Safety Planning Tips for Domestic Violence Survivors
Victims of domestic violence (DV) continue to be particularly vulnerable during the ongoing pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as restrictions on social distancing and staying at home begin to be loosened, abusive partners, who often isolate victims, may still include COVID-19 to the tactics they use to maintain power and control over their partners. In addition, data shows there has been an increase in domestic and intimate partner abuse during the pandemic. While each individual experiencing abuse is best positioned to know what is safe and feasible at any given time, the following reflect some basic safety planning tips that survivors of intimate partner violence can consider. These tips are applicable at any time, not only during a pandemic, and the list includes some specific tips for pet owners and LGBTQIA identified individuals, both of whom can face unique challenges in seeking safety, shelter and services.
1. Create a Safety Plan
- Limit any known triggers of abuse, such as social media usage, alcohol, or whatever is specific to your situation.
- If altercations escalate, move away from the kitchen, where items that can be used as weapons are most often found.
- Identify and communicate a safe place in the home for children to go if an altercation occurs.
- If there is a safe and secret spot, keep a to-go bag with some clothes, written phone numbers of safe contacts, some cash, and any ID or documentation.
- Keep your phone charged and available.
2. Stay Connected with Friends & Family
- Schedule regular phone calls or video chats with friends and family to establish normalized and frequent point of external contact.
- Coordinate times to communicate when the perpetrator will be away, if possible, or when you might be out of the house, such as walking a dog.
- Beware of digital stalking. Perpetrators may gain access to social media, GPS and emails, so be sure to develop and identify code words for use with family and friends. This can be used for daily safety check-ins, including a code for others to call 911 on your behalf.
3. Practice Self Care
- Take all precautions recommended by health experts and officials to maintain personal health and wellbeing. Being sick can increase household stress and limit mobility if leaving is necessary.
- Encourage all members of the family to participate in self-care activities such as meditation, exercise, reading, music, etc. to reduce overall household stress.
- Establish and maintain a routine for children to provide a sense of security.
4. Get Help
- Reach out for help and utilize the resources available. You are not alone. Advocates are available 24/7 to work with you and make an individualized safety plan or to work with you if you must leave the home.
- Experts currently believe that dogs and cats are not at risk for spreading COVID-19. Reinforce this with perpetrators who may be threatening a pet.
- It is still safe to walk the dog while social distancing. Use this as an opportunity to make a call to the hotline or reach out to trusted family or friends for help.
- Set aside supplies, and include in your to-go bag the needed pet supplies and materials, hidden but easily accessible. Make sure to include necessary food, medication, and records for pets.
- Find a friend or family member to help care for your pet in case of a sudden emergency, and compile all vaccine and registration paperwork to go with the pet.
- If you are struggling financially due to COVID-19, there are organizations that can help provide you with pet food and supplies during this time.
- ASPCA Community Engagement program has partnered with PETCO to establish a pet food distribution center in Manhattan.
- Many human food banks have also begun to stock pet food – call the food banks in your neighborhood to ask. Picking up supplies for pets can also be an opportunity for privacy to call the DV hotline.
LGBTQ Identified Individuals
- All survivors have the right to have access to DV shelter including LGBTQ survivors- you cannot be discriminated against based on your gender identity or sexual orientation.
- If safe to do so, try to stay connected with your community and chosen family- as families of origin may perpetuate hate violence and lack of acceptance (although not always!)
- If you are with a partner that denies or disregards your identity as a part of the abuse (uses incorrect pronouns, restricts articles of clothing that are affirming, etc.), try to connect with people in your life that are affirming and validating.
- If it is safe to do so, and if you think that you may have to leave in a hurry, try to keep important documents on you at all times (ID, name change documents, medications, hormones, some small amounts of cash, etc.).
- If it is safe to do so, take advantage of hotlines (AVP, NDVH) that are there to support you and affirm your identity and experiences- if possible try to make the call from a room where you won't be overheard like the bathroom or another bedroom.
- Report violence against LGBTQ individuals, as a victim or bystander, by contacting NYC Anti-Violence Project (AVP) online at https://avp.org/get-help/report-violence/ or call the hotline at 212-714-1141.
- If you are reporting from outside of New York and would like services, NYC AVP staff can help refer you to a local AVP or other source of local support.
Realize that you are not alone, we are here to help, and there is hope.