How to plan for your safety if you are in an abusive relationship

It's important to make a plan to keep you and your children safe. Ask someone you trust to help you, or contact local services.

Even if you're not planning to leave the relationship, a safety plan can help if the abuse gets worse. You may need to leave in a hurry. Take actions that make sense for you and are safe for you and your children.

5 steps to make your safety plan

  1. Do your research
  2. Decide how you can leave quickly or stay safely
  3. Talk to your children
  4. Gather important items
  5. Be careful about your computer

1. Do your research

  • Talk to family, friends or a trusted professional who can help you make plans.
  • Get legal advice about your rights.
  • Find services in your area, such as shelters and financial aid.

2. Decide how you can leave quickly or stay safely

If you stay: Tips to live more safely

  • Tell someone you trust about the abuse.
  • Think about your partner's past use and level of force. This will help you predict danger and decide when to leave.
  • Create a plan to get out of your home safely and practice it with your children.
  • Choose the closest place to call for help, such as a coffee shop or neighbour's house.
  • Decide where you will go (for example, a friend's house or local shelter, safe home or transition house) and how you will get there.
  • Ask your neighbours, friends and family to call the police if they hear abuse and to look after your children in an emergency.
  • Park your car by backing it into the driveway. Keep it fuelled.
  • Hide your keys, cell phone and some money near your escape route.
  • Have a list of phone numbers to call for help.
  • Your local shelter or police may be able to equip you with a panic button or cell phone.
  • Make sure all weapons and ammunition are hidden or removed from your home.

In an emergency

  • If an argument is developing, move to a space where you can get outside easily, such as near a door or window.
  • During a violent episode, avoid rooms where you could be trapped, or where there are weapons, such as knives, that could be used against you.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and tell them what happened to you. Ask them to document your visit.
  • If you are being hurt, protect your face with your arms around each side of your head, with your fingers locked together. Don't wear scarves or long jewelry.

If you are planning to leave (non-emergency)

  • Contact a local women's shelter (even if they are unable to take in abused men, women's shelters usually have information to help all victims of abuse). Let them know that you plan to leave an abusive situation and ask for support in safety planning.
  • Consider contacting the police. Ask for an officer who specializes in partner abuse cases.
  • Gather important documents and personal items.
  • Consult a lawyer. Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as photos. Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events, threats and any witnesses.
  • Arrange with someone to care for your pets temporarily, until you get settled. A shelter may help with this.
  • Clear your phone of the last number you called to avoid the abuser using redial.
  • Clear your computer.

As you leave

  • Request a police escort or ask a friend, neighbour or family member to accompany you when you leave.
  • Do not tell your partner you are leaving.
  • Leave quickly.
  • Have a back-up plan if your partner finds out where you are going.

After leaving

  • If you are staying in the home, change the locks and get an unlisted phone number and caller ID.
  • Block your number when calling out.
  • Change your passwords.
  • Consider applying for a restraining order or peace bond to help keep your partner away from you and your children. Keep it with you at all times.
  • Provide police with a copy of any legal orders you have.
  • Consider changing any service provider that you share with your ex-partner.
  • Carry a photo of the abuser and your children with you in case of emergencies.
  • Consider telling your supervisor at work about your situation.
  • Think about places and patterns that your ex-partner will know about and try to change them. For example, consider using a different grocery store.
  • If you feel unsafe walking alone, ask a neighbour, friend or family member to accompany you.
  • If you have moved out, do not return to the home unless accompanied by the police. Never confront the abuser.

3. Talk to your children

In advance

  • Tell your children that abuse is never right, even when someone they love is being abusive.
  • Tell them the abuse isn't your fault or their fault; they did not cause it, and neither did you.
  • Teach them that it's important to keep safe when there is abuse.
  • Teach your children how to get help. Tell them not to get between you and your partner if there is violence.
  • Create a plan to get out of your home safely and practice it with your children.
  • Together, pick a safe place in the house where they can hide if the violence starts, ideally with a locked door and a phone.
  • Agree on a code word so they will know when to call for help.

In an emergency

  • Teach children how to call the police and stay on the phone until the police arrive.
  • Have them practice saying their full name and address, and tell them what to say about the violence.
  • Don't run to the children, as your partner may hurt them as well.
  • Pick a safe place to meet outside so that you can easily find each other.

4. Gather important items

Government documents (originals or copies)

  • birth certificates
  • social insurance card
  • driver's license
  • health cards
  • passports
  • court orders
  • immigration papers or treaty cards

Financial items

  • mortgage or lease
  • information about loans or assets
  • cash
  • credit cards
  • debit cards
  • cheques

Personal items

  • important phone numbers (friends, services, shelters)
  • keys
  • phone
  • medications (or a list if you don't have time to gather them)
  • other items, such as:
    • toiletries
    • toys
    • photos
    • sentimental items

If you can't keep some of your documents in your home for fear your partner will find them, consider making copies and leaving them with someone you trust. Your local women's shelter will also keep them for you. If you have children, tell their school or day care centre about the situation and give them copies of all relevant documents.

5. Be careful about your computer

  • Computers keep a record of the places you visit on the internet and the emails you send. There is no sure way to delete all this information.
  • An abuser can monitor your online activity and history. Use a computer at work, a friend's house, or the library.
  • Log out after using a computer and clear your browser history.
  • Never share your passwords.
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be particularly risky:
    • don't use your own name or post personal information
    • update your privacy settings
    • consider closing your accounts

How to clear your browser

Your computer contains critical information which could put you in danger. Here are general guidelines for removing information from the browser history:

Internet Explorer:

  • Go to "Tools" at the top of screen and select "Delete Browsing History".


  • Delete recent activities by going to "Tools" and selecting "Clear recent history." Delete past activities by clicking on "History" at the top of the screen. Click on the website you want to remove from your history and hit the "delete" button on your keyboard.


  • Click on "History" at the top of the screen and select "Show Full History". Click on "Edit items..." on the right side of the screen. Check the boxes next to the websites you wish to remove and click on "Remove selected items", or select "Clear all browsing data..." to remove all information about the web pages that have been visited.

Additional resources


Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children

Page details

Date modified: