Technology Safety Planning with Survivors
Tips to discuss if someone you know is in danger
Technology can be very helpful to victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking, however it is important to also consider how technology might be misused.
- Trust your instincts. If you suspect the abusive person knows too much, it is possible that your phone, computer, email, driving or other activities are being monitored. Abusers, stalkers and perpetrators can act in incredibly persistent and creative ways to maintain power and control.
- Plan for safety. Navigating violence, abuse, and stalking is very difficult and dangerous. Advocates at the National Domestic Violence Hotline have been trained to technology issues, and can discuss options and help you in your safety planning. Local domestic violence and rape crisis hotline advocates can also help you plan for safety.
- Take precautions if you have a “techy” abuser. If computers and technology are a profession or a hobby for the abuser/stalker, trust your instincts. If you think he/she may be monitoring or tracking you, talk to hotline advocates or the police.
- Use a safer computer. If anyone abusive has access to your computer, he/she might be monitoring your computer activities. Try to use a safer computer when you look for help, a new place to live, etc. It may be safer to use a computer at a public library, community center, or internet café.
- Create new email or IM accounts. If you suspect that anyone abusive can access your email or instant messaging (IM), consider creating additional email/IM accounts on a safer computer. Do not create or check this new email/IM from a computer the abuser could access, in case it is monitored. Look for free web=based email accounts, and strongly consider using non-identifying name & account information. (example: email@example.com and not YourRealName@email.com)
- Check your cell phone settings. If you are using a cell phone provided by the abusive person, consider turning it off when not in use. Also many phones let you to “lock” the keys so a phone won’t automatically answer or call if it is bumped. When on, check the phone settings; if your phone has an optional location service, you may want to switch the location feature off/on via phone settings or by turning you phone on and off.
- Change passwords & pin numbers. Some abusers use victim’s email and other accounts to impersonate and cause harm. If anyone abusive knows or could guess your passwords, change them quickly and frequently. Think about any password protected accounts – online banking, voicemail, instant messaging, etc.
- Minimize use of cordless phones or baby monitors. If you don’t want others to overhear your conversations, turn baby monitors off when not in use and use a traditional corded phone for sensitive conversations.
- Use a donated or new cell phone. When making or receiving private calls or arranging escape plans, try not to use a shared or family cell phone because cell phone billing records and phone logs might reveal your plans to an abuser. Contact your local hotline program to learn about donation programs that provide new cell phones and/or prepaid phone cards to victims of abuse and stalking.
- Ask about your records and data. Many court systems and government agencies are publishing records to the internet. Ask agencies how they protect or publish your records and request that court, government, post office and others seal or restrict access to your files to protect your safety.
- Get a private mailbox and don’t give out your real address. When asked by businesses, doctors, and others for your address, have a private mailbox address or a safer address to provide. Try to keep your true residential address out of databases.
- Search your name on the internet. Major search engines such as “Google” or “Yahoo” may have links to your contact information. Search for your name in quotation marks: “Full Name”. Check phone directory pages because unlisted numbers might be listed if you gave your number to anyone.
Call the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224
Nation Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
(RAINN) directly connects you to a local U.S. rape crisis program near your phone number.
Personalized Safety plan for Adults
The following steps represent my plan to increase my safety and prepare in advance for the possibility of future violence. Although I do not have control over my partner’s violence, I do have a choice about how to respond to him/her and how to best get my children and myself to safety.
Step 1: Safety during a violent incident
You cannot always avoid violent incidents. In order to increase safety, those being abused may use a variety of strategies.
I can use some or all of the following strategies:
- If I decide to leave, I will ___________________ (practive how to get out safely. What doors, windows, elevators, stairwells or fire escapes would you use?)
- I can keep my purse/wallet and car keys ready and put them (place) ___________________ in order to leave quickly.
- I can tell _________________ about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my house. I also can tell __________________ about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my house.
- I can teach my children how to use the telephone to contact the police and the fire department.
