Physical safety is only one aspect of wellbeing that is important for all human beings. We also need:
- Meaningful access to resources to meet basic needs (food, shelter, other essentials)
- Physical, emotional, sexual/reproductive and spiritual health
- Social connectedness and belonging
- Stability – a sense of predictability and familiarity, and
- The ability to make our own choices for lasting change
There is rarely a straightforward way for someone experiencing domestic violence to achieve safety that does not mean giving up other important aspects of wellbeing, even with support from others, and sometimes a decision to improve short term safety is at the expense of longer term safety and vice versa.
It is sometimes very difficult for people experiencing domestic violence to find safety and freedom without support from specialists like Shine. Read more about how our Helpline can support you – it’s free to call, 24/7.
Our Helpline will often suggest connecting with your local specialist service, as that service would usually coordinate with Police and others. Shine Advocates provide local support in Auckland Central and North Shore. Elsewhere these services are provided by women’s refuges and others, including some kaupapa Māori or for Pasifika and Asian people.
Specialist Advocates should support you while honouring your dignity, values, beliefs, and choices, and while recognising/uncovering how you have resisted abuse. Advocates may be able to help you understand your level of risk and help you work toward safety and wellbeing for you and your children.
Safety & Wellbeing Planning Ideas
Below are some ideas for you to consider in your planning – you might already be doing some of these things and you might not be able to do some of these things without support. Some of these ideas may involve a trade-off for you that is unacceptable or unworkable. Think about what will work best for you and what you feel most comfortable and confident to do. Remember that the Shine Helpline is here if you need support, to answer questions or provide referrals to local services.
Steps you may be able to take yourself
The information below may be helpful for some people who can take some steps on their own, with or without additional support from organisations like Shine.
If you want to download and/or print this information, it is on pages 22-29 of the Safer Homes booklet.
If you are staying with your partner
PREPARE FOR A CRISIS
It may help to think about what you can do to avoid serious injury for you and your children in advance of a likely attack from your partner. Think about the best places to try to get to within your house – such as a room with two exits, ideally where you can be seen or heard from outside and there are fewer things that can be used as weapons, including hard surfaces. It’s usually a good idea to avoid the kitchen, bathrooms, and garage and stay away from stairs.
You may want to think ahead about:
- What are the easiest escape routes? Doors, windows etc. Are there obstacles to a speedy exit?
- Where can you run to? You may want to arrange a safe place in advance with someone you trust – a neighbour or friend/family member nearby.
- What essentials will you need and where can you hide them where you can get them quickly or can you leave them with someone you trust? E.g. cash, cards, keys, medications and important papers. If you need to hide them, where is the safest place where your partner is least likely to look – a container in the freezer? Behind a drawer?
If you have to leave to save your life – it may be best to leave fast, take nothing, go to the nearest safe place and call for help. Have Shine’s Helpline number (0508 744 633) memorised or easy to find.
If your partner monitors your phone calls, you may want to try to get another cell phone your partner doesn’t know about and keep it somewhere safe for emergencies or making calls you want to keep private. Shine or your local specialist organisation may be able to get you a phone with a prepaid SIM.
If you have a neighbour or someone living nearby you can trust, you may plan signals and/or code words to let them know to come over to create a supportive/defusing presence or to call for help. It could be a light turned on, a drawn shade, or a text with an unusual emoji, for example.
Trust your judgement and intuition
– when the situation is very serious you may decide to do what your attacker/partner wants until things calm down, and then look for a chance to escape and get help.
You may want to open a separate bank account for emergencies that your partner doesn’t know about and make small deposits whenever you can that won’t be noticed. Is there an address you can use for this account instead of your home address so your partner won’t see any mail from the bank?
If you’re employed, consider using your work address.
If it’s safe to discuss a safety plan with your children (i.e. they can understand what is safe and not safe to share with the abusive person), you could think about planning a code word with them so that when you say it, they know to take planned actions, for example, depending on the child’s age and ability:
- Run to a neighbour and ask them to call the Police
- Call 111. You may want to teach them the words to use, for example, “This is Sarah, 99 East Street. Mum’s getting hurt. She needs help now.”
- Run to a particular safe place outside the house to hide
- You may want to practise your escape plan with your children if they know about it.
