Abusive relationships are common throughout the Chicago area. The people within these relationships are often confused and scared about where they should go or what they should do if the situation escalates to something dangerous. People who are involved in abusive or potentially abusive relationships should create a safety plan to prepare themselves for such an instance, and should have the plan in place before they attempt to leave their abusive partner. These plans can help both women and men to become empowered as they learn how to keep themselves safe in certain situations.

What is a safety plan?

Safety plans are personalized, practical plans that can help prepared individuals avoid dangerous situations and know how best to react if their lives are compromised. It aims to lower the risk of a victim being hurt by their abuser. A good plan includes the following:

  • Detailed information on how the victim can stay safe in all major places in their lives, including home, work, and school, as well as the best routes to take to and from important places that they often frequent
  • How to get home from these important places in an emergency
  • Information regarding how they will react during episodes of emotional abuse
  • Where to go if their abuser is actively looking for them
  • A codeword that alerts family and friends that a victim needs help without alerting the abuser.
  • Community resources they can use in an emergency, such as the contact information and location of police stations and domestic violence shelters

A good safety plan also includes having prepared items ready for a sudden departure, including important documents, such as birth certificates and a divorce decree, money, medications and a cell phone to which the abuser does not have access. 

Domestic violence     

It is very easy for victims to believe that their abusive relationship will not escalate, but in almost every case, domestic violence is a concern. Domestic violence incidents are much more likely to occur after a victim attempts to leave their abusive partner because abuse is about control. When a victim leaves, the abuser loses that control and may resort to escalated violence in order to regain it. The Chicago Police Department reported that in 2013 alone there were 48,141 reported domestic incidents, including 35,641 instances of simple battery, simple assault, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and offences against family and children. Out of 31 general domestic murders in the area, 17 involved intimate partners.

Victims of abuse in Illinois should contact their nearest domestic violence advocacy group for help in setting up a safety plan. Once that plan is in place, they can begin divorce and child custody proceedings to completely remove the abuser from their lives and take back control.