- I will use________________________ as my code word with my children and/or my friends so they will know to call for help.
- If I have to leave the house, I will go____________________ or _____________________.
- I also can teach some of these strategies to some/all of my children.
- When I expect we are going to have an argument, I will try to move to a space that is lowest risk, such as _____________________ (Try to avoid arguments in rooms with weapons like the bathroom, garage, kitchen or in rooms without access to an outside door.)
- I will use my judgment and intuition. If the situation is very serious. I can give my partner what he/she wants to calm him/her. I have to protect myself until I/we are out of danger.
Step 2: Safety when preparing to leave
Battered individuals frequently leave the residence they share with the battering partner. Leaving the situation must be done with a careful plan in order to increase safety. Batterers often strike back when they believe their partner is leaving the relationship.
I can use some or all of the following safety strategies.
- I will leave money and an extra set of keys with ___________________________________ so I can leave quickly.
- I will keep copies of important documents (see step 8) or keys at____________________________________.
- I will open a savings account by ______________________________ to increase my independence.
- Other things I can do to increase my independence includes: _________________________________.
- The local Domestic Violence Program, the Family Crisis Shelter can be reached at (701)572-0757. I can seek shelter by calling the hotline (701)770-5180.
- I can keep change for phone calls on me at all times. I understand that if I use my telephone, credit card, the following month the telephone bill will tell my batterer those numbers that I called after I left. To keep my telephone communications confidential, I must use coins, purchase a calling card or maybe get a friend to allow me to use a telephone credit card for a limited time when I first leave.
- I will check with __________________ and ___________________ to see who would be able to let me stay with them and lend me some money.
- I can leave extra clothes with ____________________________________.
- I will sit down and revise my safety plan every ___________________________ in order to plan the safest way to leave my residence. ____________A domestic violence advocate or a friend has agreed to help me review this plan
- I will rehearse my escape plan and, as appropriate, practice it with my children.
Step 3: Safety in my own residence
There are many things that you can do to increase your safety in your own residence. It may be impossible to do everything at once, but safety measures can be added step by step.
Safety measures I can use include.
- I can change the locks on my doors and windows as soon as possible.
- I can replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors.
- I can install security systems, including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, and electronic system, etc.
- I can purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from second floor windows.
- I can install smoke detectors and purchases fire extinguishers for each floor of my house or apartment.
- I can install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my house.
- I will teach my children how to use the telephone to make a collect call to me and to __________________________(friend, faith leader,, other) in the event that my partner takes my children.
- I will tell people who take care of my children which people have permission to pick up my children and that my partner is not permitted to do so. The people I will inform about the pick-up permission include (school)_________________________ (daycare)__________________________ (teachers)__________________________ (others)________________________________
- I can inform ___________________________ (neighbor), ____________________________(minister, rabbi or other faith leader), and ______________________________ (friend) that my partner no longer resides with me and they would call the police if he is observed near my residence.
Step 4: Safety with a Protection Order
Many batterers obey protective orders, but no one can ever be sure which violent partner will obey a protective order and which will violate them. I recognize that I may need to ask the police and the courts to enforce my protection order.
The following are steps that I can take to help the enforcement of my protection order.
- Make copies of the protection order. If lost or thrown away, it will cost you to get another copy of the order.
- I will keep my protection order ____________________________(location). (Always keep it on or near your person. If you change purses/wallets, the order is the first thing that should be placed in your purse/wallet.)
- I will give copies of my protection order to police departments in the community where I work in those communities where I usually visit family or friends and in the community where I live.
- I can call the local Domestic Violence Program if I have problems with or question about my protection order.
- I will inform my employer, my minister/rabbi/faith leader, my closest friend, ______________and _____________________that I have a protective order in effect.
- If my partner destroys my protection order, I can get another copy from the clerk of the court.
- If my partner violates my protection order. I can call the police and go to the station and report the violation.
- If the police do not help, I can contact my domestic violence advocate, my attorney and/or the states attorney, and I can file a complaint with the chief of the police department or the sheriff.