REDUCE ISOLATION – FOR SAFETY, SUPPORT AND SOCIAL CONNECTION
If you’re employed, read Workplace Safety & Paid Leave
You may want to think about how you can connect with other people in ways that will help you in terms of safety and/or wellbeing, for example:
- Through children – playgroups, involvement with the children’s school, sports or other activities
- Through church or spiritual communities
- By having friends or family drop by, particularly people in whose presence your partner is likely to keep behaviour in check
- Through a community course –often free or very cheap courses are available at community centres on many things, for example, yoga, cooking, etc.
- By joining a sports team or club
- Taking lessons or classes that can help build confidence or learn useful skills
– learn how to drive, swim, do simple home repairs or auto maintenance, learn to speak, read, or write English, how to use a computer, etc.
If you are planning to separate
SHARING YOUR PLANS
• It will be safest to tell only very trusted friends or support workers about your plans ahead of time.
• Be careful to tell children only what they need to know, when they need to know it. It can be very stressful and difficult, or impossible, for children to keep a secret like this.
It may be a good idea to collect things you will need to take with you ahead of time, and store them someplace safe, perhaps with a trusted friend/support person. You may want to start with the absolute essentials – spare clothing, cash, spare keys, medication and any other essential items and documents – and add other important items and documents as you are able, such as:
- keys to house, garage, car, office –can you make a spare set ahead of time?
- cell phone and list of important addresses and phone numbers
- clothing and other personal needs
- children’s essential school needs, favourite toy or comforter
- photograph of your partner so that support people know what your partner looks like
- documents for yourself and children:
– driver’s licence, EFTPOS/credit cards
– Birth certificates, marriage certificate
– passports / any other forms of identification
– insurance policies
– IRD number
– bank account details and statements, records of any other shared assets
– Work and Income documents
– medical records – ask your family doctor and hospital staff to note evidence of injuries on your patient records
– protection order
– custody papers, adoption papers, immigration documentation, any other important legal records
It could be helpful to make a list of all of your accounts and any financial assets (house, car, etc) owned by you and/or your partner, and record whose name each is under and any outstanding debt. If your partner starts thinking you’re planning to leave, they may try to make it harder for you to access money.
So you may want to consider opening a separate bank account in your name ahead of time, if you can, and making small deposits whenever you can to prepare for leaving. Some banks may allow you to open an account without ID, if they are aware you do not have ID because you’re escaping an abusive partner, and allow you some time to provide required ID.
If you’re employed, you may be able to use your work address for the account, and talk to your employer about diverting a portion of your income into that account.
Otherwise, you may want to consider, immediately before or after leaving, transferring money out of joint accounts and into your own name. Consider using the “cash advance” feature of your jointly-held credit cards and take them to their limit, then put the money in an interest-bearing account in your own name.
It’s important to talk to your bank to make sure that your contact details will be kept confidential from your partner when you’re separated, and make sure the bank knows this is a safety issue. Many banks now have specialist teams to help customers experiencing financial abuse and domestic violence. Find out if your bank does and ask to speak to someone in that team. They may be able to help in other ways such as freezing joint accounts if you’re worried about your partner increasing your debt when you separate.
If you need it, you may want to arrange income support with Work & Income as soon as possible after you leave.
CONSIDER APPLYING FOR A PROTECTION ORDER
A protection order may or may not be a good safety strategy for you. Read more about Protection Orders. You can apply at the same time for an occupancy or tenancy order to stay in your home, and it may also be a good idea to apply for a parenting order at the same time to keep custody of your children.
PLAN HOW AND WHEN TO SEPARATE
You may need to arrange transport in advance and know where you will go. You may want to stay at a women’s refuge with your children so you can have more safety and support for a period of time, before moving to permanent accommodation on your own. If you are applying for a protection order, staying at a refuge may be a good idea while the order is being served on your partner.
Ring Shine’s Helpline for a referral to your local refuge and try to make arrangements for moving at a time your partner is at work or otherwise away from home. Read more about Shine refuge and accommodation.
PROTECTION ORDERS; REPORTING/RECORDING BREACHES
If you haven’t already, you may want to consider applying for a protection order. You can apply at the same time for an occupancy or tenancy order to stay in your home. Protection orders automatically cover the applicant’s children under 18 years old who live regularly with the applicant, but it’s usually a good idea to apply for a parenting order at the same time.
Protection orders don’t work for every situation. Read more about Protection Orders to learn more about what they do (and don’t do), how to apply, and what you can do if your ex-partner breaches the order (does something he’s not allowed to do under the order).
If you do get a protection order, give a copy of it to your children’s school, your workplace, or anywhere else you or your children regularly go, and talk to people about what you would like them to do if your ex-partner arrives.
