Safety Planning for Victims of Domestic Violence
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
What should I do if I am being threatened or attacked in my home?
If you are at home and are being threatened or attacked, try to:
- Stay away from the kitchen, where the abuser can find weapons such as knives.
- Stay away from bathrooms, closets, or small spaces where your abuser can trap you.
- Get to a room with a door or window.
- Get to a room with a phone to call for help; lock your abuser outside if you can.
- Call 911 (or your local emergency number).
- Think about a neighbor or friend you can run to for help.
- If a police officer comes, tell him/her what happened and get his/her name and badge number.
- Get medical help if you are hurt.
- Take pictures of any bruises or injuries.
- Call a domestic violence program or shelter; ask them to help you make a safety plan and/or get an order of protection.
How can I protect myself at home?
- Learn about places in your community where you can go to get help.
- Learn and memorize emergency phone numbers.
- Keep a phone in a room you can lock from the inside; if you can, get a cellular phone that you keep with you at all times.
- Plan an escape route out of your home; teach it to your children.
- Think about where you would go if you needed to escape your home quickly.
- Talk to your neighbors to set up a signal that lets them know to call the police. For example, a shade is pulled down or a certain light is on.
- Pack a bag with important things you would need if you had to leave quickly; put it in a safe place, or give it to a friend or relative you trust.
- Make sure the bag has cash, car keys and other important information, such as court papers, passports or birth certificates, medical records and medicines.
- Take a good self defense course.
If either you or your abuser has already moved out of your home:
- Ask your neighbors to call the police if they see the abuser at your house.
- Get an unlisted phone number.
- Use an answering machine to screen your calls.
- If your abuser moved out, change the locks on your doors and windows.
How can I help my children be safe?
- Teach them to not get in the middle of a fight, even if they want to help.
- Teach them how to get to safety, to call 911, and to give your address and phone number to the police.
- Teach them who to call for help.
- Tell them to stay out of the kitchen during arguments.
- Give the principal at the school or daycare center a copy of your order of protection, if you have one; tell them not to release your children to anyone without talking to you first; use a password so they can be sure it is you on the phone; give them a photo of your abuser.
- Make sure the children know who to tell at school if they see the abuser.
- Make sure the school knows not to give your address or phone number to anyone.
How can I protect myself outside of my home?
- Change your regular travel habits.
- Try to get rides with different people.
- Bank and shop at different places.
- Cancel any bank accounts or credit cards you shared with the abuser; open new accounts at a different bank.
- Keep a cell phone; program it to 911 or other emergency numbers.
- If you have an order of protection, keep it with you at all times. Bring the order of protection with you if you have to travel to another state; it is valid everywhere.
How can I protect myself at work?
- If you have an order of protection, keep a copy of it with you at work.
- Give a picture of your abuser to security guards and friends at work.
- Tell your supervisors about your abuser; see if they can make it harder for your abuser to find you.
- Don't go to lunch alone.
- Ask a security guard or co-worker to walk you to your car or bus.
- If your abuser contacts you at work, save the voice mail or email.
- Your employer may be able to help you find community resources.
If I have to go to court against my abuser, how can I protect myself?
- Sit as far away from the abuser as you can.
- Ask the sheriff or judge to keep the abuser there for a while when court is over; leave
- If you think the abuser is following you when you leave, call the police
- Bring a friend or relative with you to court.
If you have not already applied for a Temporary Order of Protection (TOP) and want to, you can find forms on this website to do that. You can download our write-in-the blank one and complete it by hand. Or, you can use our interactive form and answer questions online and then download a completed form and file it with the court.
- Follow this link to the write-in-the-blank Petition for Temporary Order of Protection.
- Follow this link to the interactive Petition for Temporary Order of Protection.
- The Montana Attorney General has forms and information for the Address Confidentiality and Hope Card programs.
Safety planning may help you stay safe if the Respondent tries to hurt you, even if you get an Order of Protection.
- Get help with safety planning from a Crime Victim Advocate near you
- Learn more about safety planning from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
- Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free civil legal help to eligible clients. Apply for services to find out if MLSA can help you.
- If you have or are going to file for an Order of Protection somewhere outside of Montana, you will want to find legal help in that state.