- I also can file a show cause petition with the clerk of the court in the jurisdiction where the protection order was issued. If my partner commits a new crime, I can file a private criminal complaint with the state’s attorney in the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. I can call the domestic violence program to help me.
Step 5: Safety on the job and in public
Each battered woman/man must decide if and when they will tell others that their partner has battered them and that they may be at continued risk. Friends, family and coworkers can help to protect battered individuals. Each woman/man should consider carefully which people to invite to help secure their safety.
I might do any or all of the following:
- I can inform my boss, the security supervisor and____________________________________ at work of my situation.
- I can ask ____________________________________ to help screen my telephone calls at work.
- When leaving work, I can ________________________________________________________.
- When driving home if problems occur, I can__________________________________________.
- If I ride the bus or metro, I can_____________________________________________________.
- I can use different grocery stores and shopping malls to get what I need and I can shop at hours that are different from those my batterer might expect.
- I can use a different bank and take care of my banking at hours that are different from those I used when I was with my batterer.
- I also can______________________________________________________________________.
Step 6: Safety and drug or alcohol use
Many people use alcohol and/or mood-altering drugs. Much of this use is legal and some is not. The legal outcomes of using illegal drugs can be very hard on a battered person and may hurt their relationship with their children and put them at a disadvantage in other legal actions with their battering partner. Therefore, women/men should carefully consider the potential cost of the use of illegal drugs. Beyond this, the use of any alcohol or other drugs can reduce the awareness and ability to act quickly and self-protect against a battering partner. Furthermore, the use of alcohol or other drugs by the batterer may give them an excuse to use violence. Therefore, in the context of drug or alcohol use, a woman needs to make specific safety plans.
If drug or alcohol use has occurred in my relationship with my batterer, I can enhance my safety by some or all of the following:
- If I am going to use, I can do so in a safe place and with people who understand the risk of violence and are committed to my safety.
- I also can _____________________________________________________________________.
- If my partner is using, I can _______________________________________________________.
- I also might ____________________________________________________________________.
- To safeguard my children, I might __________________________________________________.
Step 7: safety and my emotional health
The experience of being battered and abused in other ways (verbally, sexually, financially, etc.) is exhausting and emotionally draining. The process of building a new life for myself takes much courage and incredible energy.
To conserve my emotional energy and resources and to avoid hard emotional times, I can do some or all of the following.
- If I feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can ______________________________________________________________________________.
- When I have to communicate with my abuser in person or by telephone, I can ______________________________________________________________________________.
- I can try to use “I can….” Statements with myself and to be assertive with others.
- I can tell myself “_______________________________________________________________” whenever I feel others are trying to control or abuse me.
- I can read ______________________________________ to help me feel stronger.
- I can call _______________________________, ______________________ and/or ________________________________ as other resources to support me.
- Other things I can do to help me feel stronger are ______________________________, ______________________________, and _____________________________________.
- I can attend workshops and support groups at the domestic violence program or ______________________________________to _____________________________________ or ______________________________________________to gain support and strengthen my relationships with other people.
Step 8: Items to take when leaving
If you leave your partner, it is important to take certain items with you. Some people also give an extra copy of papers and an extra set of clothing to a friend just in case they have to leave qfuickly.
When I leave, I should take the following items. These items might be best placed in one location, so that if I/we have to leave in a hurry, I can grab them quickly.
- Identification for myself
- Children’s birth certificates
- My birth certificate
- Social security cards
- School and vaccination records
- Checkbook, ATM or debit card
- Credit cards
- Keys – house, car, office, etc.
- Driver’s license and registration
- Protection order, if there is one
OTHER ITEMS YOU MAY WANT:
- Welfare identification
- Work permits
- Green card
- Divorce papers
- Medical records
- Lease/rental agreement, house deed and or mortgage payment book
- Bank books
- Insurance papers
- Small, salable objects
- Address book
- Children’s favorite toys and/or blankets
- Items of special sentimental value