Safety Planning

What is Safety Planning?

safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning may include how to cope with emotions, telling friends and family about the abuse, securing resources, taking legal action, and more.

A good safety plan will have all of the vital information you need and be tailored to your unique situation, and will help walk you through different scenarios.

Although some of the things that you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that in moments of crisis your brain doesn’t function the same way as when you are calm. When adrenaline is pumping through your veins it can be hard to think clearly or make logical decisions about your safety. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments.

Safe Haven advocates can assist you with developing an individualized safety plan in-person by appointment or 24 hours a day/ 7 days by calling our 24-hour Crisis Hotline at 419-289-8085.

Safety Planning While Living with an Abusive Partner

Living with an abusive partner can make it especially hard to identify or create opportunities to leave. Here are some important steps you can take to help prepare to leave an abusive living situation:

  • Identify your partner’s use and level of force so you can assess the risk of physical danger to yourself and others before it occurs.
  • Identify safe areas in your residence with pathways to exit, away from any weapons. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas before they escalate.
  • If safe, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help, including friends or family, The Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233), and your local shelter. Know where the nearest public phone is located.
  • Let trusted friends and neighbors know about your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you might need their help. Give them clear instructions on who you do or do not want them to contact in moments of crisis, including law enforcement.
  • Talk to others living in the residence how to get help, including children or roommates. Instruct them not to get involved in violence between you and your partner and work with them to establish a mutual signal for when they should get help or leave the house.
  • Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night. Ex. multiple trips to the grocery store, spending time with friends, staying at work longer, find unnecessary errands to complete.  
  • If possible, practice how to get out safely, including with others who may be living in the residence.
  • Plan for what to do if your partner finds out about your plan.
  • If possible, keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and stored as inaccessibly as possible. If you are concerned about your safety, please reach out to an Advocate.
  • Be mindful of how clothing or jewelry could be used to physically harm you. For example, if your partner has put their hands around your neck, avoid wearing scarves or jewelry that can be used to harm you.
  • Back your car into your driveway when you park at home and keep it fueled. If possible, keep the driver’s door unlocked with the rest of the doors locked to allow for quick access to the vehicle.
  • If violence is unavoidable, make yourself as physically small as possible. Move to a corner and curl into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Safety Planning During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a period of change marked by extreme emotions, both positive and negative, that often comes with an added need for support from those around you. It’s natural to depend on emotional support from a partner during this time, as well as financial assistance if necessary, to help prepare for the baby and more. If your partner is emotionally or physically abusive, these months of transition can be particularly difficult and dangerous. Abuse can begin or escalate during pregnancy, making it all the more essential to create a plan for safety.

Seeking help while pregnant

  • Doctor’s visits can be an opportunity to discuss your situation. If you’ve decided to leave your relationship, a health care provider can become an active participant in your plan to leave.
  • If your partner goes to doctor’s appointments with you, try to find a moment when they’re out of the room to ask your care provider (or even the front desk receptionist) to help you by providing an excuse for them to talk to you one-on-one.
  • If possible, find a prenatal class that limits its attendance to those giving birth. This can be a comfortable atmosphere for discussing pregnancy concerns or allow you to speak to the class instructor one-on-one.
  • There’s always a heightened risk during violent situations when you’re pregnant. If you live in a home with stairs, try to spend your time on the first floor to avoid potential harm. If violence becomes unavoidable and you’re unable to escape, assuming the fetal position and covering your stomach with your arms can help protect you and your pregnancy.

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Safety Planning with Children

If you have children, be sure your safety plan includes ways to keep them safe when violence occurs and important details to remember while preparing to leave and after.

Physical safety at home

  • Teach your children when, how, and who to contact during an emergency.
  • This can include trusted friends, family members, neighbors, local service providers, and more.
  • If possible, instruct them to leave the home when situations begin to escalate and establish where they can go. Create a plan ahead of time with trusted people who your children can turn to during a moment of crisis.
  • Come up with a code word for when to leave the house in an emergency and make sure they know not to tell others what the secret word means.
  • Identify a room in the house that they can go to when they’re afraid, and something calming they can focus on for comfort.
  • Instruct them to stay out of areas containing items that could be used to harm them, including kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Teach them that they shouldn’t try to intervene in moments of violence, even though they may want to protect their parents.
  • Plan for what you will do if your children tell your partner of your plan, and remember never to blame them for their responses to your partner’s abusive behavior


Planning for unsupervised visits

  • Create a separate safety plan for situations in which your children may spend unsupervised time with your abusive partner.
  • If your children are old enough, brainstorm with them to come up with ways that they can stay safe using the same model as you would for your own home. Help them identify where they can get to a phone, who they can contact, how they can leave the house, and where they can go.
  • If possible, give your children a cell phone to be used in emergency situations.


