For many people who have been affected by sexual assault, immediate and long-term safety can be an ongoing concern. Safety planning is a personalized plan to stay safe that may also help reduce the risk of future harm and includes ways to ensure both physical and mental/emotional safety. It can include planning for how to handle a future crisis, how to cope with emotions, considering your options, and making decisions about your next steps. Finding ways to stay and feel safer can be an important step toward healing.
Safety planning looks different for everyone and can range from a full, comprehensive plan, to just identifying one or two resources that can help if needed. You can always reach out to Safe Helpline 24/7 by online chat or phone to safety plan with our trained staff members.
Some general tips for safety planning if you feel unsafe:
- Lean on a support network. Creating a list of people you trust to reach out to for support is important when staying safe and recovering from what happened. Identify people that you can build a safety plan with if you are ever feeling unsafe. Examples might include:
- Memorize essential phone numbers (Victim Advocates, family members, friends).
- Establish a list of people you trust to reach out to if you are in crisis, someone that can be contacted to support you, either in-person or remotely.
- Create a code word with friends and family members to alert them when you feel unsafe. It might be a code between you and your children that means “get out,” or with your support network that means “I need help.”
- Contact Safe Helpline for more ideas on safety planning, and building a support network.
- Become familiar with safe places. Identify safe places near you such as a local base/installation or civilian resource or a friend/family member’s house. Learn different routes to get to each location and commit them to memory.
- Keep computer safety in mind. If you think someone might be monitoring your computer use, consider regularly clearing your cache, history, and cookies. You could also use a different computer at a friend’s house or a public library.
- Prepare an excuse. Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times or for an existing situation that might become dangerous. Have these on hand in case you need to get away quickly.
Stalking is when an individual follows a pattern or patterns of behavior that leaves another individual feeling nervous, harassed, afraid, or unsafe. Stalking laws vary state to state, however, stalking is considered a crime in all 50 states. Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time.
Stalking laws and definitions differ from state to state. You can read more about your state’s laws by visiting the Stalking Resource Center. Stalking behavior can take many forms including:
- Making threats against someone, or that person's family or friends.
- Non-consensual communication, such as repeated phone calls, emails, text messages, and unwanted gifts.
- Repeated physical or visual closeness, like waiting for someone to arrive at certain locations, following someone, or watching someone from a distance.
- Any other behavior used to contact, harass, track, or threaten someone.
If you are experiencing stalking, remember that it is never your fault. However, it may be useful to think about some steps you can take to help keep you and your loved ones safe though a process called safety planning. Some safety plans can include:
- Being prepared to reach out. If possible, keep your cell phone charged and have emergency contact numbers programmed ahead of time. You may want to save these contacts under a different name. Memorize a few numbers in case you don’t have cell phone access in the future including the Safe Helpline Telephone Helpline number (877-995-5247).
- Changing your routine. Be aware of your daily routine such as routes you walk and times of day you visit certain areas of base. If possible, try to alter your routine over time. Visit the Stalking Resource Center for more ways to stay safe.
- Telling someone you trust. Safe Helpline is available 24/7 to help with safety planning and can connect you with on-base resources including your Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) or Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate (SAPR VA).
If you are in a domestic violence situation and need help, the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) is a base/installation resource available to you. You can use the installation locator here to locate FAP points of contact on your installation. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website here to learn more about safety planning.