How to create a domestic violence safety plan in case of emergency

Domestic violence spikes every holiday season; experts worry this year will be worse

SAN ANTONIO – Advocates and experts report every year that domestic violence spikes during the holidays when family is gathered and stressors increase.

The pressure of the pandemic and stay-home recommendations make this holiday season especially dangerous.

Advocates say that’s why it’s more important than ever for victims to have a safety plan in place.

The first part of a safety plan is tough for some people: setting up contacts you can alert during an emergency, whether it’s family, friends, neighbors or coworkers.

“You should have a code word, code phrase so that the abuser doesn’t even know what you’re talking about,” said victim’s advocate Dalia Rivas.

Rivas helps train SAPD’s Crisis Response Team officers and joins them in assisting victims of domestic violence.

She tells victims she works with that they should have a bag ready to go in case they need to leave quickly.

“We would want you to have a bag somewhere with documents, maybe an extra key, a bit of extra cash,” Rivas said.

If you’re still in the relationship, Rivas said try to move arguments to safer rooms.

“Stay away from rooms like the kitchen, where there are many things that can be used as weapons. And, try to avoid rooms with only one exit like a bathroom,” Rivas said.

When you do leave, create distance.

“If they don’t have a place to go, we can make those arrangements for them in a safe location where the batterer isn’t going to have access to them,” Rivas said.

The Battered Women and Children’s Shelter is always open whether someone needs to stay one night or several months. It is run by Family Violence Prevention Services, which provides all encompassing services including case work, counseling, legal help, etc.

Rivas said to call or text 911 at any point, whether you’re leaving, going back to get items, or even doing a custody exchange for your child.

The crisis response team can go with you, and then lead you to resources.

“Where to go to apply for a protective order, how to go about initiating charges, we try to educate them on the domestic violence dynamics,” she explained.

The CRT is dedicated solely to domestic violence cases in San Antonio. There are 30 officers and 20 civilian advocates spread out between all the SAPD substations.

To reach them when there isn’t a direct emergency, call the substation nearest you or call SAPD’s non-emergency number at 210-207-7273.

There are also a full list of resources on KSAT’s Domestic Violence webpage.

National Domestic Violence Hotline full safety plan for those living with abusers:

- 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.

Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website for other lists for safety planning with children, pets, or while pregnant.

You can call the hotline at any time at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat with an advocate live on their website.

About the Authors: