Protecting Yourself Against Domestic Abuse

If you live with someone who abuses you or if someone is stalking you, you need to take immediate measures to protect yourself. You’re in extra danger if your abuser or stalker talks about murder or suicide. You’re also in particular danger if you are thinking about leaving an abusive relationship.

Because of the risk of being seriously hurt or killed when leaving an abusive relationship, it’s important to develop a safe plan for departure. The National Doemstic Violence Hotline site provides Hotlines for help. People who are staffing the phones or answering email can advise you on how to protect yourself, refer you to other services and domestic violence shelters, and inform you about local laws and restraining orders.

If you’re still living with your abusive partner:

Domestic Violence Escape Kit - Pack a survival kit.

Money for cab fare

A change of clothes

Extra house and car keys

Birth certificates

Driver’s license or passport

Medications and copies of prescriptions

Insurance information


Credit cards

Legal documents such as separation agreements and protection orders

Address books

Valuable jewelry

Papers that show jointly owned assets

Conceal it in the home or leave it with a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative. Important papers can also be left in a bank deposit box.

Know your abuser’s red flags.

Be on alert for signs and clues that your abuser is getting upset and may explode in anger or violence. Come up with several believable reasons you can use to leave the house (both during the day and at night) if you sense trouble brewing.

Identify safe areas of the house. Know where to go if your abuser attacks or an argument starts. Avoid small, enclosed spaces without exits (such as closets or bathrooms) or rooms with weapons (such as the kitchen). If possible, head for a room with a phone and an outside door or window.

Be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Keep the car fueled up and facing the driveway exit, with the driver’s door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get it quickly.

Have emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents stashed in a safe place (at a friend’s house, for example).

Practice escaping quickly and safely. Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser.

If you have children, have them practice the escape plan also. Come up with a code word. Establish a word, phrase, or signal you can use to let your children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers know that you’re in danger and the police should be called.

Make and memorize a list of emergency contacts. Ask several trusted individuals if you can contact them if you need a ride, a place to stay, or help contacting the police.

Memorize the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline.

Keep change and cash on you at all times. Know where the nearest public phone is located, and have change available so you can use it in an emergency situation to call for help. Also try to keep cash on hand for cab fare.

Additionally, to keep yourself safe from domestic abuse and violence you should document all abuse. If you’ve been injured, take photographs. If you have been abused in front of others, ask witnesses to write down what they saw.

Finally, don’t hesitate to call the police if your abuser has hurt you or broken the law. Contact the police even if you just think your abuser might have broken a law. Assaulting you, stealing from you, and destroying your property are all crimes.

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