When you want out, we’re on your team. Because we are safer together.
Are you in danger now?
Call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800−799−7233
Select the step you’re currently in for relevant safety and security information. Check back before you move into a new phase to find out what you need to consider.
STEP 1: STAY SAFE
Step 2: Use Technology Safely
Step 3: Find Resources and Get Help
Choose the phase you’re currently in for relevant safety and security information.
Remember Need to Know. Only tell people about your plans if they absolutely need to know and can be trusted. Limit the number of people that know your plan; even if you trust them, they may be tricked into giving up your location.
Know your plan. Think ahead and plan where you can go when you need to leave. Know where to find family justice centers- they have free advocates, legal resources and other assistance. They also know how to put you in touch with safe houses, food and clothing resources and more. Churches may also be able to provide food, gas cards, and other resources.
Be careful of your browsing history. Most browsers keep a record of websites you visit. Whenever you’re researching new locations, shelters, or anything else related to you plan, use “private browsing” or “incognito” mode. Alternately, download the Tor Browser Bundle to browse securely. Although the Tor Browser Bundle is a secure, private way to browse the internet, be aware that it runs from a folder that may be found. You can hide this folder or run it from a thumb drive for added security.
Delete text messages or emails that might reveal your plans.
Keeping a “Go bag”. It’s a good idea to pack a “go bag” with enough clothes, money and essentials to last for a few days, as well as important documents and records. However, this bag must not be kept anywhere that can be found. Keep it at a safe location, such as work, a storage locker, a trusted (and preferably not mutual) friend’s house, etc.
Prepare, but don’t spend too much time preparing. The longer you take to prepare, the greater the chance of detection. Life and safety is more important than any possession; if you need to leave, leave as soon as you can. If you have time to take the bare essentials, do so.
Bring as much cash as possible, or know where you can borrow some. Do not use credit cards if the abuser has any way of seeing what’s been charged and where. If you borrow money, make sure it’s from a trusted friend or relative that has no connection to the abuser.
Tell your kids what they need to know. Children are likely aware of the violence, but may not be sure what they can or can’t share. Tell them that if there’s violence, it’s their job to get to safety, not to intervene. Teach them how to find a safe place and call 911. Establish an “emergency word” to use with your children, which would indicate that they need to get to an established safe area.
Document the abuse. Take photos of injuries and save any written or recorded threats. Keep a journal documenting incidents. All of this information should be kept in a place inaccessible by the abuser, such as a secure email account.
Know what to do if you’re in immediate danger. Move away from anywhere with dangerous objects, such as the kitchen or bathroom. If possible, secretly designate an area of the house as ‘secure’ by moving any dangerous objects out of it. This area should also offer clear escape routes.
Know your escape routes. Plan ahead for which routes offer quick and safe escape routes. Practice the routes with your children, and establish a code word so they know when to escape and call the police. Make sure they understand to keep this code word secret.
Avoid wearing necklaces or scarves.
Secure weapons. Keep guns locked up and unloaded; secure bladed weapons. Program 911 into your phone, so you don’t have to dial it. If you need to secretly get help, you can pretend you’re ordering a pizza or some other food delivery. In most sizable cities, 911 operators can find you using your phone’s location so know if you’re in one of those areas. If you call 911 but don’t say anything, they will find you if possible. Just be careful of the speaker volume.
Know what to look for to make sure you’re not being followed. Look several car lengths back, not just immediately behind you. If you think you’re being followed, simple checks can help to make sure. For example, make a u-turn and see if anyone else does the same thing. Drive slightly below the speed limit and see if anyone doesn’t pass you. Make a series of turns and see if the same car follows you. If you feel you’re being followed, pull into a police station parking lot or call the police.
If your vehicle has OnStar or a similar service, call to either cancel tracking entirely or set a password to ensure no one else can find the vehicle’s location using their “find my family” service.
Remove anything identifying from your vehicle, such as bumper stickers or things visible in the window or hanging from the mirror.
You need to assume that you are being watched and followed. Do not take the most direct route to your destination, especially if you are going to a location that you’ve been to before. If someone is behind you, walk into a well lit and populated area. Avoid moving towards your destination if you are being followed.
If driving, you need to keep the following in mind.
• You need to look several cars back, not just the ones immediately behind you.
• Your car may have a tracker installed, do not, under any circumstances park at or near your destination. If possible, walk as far as you can from your vehicle, and have an intermediary pick you up and transport you the rest of the way. Multiple hops will make you safer, so do so if you can.
