Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Lone Star Legal Aid will discuss common topics that are relevant to advocating for domestic violence victims. Part I highlights safety planning and prevention for those who are victims living with an abusive partner and may have children and/or pets. It is as equally important to know how to be safe while using the internet if you are a victim of domestic abuse.

What is a safety plan?

Safety planning is a defensive and precautionary measure to have in place in case of an abusive situation.  The plan should be personalized and practical to help the victim improve their safety, prepare to leave, and provide support after leaving. Some of these include telling friends and family about their abusive situation as well as coping with emotions and finding access to resources suited to their individual circumstances.

Some preparations on a safety plan might seem obvious, but studies show it is difficult for a victim to think clearly in a time of crisis. Having a plan prepared ahead of time eliminates stress and aids in making logical decisions.

You can create your own personal safety plan here.

Safety planning when living with an abusive partner

Living with a partner who is abusive can make it difficult to create an escape plan. If you are someone who is a victim of abuse or you know someone who might be in an abusive situation, here are some steps to take to prepare to leave an abusive situation.

  1. Identify your partner’s use of force by analyzing the risk of physical danger;
  2. Identify safe areas in your residence such as exits away from weapons;
  3. If safe, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call;
  4. Let people such as friends or neighbors know about your situation;
  5. Create several valid reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day; and
  6. Practice how to get out safely.

Safety planning while living with children and pets

If you have children who are living with you and your abusive partner, be sure to include them in your safety plan. Remember to include preparations for physical safety. Here are some tips.

  1. Teach your children when, how, and who to contact during an emergency;
  2. If possible, instruct them how to leave the home when situations escalate;
  3. Come up with a code word for when to leave the house during an emergency;
  4. Identify a room in your home they can go to when they are afraid;
  5. Instruct them to stay out of areas containing items that can be used as weapons; and
  6. Teach your children to not intervene in moments of violence even if they want to help.

It is normal to be concerned about what will happen to your pets if you leave during an abusive situation. It is also recommended to include your pets in your safety plan. Here are some tips for considering your pets in your plan.

  1. Take steps to have them vaccinated, microchipped, and licensed in your area;
  2. If your pet is microchipped, make sure your abusive partner is not listed as a contact;
  3. If possible, avoid leaving pets with your abusive partner;
  4. If you are planning to leave, talk to friends, family, neighbors, or your veterinarian about temporary care for your pet;
  5. Search for services that assist in domestic violence shelters or animal shelters for safekeeping of your pet;
  6. After leaving, consider changing veterinarians; and
  7. If you or someone you know had to leave their pet behind with the abusive partner, consider seeking assistance from services like animal control to see if they can intervene.

Safety while using the internet

Another factor in staying safe and unreachable from your abusive partner is to manage your privacy and location settings on your phone apps and social media. Always check and change your privacy settings on social media such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Adjusting these settings can hide your current uploads, location, and photos from your abusive partner who might be trying to locate you. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you plan to use the internet during an escape.

  1. Can my abuser see what websites I have visited?
  2. Is there spyware on my computer?
  3. How can I make it less likely that my abuser will find my personal information on the internet?
  4. Can I permanently delete my social media accounts?
  5. Is there anything I can do to cut back on the amount of my personal information that stays online?

Read more on domestic violence safety planning from our 2019 blog.

This month Lone Star Legal Aid is campaigning and supporting this cause by writing a blog series on several domestic violence topics from planning and prevention, listening to survivors to learning about what you can do to be an advocate. You can read the blog series throughout October on the website and also find the links posted on all social media platforms.

Stay tuned next week for Part II of our DV blog series!

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org