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Create a safety plan when leaving an abusive relationship

Leaving a situation of domestic violence and pursuing a divorce can seem overwhelming. But it is possible to leave and obtain a safe and healthy future.

One helpful way individuals can take action when planning to leave is by establishing a safety plan. That way, they can secure their family’s safety as well as their own. Here is a brief overview of a few critical details individuals should include in their safety plan.

1. First, find someone you can trust

Telling someone about the experience can be incredibly challenging for individuals. However, taking this step is important. Individuals should:

  • Tell a trusted family member or friend that they feel safe with about their situation;
  • Create a codeword that indicates when children, or this trusted person, should call for help; and
  • Establish their safety plan in cooperation with this person.

This takes a significant amount of courage, but having a support system is essential.

Individuals might also want to consult an experienced attorney to help determine how they can establish protective orders here in Virginia during their divorce.

2. Determine a safe place to go

A safety plan should also include a haven for individuals and their children to go outside of their home when escaping an abuser. This could be the home of a trusted family member or friend.

In addition to a safe place, individuals should also create a plan for how they will get out of the house safely. For example, it can be helpful to:

  • Keep a spare house key on your person;
  • Have a bag with car keys ready to go; and
  • Come up with specific reasons to leave the house.

It can be helpful to ensure children know this plan as well.

3. Keep necessities in this safe place

Once individuals establish a safe place, they can store certain belongings there. These critical items include, but are not limited to:

  • Social Security cards
  • Credit cards from a separate account 
  • Children’s birth certificates
  • Some clothes and essentials
  • Their protective order
  • Any photo or written evidence of the abuse

The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence includes more examples of items individuals should have with them when they leave in this example safety plan.

Leaving a relationship involving domestic violence can be extremely difficult, but the attorneys at Bowen Ten Cardani, PC, can help individuals establish protective orders to keep their families safe and leave these relationships behind.

Important note: If you and your family are in immediate danger, call 911. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for support.

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