monitored includes changing regular appointments, going a different way home from work/school, getting a Po Box to secure your mail, doing a safety audit on your tech devices, getting additional security on your home.
It is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed if a partner or family member is being abusive towards you. Even if you are not being physically hurt, constant abuse is a threat and is traumatising. Trauma affects the body and the mind and it can be hard to think clearly. Any actions, no matter how small, to practice self-kindness and self-care can help.
Reach out: How do I get support and connect with others? E.g. spend time with a friend,
Escape: How do I switch off? E.g. watch a funny movie, do some exercise
Rest: How do I calm and rejuvenate? E.g. spend time in nature, have a cup of tea, take some deep breaths
Play: What brings me joy, fun, laughter, and energy? E.g. Play with my kids, listen to music, do something creative, go for a walk, cook a nice meal.
Create and meaning make: What connects me with creativity, purpose, spirit and sense of self? E.g. prayer/ritual/spiritual practice, meditation/self-reflection, service to others, creative activities.
My Mantra: What can I remind myself when times are hard?
There is support available if you need help in developing your safety plan.
- Call 1800 RESPECT or visit their website for help with safety planning 1800 737 732
- Call the Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098
- Download a safety app. These can assist you in keeping evidence of the abuse, help you find who to contact if you need help, and document your safety plan. 1800RESEPCT has a list of apps available for download.
Police can help you if someone is making you feel scared or hurt. In Australia, some abusive behaviour is against the law, including if you are abused by a partner or ex-partner, carer or family member (including a child). If you feel scared or are in danger – call the police on 000.
You can also make a statement at a police station If your partner, ex-partner, carer or family member has hurt you or threaten to hurt you. Most people find that is helpful to have someone to support them through this process if possible.
Police can help you apply for an Intervention Order, which is an Order made by a court that sets out conditions for the abusive person, to prevent them or others they know from abusing you. They will not have a criminal record if you apply for an intervention order, but if they disobey the conditions, they can be charged with a crime. To apply for an intervention order, you will need to go to a police station and make a statement about what has been happening.
For more information about Intervention orders including information in different languages click here.
If you have left your home due to domestic and family violence but you need to go back to get your belongings – you can call the police on 131 444 and ask that police meet you at the house so that you can get your things safely.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme provides a way for a person who may be at risk of domestic violence to get information about their partner or former partner, to help make decisions about their safety and the future of the relationship. For more information visit SA Police Website .
You may want to know about what legal options are available to you if you separate. You can get free legal advice by contacting the Legal Service Commission on 1300 366 424 or the Women’s Legal Service on 8231 8929.
If you are not a permanent resident in Australia – the Legal Service Commission can also give you legal advice about your VISA and your rights in Australia if you separate from the abusive person. To make an appointment you can call 8111 5539.
If you are unsafe where you are currently staying due to domestic and family violence you can call the Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098. You will speak with a trained domestic violence worker who will listen to your situation. The counsellor can give you information about your options and organise somewhere safe for you and your children to stay if you need. They can organise an interpreter if you need one.
Staying Home Stay Safe is a program that can help you stay safe at home by assisting with home safety audits and tailored home security packages. For more information go here.
The South Australian Housing Authority may be able to assist with providing bond or rent in advance if you are in financial hardship and have to leave your home due to domestic violence. Contact them on 131 299.