If you are in a relationship that has been frightening or violent, chances are it will happen again, even if your boyfriend or girlfriend has promised that it won’t. For your own safety, it’s important to be prepared just in case.
Remember, you do not have any control over your boyfriend/girlfriend’s behavior. You do have control over how you prepare for it and respond to it.
Take a few minutes to answer these questions and prepare your safety plan.
- These are the cues I’ve seen that my boyfriend/girlfriend is getting angry or violent:
- These are some situations I’ve been in where I haven’t felt safe:
- If I think there might be an argument, I will try to go to a place where other people might hear and/or a place where there is less risk of injury.
- These are people I trust and can ask for help:
- This is my code word. I can share it with people I trust and use it to let them know I’m scared or need help:
- When I share my code word, I can tell the people I trust what kind of help I want. I can also tell them what not to do. Here is what I will tell them:
- If I’m with my boyfriend/girlfriend and am not feeling safe, here are some things I can say or do to get away:
- Exercise, confiding in someone you trust, or doing things that make you feel happy or successful are some ways to help manage the pressure of a difficult relationship. Some people use drugs or alcohol to cope with their problems. But they can drain your energy, cloud your judgment and make you more vulnerable. Here are some things I can do to help myself cope:
- If I can’t think of anyone I trust to talk to about my relationship, I can call a domestic violence or sexual assault program or crisis line at anytime without giving my real name. I can ask them to help me find someone I can trust.
(Avoid kitchens, bathrooms, garages, rooms without an exit, or being near anything that could be used as a weapon.
No one deserves to be abused. This is not my fault.
Some adults, such as teachers, counselors and health care providers, are required by law to report abuse happening to anyone under age 18. If you are nervous about talking to an adult, ask whether they are required to report abuse to anyone under 18. Let them know that you are worried about your privacy, and talk with them about some of the ways they can help you. Also, you can always ask an adult about how you can help a friend who’s in a dangerous relationship without revealing that you have the same problem.
Safety planning if you decide to break up
If you decide to break up with an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend, it is important to have a safety plan in place before attempting to end the relationship. Sometimes during and after breaking up are the most dangerous periods in the relationship.
If you are interested in a court order to protect you from your boyfriend or girlfriend, you may be able to get a harassment injunction or a child abuse restraining order. This process can be complicated, and procedures vary from county to county. We can help you. If you are being assaulted or are afraid that an assault is about to occur, you can always call 911 or the police.
- I will plan the breakup carefully with the help of people I trust. If I don’t have friends I can trust, I can talk to a parent, teacher or other adult. I can also call my local domestic violence or sexual assault crisis line anonymously. The more people who know what’s going on and can look out for me and support me, the safer I am. These are the people I can trust to help me:
- It is not safe to break up with my partner in an isolated place. I will try to do it in public with people nearby who are part of my safety plan. If necessary, I will do it by phone, letter or email. This is where and when I will break up with my boyfriend/girlfriend:
- This is who I will ask to be watching out for me during the break-up:
- I will be very clear with my boyfriend/girlfriend that I am ending the relationship and that my decision is final. These are the words I will use:
- I will try to be prepared for my boyfriend/girlfriend’s reaction. It could be violent, or my he/she may be very sad, or may try to be very sweet and win me back.
- After breaking up, I will avoid being alone with my ex boyfriend/girlfriend or being in a situation where s/he might try to corner me or talk me out of the break–up. This is what I will do if my ex tries to talk to me at my home, work, school or elsewhere:
- This is what I will say if my ex calls me:
- After breaking up, my ex may try to use other people to get through to me. If this happens, here is what I will say to them:
- Some other things I can do to keep myself safe:
- Keep a cell phone or calling card with me, along with important phone numbers.
- Ask friends, family and co-workers to screen my calls and not to relay notes or messages from my ex.
- Block my ex’s screen name so s/he cannot use Instant Messaging to bother me. Prevent my ex’s access to my page on Facebook, MySpace, or other web sites where I share information.
- Change my routine so I’m harder to locate.
- Ask an adult that I trust at school to help me stay safe when I am there.
- Have friends go to and from school with me and walk with me between classes.
- Tell friends, family and co-workers to call school staff or the police if they see my ex bothering me.
- Have someone I trust travel with me, sit with me, stay by me or watch out for me at my job, school events and other activities.
- Arrange to call someone I trust to let them know that I have arrived safely or that I’m OK. If I do not call as planned, I will tell them to call the police.
Adapted from the Wisconsin Coalition against domestic violence at wcadv.org