• Avoid locations with traffic, it’s actually easier for someone to observe you when you’re moving slowly
If you feel like someone is directly behind you, here are some basic things that you can do to confirm.
• Wait excessively long at stop signs
• Stop at a green light, and only go through when it turns yellow
• At a stop sign, put your blinker on for the opposite of the direction you plan on turning, if the follower does the same, you know with almost certainty that you’re being followed.
Change website passwords. Even if you’re pretty sure that no one else knew them. Make sure to change your social media, bank and email passwords. Take this opportunity to enable two-factor authentication (2FA), sometimes referred to as multifactor authentication. This can help protect your account even if your password is compromised.
Get a new phone. One option is to purchase an inexpensive, reloadable cell phone from any major retailer. These phones, commonly referred to as “burner phones” will have no connection to the abuser and can help you keep in touch with your support system. Another option is to visit a retail location for your provider and have them move you over to a new plan. If they don’t offer you a new phone with the plan, make sure they perform a factory reset of the device to ensure any apps that could track your location are removed. Make sure your new number is unlisted.
Consider deleting all social media accounts. Posts on social media may directly reveal your location, or it may give information that can be used to determine your location. If you choose to keep your social media accounts, be very careful posting anything about your location or destination. Be 100% certain that the none of the abuser’s coworkers, former coworkers, friends, relatives, contacts- anyone that could possibly pass information to them- can see your posts. Then, make sure that none of your contacts know those people as well.
Get a new email account. Make a new email account that doesn’t include your name. Don’t back it up with any email tied to you or your phone number. You can keep phone numbers, photos, and other digital copies in this email account.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) to find shelter information, or just if you need to talk. They’re there for you 24/7.
Resist the urge to contact family and friends through social media or to turn your mobile devices back on until someone shows you how to do so safely. These can be used to track you. If you need to contact someone (extremely close friends or relatives) ask someone how to do so safely. It is normal to want to tell people that you are okay, just have someone help you to mitigate the risks.
If the abusive partner had access to your cell phone or your account, you may be asked to remove your phone’s battery, and maybe even wrap it in tinfoil to block any transmissions. Although this may sound a little bit extreme, this might be done because a cell phone may be used to track you or find out where you’re going.
The shelter staff will help you navigate the complex legal issues, such as divorce and the laws related to leaving the state.
Come up with a safety plan at work. Your employer can screen your calls, assign a new phone number, move your desk, and provide an escort to your car.
If available, ask for a transfer, and make sure all of your coworkers know not to disclose where you moved to. This is usually pretty simple, and most employers are understanding regarding this matter.
Provide a photo of your abuser to building security. This would allow quick identification and make sure they know not to allow them into the building.
Inform your employer and coworkers of your situation. If you are at a point where you have to interact with the public, ask for a temporary reassignment to somewhere that you don’t have to be visible to the public.
Your laptop is also a major potential threat vector. Reinstall windows if that’s what you are using and you aren’t comfortable with changing. It is possible that a bug was installed on your system. Try to create the windows installation media on a separate computer (preferably a public one) and do the reinstallation offline. This should help protect you. If you are comfortable switching operating systems, it is highly advised that you switch to Linux.
Once you have a fresh operating system installed, you should immediately go to https://Torproject.org and install the tor browser bundle. From this point onwards, you should only connect to the internet through Torerqew.
There’s a certain risk when using your phone or computer to search for resources or to communicate with your support system. But there’s a few steps you can take to stay safe.
Operation: Safe Escape can send you a tool that allows you to search the web and communicate with others securely and without leaving a trace.
It’s a simple thumb drive that you plug into your computer; when you reboot, you’re in an entirely new operating system that doesn’t keep track of anything you do. See how it works here.
We’ll send a free copy with to a safe address of your choosing. Just let us know where to send it:
Now that you know how to stay safe and gain access to resources securely, use any of the following resources to help you:
Summon help (without looking like you’re summoning help): An infographic showing different ways to summon help in an emergency when it’s not safe to call 911.
Create a safety and security plan: This tool will allow you to generate your own safety plan and send it to an email address that only you can access.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Phone hotline and chat to get help, or simply talk to someone that cares.
Shelter and Safe House Search: Search for local resources. If they’re not currently using our Shelter and Safe House Security Plan, please feel free to refer them to this page.
Other Resources and Links: A large list of resources maintained by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
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Operation: Safe Escape is the collaborative effort of trained, certified, and experienced security professionals from all over the country. Experts in physical security, computer security, operations security.