Planning for safe custody exchanges

  • Avoid exchanging custody at your home or your partner’s home. Meet in a safe, public place like a restaurant, store, or other area with visibility.
  • Bring a trusted friend or family member with you to make custody exchanges, or have them make the exchange on your behalf.
  • Find ways to schedule custody exchanges without interacting with your partner. One way of doing this is to arrange for your partner to pick your children up from school at the end of the day after you drop them off in the morning, or vice versa, to eliminate the chances of seeing each other.
  • Emotional safety plan for yourself and your children. Figure out something to do before the exchange to calm any nerves you might be feeling, and something to focus on afterwards for yourself or your children, like going to a park or doing a fun activity.

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Emotional Safety Planning with Children

Children who experience abusive situations are forced to process complex emotions, often without being equipped to do so in healthy ways. Creating an emotional safety plan for and alongside your children can help them navigate these emotions and prepare them to respond to moments of crisis in ways that protect their short-term and long-term emotional wellbeing.

  • Make sure your safety planning is age-appropriate. A safety plan will look differently for a younger child than it would for a teen, but your love and support will look the same.
  • Let your children know that what’s happening isn’t their fault and that they didn’t cause it. Tell them that you support them no matter what.
  • Tell them that abuse is never right, even when the person being violent is someone they love.
  • Tell them that you want everyone to be safe, so you have to come up with a plan to use in case of emergencies.
  • Remember that your child might tell your partner whatever information you come up with together, which could make an abusive situation more dangerous. When talking about safety plans, use phrases like, “We’re practicing what to do in an emergency,” instead of, “We’re planning what you can do when ____ becomes violent.”
  • Help them make a list of people they’re comfortable talking with and expressing themselves to, and make sure they can contact those people if needed.
  • If possible, enroll them in a counseling program or therapy. Try to find a program that is culturally relevant and specialized in child counseling. If you ever need resources, our Advocates can help find support in your area.

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

DWAVE promotes the empowerment of and equality for Ohio's diverse Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing communities by offering culturally affirmative advocacy and education, while inspiring community accountability, in response to oppression and relationship and sexual violence. 

Source: Deaf World Against Violence Everywhere (DWAVE)

Safety Planning with Pets

It’s normal to be concerned about what will happen to your pets if you leave. If you’re creating a safety plan to leave an abusive relationship, safety planning for your pets is essential to ensure all your loved ones have a path to safety.

  • Take steps to prove ownership of your pet. Have them vaccinated and licensed in the place where you live, making sure the registrations are done in your name. Take steps to have them changed if necessary.
  • If possible, avoid leaving pets alone with an abusive partner.
  • If your pet is microchipped, make sure your abusive partner is not listed as a contact.
  • If you’re planning to leave, talk to friends, family, or your veterinarian about temporary care for your pet if necessary. If that’s not an option, search for services that assist domestic violence survivors with safekeeping for their pets, or contact your local domestic violence shelter or animal shelter directly. For help finding an animal shelter, visit the Humane Society website.
  • If you decide to leave, bring extra provisions for your pets including food and medications, copies of their medical records, and important phone numbers.
  • If you’re thinking about getting a protective order, find out if your state allows pets to be included in such orders.
  • After leaving, consider changing veterinarians and avoid leaving pets outside alone to ensure their long-term safety.
  • If you’ve had to leave your pet behind with an abusive partner, consider seeking assistance from local services like animal control to see if they can intervene.

The Animal Welfare Institute offers additional tips for safety planning with pets as well as state-by-state resources for pet-friendly shelters through the Safe Havens Mapping Project. Organizations like Georgia-based Ahimsa House and Littlegrass Ranch in Texas offer further resources for safety planning with animals, particularly for non-traditional pets that may be more difficult to transport.

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Preparing to Leave

The moment of leaving an abusive relationship can happen quickly, but the process of leaving takes an immense amount of courage, planning, and precaution against the risk of violence. Here are several measures you can take to prepare before you actually leave.

  • Record evidence of physical abuse, like pictures of injuries. If possible, keep a journal of violent incidents, noting dates, events, and any threats made. Store your journal in a safe place.
  • Establish where you can go to get help. If you’re comfortable doing so, tell someone trusted about what’s happening.
  • Plan with your children and identify a safe place where they can go during moments of crisis, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
  • When preparing to go to a shelter, if you can, call ahead to see what the shelter’s policies are. They can give you information on how they can help, and how to secure a space when it’s time to leave. Our advocates can also provide you with local resources.
  • Try to set money aside or ask trusted friends or family members to hold money for you somewhere an abusive partner can’t reach it.
  • If relevant and feasible, pursue job skills or educational qualifications that expand your opportunities for independence.

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Building Your Case: How to Document Abuse

If you are in an abusive relationship and are in the process of taking (or deciding to take) legal action against your abusive partner, documentation of your partner’s abusive behaviors can be an important component of your case.