- Talk to your children about what to do if your ex-partner makes contact with them unexpectedly, breaching access arrangements, i.e. check first before opening the door, come inside or go to the neighbours if your ex comes to the house, tell a teacher if they are approached at school.
- Teach your children how to ring Police on 111 and what to say. If they can’t get to a phone, ask someone else to ring 111 for them.
- Tell anyone who takes 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 warn them if you think your ex-partner may try to take your children.
- Have your children memorise your cell phone number and numbers for one or two other trusted adults.
• You may want to avoid going to the same places as before, e.g. shops, church/temple, bank, hairdresser, library, post shop. It may not be worth giving up someplace important to you, in which case think about how to go there as safely as possible. Is there someone trusted you can ask to help by alerting you if your ex-partner arrives and/or some other agreed action?
• It might be a good idea to vary your travel routes to and from work or anywhere else you go routinely.
• Make sure you know where your local police station(s) is, so that if you are being followed by car, you can go directly there. If you’re followed by foot, it’s probably safest to go somewhere as public as possible.
SECURITY AT HOME AND ELSEWHERE
- If your ex-partner is very dangerous and you want to remain separated, you may qualify for the Whānau Protect programme to improve your home security and install a monitored alarm. Talk to Shine’s Helpline or your local women’s refuge to learn more.
- If your ex-partner has ever had access to your home or your keys, you will probably want to change your locks. If you don’t qualify for Whānau Protect, you may also want to look at other ways to improve your home security, such as bolt locks, security chains, security screens, window stays, motion activated outdoor lighting, etc.
- Make sure your children know how to use any security features.
- Plan for extra safety between leaving your car and entering your home, e.g. removal of shrubs or trees in the area, safety lighting, an automatic garage door opener.
- Consider getting a dog. This can be good for safety as well as emotional wellbeing for you and your children if it is possible and practical.
- Consider telling your neighbours that you have separated from your partner and ask them to call the Police if they see your ex-partner near your house. Share a photo of your ex and their car make, model, and registration if you can.
- If you’re employed you might want to ask your employer to help keep you safe at work, for example, making a trespass notice against the person abusing you, providing a carpark near the entrance, or someone to escort you to or from your car, allowing flexible work hours or a change in work location, providing you with a new cell phone, etc. Read about Workplace Safety & Paid Leave. Download (free) DVFREE Guidelines with a workplace planning checklist.
LIMIT THE WAYS YOUR ABUSER CAN LOCATE OR CONTACT YOU
- If your ex-partner is sending you abusive texts, or texting you constantly, consider getting a second cell phone and giving this number to everyone else. If your ex is the only person using the first number, you can check it only when you want to, or ask a trusted friend to keep it and use their judgment to let you know if there is a text you need to know about.
- Ask your telephone company to install ‘Caller ID’ on your telephone and ask for an unlisted number, but make sure that emergency services have access to your phone number.
- Contact Elections NZ on 0800 367 656 or www.elections.org.nz to ask for your name/address to be excluded from the published electoral roll.
- Avoid posting personal information on social media, or take care to hide information that might give away where you live and anything that you wish to keep private from your ex-partner. Ask your friends not to disclose anything about where you live, work, etc on social media. Read more in section ‘Safe use of technology’.
- 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.
- If you’re employed, you might want to ask your employer to help protect you from unwanted communication from your ex-partner while you’re at work, for example by screening your phone calls and visitors. Read about Workplace Safety & Paid Leave
EDUCATE YOURSELF, RECOVER FROM TRAUMA, GROW CONFIDENCE, BUILD SUPPORT NETWORKS
- You may want to talk to Shine’s Helpline for a referral to an Adult Safety Programme or Child Safety Programme, or a counsellor with a good understanding of domestic violence.
- You may need time and support to recover from trauma. Be kind and patient with yourself if you are struggling to cope, especially if your ex-partner is continuing to threaten your safety. If you work, you can request paid domestic violence leave of up to ten days annually. Read about Workplace Safety & Paid Leave.
- Increase your confidence and wellbeing, and build your support networks. These are some ways that other people have done this:
– Join a gym or take an exercise class like Zumba, yoga, swimming, etc. or participate in a recreational sport –netball, lawn bowls, etc.
– Join a local church/spiritual community
– Join a mum’s group or playgroup
– Do some volunteering – it may be best to avoid anything too emotionally taxing until you’ve had time to rest and recover. Talk to your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) or Volunteer Centre for ideas.