The articles on this page offer information and strategies to keep you and your children free from harm. They cover:
- Keeping safe during a violent incident
- Technology safety planning
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 the keys to your 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. You may need it to support your efforts to obtain an Apprehensive Violence Order (AVO) or with other legal or court actions. It may also help with issues relating to your 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.auwebsite which provides opportunities for children to practice 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 them 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.
Technology Safety Planning
The following information was taken from “Safety Planning Around Technology”, a guide for survivors of domestic violence or dating violence which was adapted by WESNET with the permission of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
What is stalking?
Repeated or unwanted behaviour from an individual that is harassing, intimidating, or threatening.
Stalking is most common in intimate partner relationships. Many times there will be an increase in stalking behaviour after leaving a controlling relationship. Stalking is common during periods of separation and often increases in intensity and frequency. Ex-partner stalkers are more persistent and dangerous than stranger stalkers.
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking, like traditional forms of stalking, involves persistent behaviours that instill apprehension and fear. With the advent of new technologies, stalking has taken on new forms through mediums such as email and social media. This has become known as cyberstalking.
- Take all threats seriously whether they are verbal or text.
- Limit communication with the stalker and restrict responses to messages, calls and social networking posts to those required by court order (e.g. Family Court).
- Keep a separate email account for communication regarding legal matters such as child residency and contact, and other communication with the stalker.
- Use passwords on all devices. Keep passwords secret and change them often.
- If your computer has a webcam learn how it works and how to turn it off. These devices can be accessed remotely. Use tape to cover the lens when you are not using the camera.
- Use internet-based phone services like Google Voice or Skype to create a new phone number for texting or phone calls.
- Use a safer computer such as a public computer of a trusted family member or friend to access your email.
Safety strategies for phone technology
- Lock your keypad with a password
- Turn off Bluetooth on your phone so calls cannot be intercepted. Set your phone to hidden as your phone can be hijacked and your data can be stolen via Bluetooth technology.
- Beware of Caller ID spoofing for phone calls and text messages. Caller ID spoofing is a service allowing a caller to change the caller ID display on a recipient’s phone to any number.
- Always confirm the sender of a text message.
- Talk to your children about the above information (if age appropriate). Check your children’s phones, change passwords if necessary or you may need to take the phone until it is safe for them to have it back.
- If a parenting plan is in place, talk to your children about how and when the other parent is allowed to communicate with them. If a child receives unallowable, harassing or threatening messages or calls, instruct them to save the messages or call history.
- Do not use apps that tell your friends where you are or check you in.
- Disable the location services in any camera apps and your mobile settings.
- Buy a cheap mobile to make private calls and pre-program any emergency numbers you may need including your trusted friends’ numbers, police, 1800 respect – domestic violence help service, Link2Home (accommodation helpline) and other 24hr referral services.
If you are receiving harassing calls, texts or voice messages, this can serve as evidence in court.
Save all harassing or threatening text or voice messages on the phone.
Do not turn off the device. Switch to flight mode to preserve the call and the text evidence on the device. No calls or texts message will be transmitted to or from the device. Note: This mode will not protect or prevent incoming voicemail messages.
Take the device to the police or to your lawyer to have evidence documented in a format admissible in court.
The police may:
- Take a photo of the call history, text message or message
- Transcribe voicemail messages or
- Use forensic devices and software to document and analyse the data on the device.
Print your call history (sometimes called ‘recent calls’) and text logs from your mobile phone provider’s website or request a copy from customer service. Note that Australian mobile phone carriers only have to hold call data for 60 days.
Are you being tracked?
Many tools exist for tracking a person’s location. If you think you are being followed or tracked, trust your instincts. Look for patterns in stalking behaviour.
GPS technology uses satellites to track where a device (and often its owner) is located. At any time, it’s likely that a device is within range of four separate satellites. Common products like phones and sat nav devices use GPS technology, but there are other items that can also use it.
Does the stalker find you in places you have taken your car?
Ask the police or a trusted mechanic to search the car for a GPS tracking device. GPS chips can be hidden in nearly anything and tracked using computer software or phone applications.
Check your car for objects that may have a GPS tracking unit attached or installed such as a mobile phone, computer, dog collar or watch with GPS capability.
Does the stalker find you in places you have taken your mobile?
Modern mobile phones included GPS technology that can locate where the phone is. This is most useful when you’re using your phone’s map feature, as it knows where you are and can direct you to where you want to go. Other apps, such as social media apps, can also use this information and show it freely to anyone looking at your profile.
To stop other people finding you through your phone, adjust your mobile’s GPS or location setting. Make sure that apps like Facebook and Snapchat aren’t broadcasting your location.
Does the stalker find you via Geotagging?
Geotagging is marking media files such as video, photos or social networking updates with a location. Certain formats such as JPEG allow for geographical data to be embedded within the image and then read by picture viewers, allowing the exact location of where a picture was taken to be saved with the photograph. The pics you post to Flickr can be mapped using this technology.
TURN OFF FEATURES on your mobile and digital cameras that “geotag” your media files, like pics and social networking posts with a date and location.
- Stalkers sometimes use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest, to impersonate, stalk and harass victims. Using safety measures may help reduce risk.
- Communicate via private or instant message rather than publicly through Twitter feed or your Facebook wall.
- Revisit privacy settings weekly or monthly as these features are updated regularly.
- Adjust privacy and location settings via the website and on your mobile apps.
- After linking social networking profiles such as Foursquare and Twitter, revisit your privacy settings on each website.
- Customise your settings to best fit your social networking usage.
- Save all threats and harassment and submit to the police and your legal adviser.
- You may deactivate your Facebook account temporarily without deleting your data. This strategy prevents users from viewing your information, tagging you in posts or pictures, and sending you a private or instant message.
If you are harassed, impersonated or threatened online, it is essential to keep all records of these activities. This documentation can serve as evidence in court (which may be needed later if the violence escalates or it may assist you in family court matters relating to your children).
Questions to ask before “friending” someone:
- Do I know this person’s true identity?
If not, consider ignoring or declining the friendship request. It could be a friend of the perpetrator. The perpetrator may have told this person a false story and encouraged them to find out information about you. If they are a true friend of yours, they will understand if you decline and the need to keep safe.
- Does this person have a relationship with the person stalking or abusing me?
If so, consider declining or limiting the friendship request. The stalker may be able to access your information or whereabouts through this person.
- For location applications like Foursquare, does this person need to know my location?
If not, consider declining the friendship request.