Keeping Safe During a Violent Incident
It is imperative that you and your children do everything you can to keep safe during a violent incident. Be as prepared as you can.
Prior to the incident – Establish the most accessible escape routes, including doors and windows as well as paths to the neighbour's or somewhere else safe. Are there any obstructions that may prevent you from escaping or that may be used to block your way?
Always leave if you can – If you cannot, stay out of the kitchen, bathroom, garage or other areas with potential weapons. Try to stay downstairs and out of rooms with no escape.
Use your knowledge of the perpetrator – When the situation is very dangerous, you may have to do what he wants until things calm down. Be alert for your chance to escape.
Getting help – Talk to your children about getting help. You may choose a code word you could say to your children or friend so they can call for help. Depending on their age, ability and maturity they could:
- Run to a neighbour
- Call 000, teach them to say their name and address and to say "Mum's getting hurt, she needs help now"
- Go to a safe place outside and hide
Mobile phone – Keep your mobile with you so you can phone the police as soon as possible. Decide who the people are that you could go to for help, where the perpetrator will not guess.
Savings account – A small amount of money saved weekly can build up and be useful later.
Safe place – Decide where you can go if you need a safe place. Somewhere he will not know. Ensure you are not followed by him or his friends.
Safety and security – Contact a domestic violence support service to help you plan or ask police to refer you to a suitable service. If you require any written information, get it sent to a friend or a family member's place so it cannot be intercepted by your partner. Ensure you do not carry pamphlets, cards or phone numbers of those services or people who are helping you. If storing phone numbers in your phone make up a false name/service that will not make him suspicious. Turn off your location finder on your mobile, check your car for tracking devices and ensure that he or his friends are not following you.
Keep a bag at your safe place – You may need money, clothes for yourself and children, a toy for each child, toiletries, copies of important papers such as birth certificates, marriage certificate, Centrelink papers, domestic violence orders, custody papers, passports, visa information, immigration documents, adoption papers, identification papers including driver's license, insurance policies, work and income, bank account details and statements, cheque book, cash cards, Medicare numbers, medical and legal records, essential medications, extra keys to your house, car, safe or office, phone card, list of important phone numbers and photographs of your partner so that people protecting you know what he looks like.
Essentials – Always keep your keys to you house and car, cash cards, essential medication and important papers together in a place where you can get them quickly or have someone fetch them for you. Ensure you have money for a taxi, bus, train etc or ring the police.
Medical practitioner, support workers or counsellors – Ensure that your injuries and incidents are reported and sighted by your GP, support worker or counsellor. Insist they take photos and keep records. You may choose never to access or use this information, however it may be invaluable to you in the future whether it is to support with obtaining an Apprehensive Violence Order (AVO) or other legal or court actions, or issues relating to the children such as family law matters (this will strengthen your application).
Reporting to the police – Ensure you get an event number after each incident where contact with the police has occurred, whether it be by phone or in person. This will make things much easier for you in the future, if you decide to leave.
Children – It is important that children also have a safety plan so they know what to do if violence occurs. Ensure they know not to intervene if the violence starts.
Help them to decide beforehand:
Where they can hide or run to when they are feeling unsafe.
Ensure they know the emergency number (000) they can ring such as police and ambulance. See http://triplezero.gov.au website which provides opportunities for children to practise ringing triple zero.
Who they can ring to get help and where to find the phone numbers
Make sure young children know their name and address.
Give children permission to speak to trusted neighbours and to go to, for help (ensure you trust the neighbours and that they are willing to help).
Help the children to identify trusted adults they can go to if they are feeling unsafe and need to talk. It may be grandparents, aunties or uncles, school teachers etc.
Look at information on protective behaviours for children (Protective Behaviours Consultancy Group NSW), which will help them to know and recognise when they are feeling unsafe, what they can do and how to establish a network of trusted adults who will assist them to keep safe. Ensure the adult is both safe and trustworthy, then ask them if they agree to be on the child's network and how they can support your child if they come to them for support.
Preparing to Leave
Try not to react in a way that may alert your partner or make him suspicious regarding your plans to leave.
Ensure all the things you and the children will need, are somewhere safe, as listed previously.
Arrange transport in advance, organise a meeting place and let anyone who's going to meet you know about your plans.
Have a safe place to go to where you can get the support you need, if possible.
If you have to leave in a hurry, go to a police station they will contact refuges or emergency accommodation places to find you somewhere safe to go.
Ensure you have money, or access to easily accessible money, that will not alert him to what you are doing.
Do not tell the children until you are away and safe in case they accidently say something in front of the perpetrator. They do not need the added stress or responsibility of keeping such an important secret.
Once you have left
You may want to withdraw some money from your joint account so you have money to survive until you can organise independent financial assistance. It is important to do this as soon as possible before your ex-partner has a chance to empty the account or put a freeze on it.
Get legal advice in regards to taking your name off joint bank accounts and credit cards so that you are not responsible if your partner runs up debts.
If you have your own account, do not use your key card until your mailing address has been changed. Talk to the bank and/or Centrelink or any other institutions about not giving any information out about your circumstance and whereabouts otherwise he may be able to track you down through bank statement information.
Arrange for your name to be taken off the lease, electricity, phone and any other bills when you leave otherwise you will be responsible for paying these. (If you contact a domestic violence or legal service they can assist you with this once you have left).
If you have left a public housing property contact them and discuss your situation. If the property is in your name you may be eligible to pay minimal rent on the property whilst you are staying elsewhere as they have special policies relating to tenants experiencing domestic violence.