It’s worth noting that each state has different laws about what evidence and documentation can be used in court. Speaking with a legal advocate in your state might better prepare you for your unique situation (our advocates at the Hotline can help locate a legal advocate near you). According to WomensLaw, in most states evidence can include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Verbal testimony from you or your witnesses
  • Medical reports of injuries from the abuse
  • Pictures (dated) of any injuries
  • Police reports of when you or a witness called the police
  • Household objects torn or broken by the abuser
  • Pictures of your household in disarray after a violent episode
  • Pictures of weapons used by the abuser against you
  • A personal diary or calendar in which you documented the abuse as it happened

If you’re not sure if making documentation of your abuse would be safe, always go with your gut. It’s very important to keep in mind that you are the expert on your situation, and what works for one person may not be a safe idea for another person.

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Protective Orders and Legal Resources

Protective Orders and Restraining Orders

  • A protective order is a legal document intended to prohibit your partner from physically coming near you or harming or harassing you, your children, or other loved ones.
  • You can apply for a protective order at courthouses.
  • Protective orders may be able to put a stop to physical abuse but they depend on your partner’s adherence to the law and law enforcement’s willingness to enforce the protective order. Psychological abuse is still possible, and a protective order should never replace a safety plan.

Other Legal Resources

  • has state-by-state information about laws including protective and restraining orders and child custody laws
  • Legal Services Corporation is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 134 independent nonprofit legal aid organizations in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. 
  • VINE allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day. Victims and other concerned citizens can also register to be notified by phone, email or TTY device. 
  • National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women assists battered women charged with crimes and members of their defense teams such as defense attorneys, advocates, expert witnesses.
  • Ask a volunteer legal services provider (attorneys who offer free legal services to low-income individuals) or a local advocacy group about actions against your partner for behaviors like criminal assault, aggravated assault, harassment, stalking, or interfering with child custody.

Protections for non-U.S. citizens

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline 

After You Leave

Your safety plan should always include ways to ensure your continued safety after leaving an abusive relationship. Here are some precautions to consider:

  • Change your locks and phone number if possible.
  • If possible, change your work hours and the route you take to get there.
  • Alert school authorities of the situation. If there is a protection order in place, provide a copy to the school. Designate who is and is not allowed to pick your children up from school. If possible, change the route taken to transport children to school; if necessary, consider changing your children’s schools.
  • If you have a protection order, keep a certified copy of it with you at all times, and inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a protection order in effect. If you move to a new state, register your protection order with the courts in your new state.
  • Consider renting a post office box or using a trusted friend’s address for your mail (remember that addresses are used for restraining orders and police reports — be careful who you give your address and phone number to). Your state may have an address confidentiality program to protect your privacy. Contact an advocate to see if your state has this program.
  • Reschedule appointments that your partner might be aware of.
  • If possible and necessary, use different stores and frequent different social spots.
  • Alert neighbors and work colleagues about how and when to seek help if they feel you may be in danger (if you feel comfortable doing so). Be clear about who you do or do not want them to contact, including law enforcement.
  • Tell people who take care of your children (if you are comfortable doing so) or transport them to/from school and activities. Explain your situation and provide them with a copy of your restraining order if you have one.

Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

Financial Tips for Survivors

Six tips for domestic violence victims and survivors that are seeking to secure their financial future:

    • Plan for your safety by contacting your local domestic violence program to discuss your options and learn about the community resources you can access for support (i.e., emergency assistance funds, shelter, utility and/or rent assistance, public benefits and affordable housing). To locate a program in your community, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Language translation is available.
    • Obtain a copy of your credit report and monitor your credit regularly. Most financial institutions provide credit monitoring services such as Privacy Guard at a low cost. You can get a copy of your credit report by contacting one of the three credit bureaus: Equifax (866-349-5191),Experian (1-888-397-3742) or TransUnion (800-888-4213), or from FREE Annual Credit Report (1-877-322-8228).
    • Call your utility companies, wireless telephone service and financial institutions to secure your private financial information with special PIN codes and passwords. Be sure to do the same on all new credit, wireless and/or utility accounts. Ask these companies to use identifiers other than your Social Security Number, date of birth or mother’s maiden name to authenticate your identity.
    • Change all ATM and debit card PIN codes, online banking passwords and online investing passwords. Also be sure to change the password on your email account(s).

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence

Important Local Numbers

Ashland, Ohio


Ashland County Sheriff…419-289-3911


Ohio State Patrol–Ashland…419-289-0911


Hayesville, Ohio

Fire Department...419-368-7335


Jeromesville, Ohio

Fire Department...419-368-6811


Loudonville, Ohio

Fire Department…419-994-4000



Perrysville, Ohio

Fire Department…419-938-5822


Polk and Red Haw, Ohio

Fire Department…419-945-2681



Savannah, Ohio

Fire Department…419-962-4630

Ashland City Sheriff…419-289-3911

West Salem, Ohio