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If you have a partner who is determined to control you and make you stay, it can be very hard, and it may be impossible, to keep yourself safe without support from others like Shine and the Police.
But there are some things you can do to plan ahead to try and keep yourself and your children safe. If you are thinking or planning to leave the relationship, the second and third parts of this section on preparing for separation and long-term safety after separation may also help you think through the steps you will need to take to leave safely and stay safe.
This safety plan has three parts:
1. Avoid serious injury and escape violence
2. Prepare for separation
3. Long-term safety after separation
1. Avoid serious injury and escape violence
Think ahead and plan so that in that moment of crisis when you are being assaulted, you have already thought through what you will do to try and avoid serious injury.
Leave if you can. Know the easiest escape routes – doors, windows etc. What’s in the way? Are there obstacles to a speedy exit?
Know where you’re running to. Have a safe place arranged. You may want to organise this with a neighbour in advance. You may want to leave a spare set of clothes for you and your children with a neighbour.
Keep your essentials together. Keep your purse, cash, cards, keys, medications and important papers together in a place where you can get them quickly or ask someone else to fetch them.
Try to move to a place of low risk. Try to keep out of the bathroom, kitchen, garage, away from weapons, stairs or rooms without access to outside.
Think of a code word you could say to your children so they can call for help.
Depending on age and ability they could:
- run to a neighbour and ask them to call the Police
- call 111. Teach them the words to use to get help. For example (“This is Sarah, 99 East Street. Mum’s getting hurt. She needs help now.”)
- run to a safe place outside the house to hide. Arrange this in advance. You may also set up similar code words or actions with friends, family or neighbours.
Use judgement and intuition – when the situation is very serious you may have to do what the attacker wants until things calm down. Then be on the alert for your chance to escape and get help.
Try to leave quietly. Don’t give your attacker clues about the direction you’re taking or where you’re going.
Lock doors behind you if you can – it will slow down any attempt to follow you.
Have our Helpline number (0508-744-633) memorised or easy to find. If you have to leave to save your life - leave fast. Take nothing and go to the nearest safe place and call for help.
2. Preparation for separation
Advance arrangements and escape plans
You may want to talk through your escape plan with the Shine Helpline. Tell only very trusted friends or support workers (e.g. your Shine Advocate) about your plans. Arrange transport in advance if possible and know where you’ll go.
Tell children only what they need to know, when they need to know it. Wait until plans are well advanced before talking to them. They don’t need the stress of keeping a difficult secret, and younger children often are just not able to keep secrets.
Start collecting the papers and information you need. Make your own list: Birth certificates, marriage certificate, copies of Protection Orders, custody papers, passports, any identification papers, driver’s licence, insurance policies, Work and Income documents, IRD number, bank account details and statements, cheque book, cash cards, immigration documentation, adoption papers, medical and legal records, etc.
What to take
- documents for yourself and children
- keys to house, garage, car, office
- clothing and other personal needs
- cell phone, phone card and list of important addresses and phone numbers
- for children, take essential school needs, favourite toy or comforter
- photograph of your partner so that people protecting you know what your partner looks like.
Leave copies of documents, spare clothing and toiletries for yourself and children, some cash, spare keys, medication and other essential items with a trusted friend in case you need to leave in a hurry.
Ask your family doctor to carefully note any evidence of injuries on your patient records.
3. Long term safety after separation
You may want to apply for a Protection Order if you feel that your ex-partner is likely to be deterred by the Order. The section on Protection Orders below provides more information.
Teach your children what to do if your ex-partner makes contact with them unexpectedly, breaching access arrangements, i.e. rules about checking first before opening the door, coming inside or going to neighbours if he/she comes to the house, telling a teacher if they are approached at school.
Teach your children what to do if your ex-partner takes them, e.g. call the Police on 111. Tell other adults who take care of your children (e.g. school teacher, day-care staff, babysitter) who has permission to pick them up and who is not permitted to do so, and specifically warn them if you think your ex-partner may try to take your children.
If possible, use different shops and banks to those you used when you lived with your ex-partner.
Strengthen your home security if possible. If the offender has ever had access to your home or to your keys, you will need to change your locks. You may also want to strengthen your home security, if you are able to, with bolt locks, security chains or security screens, window stays, etc. and make sure you children know to use these security features at all times.
Consider installing an outside lighting system that lights up when a person comes near your house at night.
Plan for extra safety between leaving your car and entering your home, e.g. an automatic garage door opener, safety lighting, or removal of shrubs or trees in the area.
Vary your travel routes to and from work or anywhere else you go routinely. Keep a map handy and pre-plan routes in unknown areas to prevent you from having to leave your vehicle.
Tell neighbours that your partner does not live with you and ask them to call the Police if she/he is seen near your house, or if they hear an assault occurring.
Tell your employer that you have a Protection Order, or that you are afraid of your ex-partner, and ask for your telephone calls at work to be screened, that reception does not allow your ex-partner access to you, and/or if someone can walk you to your car, especially if it is parked in an isolated place.
If your ex-partner breaches the Protection Order, telephone the Police and report it, contact your lawyer and your Shine Advocate. If the Police do not help, contact your Shine Advocate or lawyer for assistance, and you may want support to make a complaint.
Ask your telephone company to install ‘Caller ID’ on your telephone and ask for an unlisted number.
Warning: make sure that emergency services have access to your phone number.
Contact Elections NZ on 0800 367 656 or go to www.elections.org.nz and ask for your name and address to be excluded from the published electoral roll.
Avoid using social media, or use only with great caution to hide all personal information that might give away where you live and anything about you that you wish to keep private from your ex-partner. You also need to make sure that any of your ‘Friends’ on social media know to not disclose anything about where you live, etc on social media.
Talk to your children about their use of social media. Depending on their ages and maturity level, it may be wise to restrict their access to any social media, or make sure they understand to never give out their personal details on social media.
You may want to talk to Shine’s Helpline about attending a women’s breaking the cycle programme or getting a referral to a counsellor with a good understanding of domestic abuse to help you grow strong and understand what has happened to you.
Remember: you can always ring Shine’s Free National Helpline for advice, 9am and 11pm, 7 days a week, on 0508-744-633
We can talk through your safety plan with you, give you more ideas about how to keep yourself and your children safe, and provide referrals to other services that you need.
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