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Fact Sheet

Assessing your safety

Steps you can take to stay safe

At times we underestimate the amount of danger we could be in either because we don’t realize we’re in danger, or we don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is. Being safe is important. Here are actions you can take to ensure your safety:

Assess the situation. Ask yourself: How likely is it that someone could hurt me? If it’s necessary, you might have to move to a location that is safer or not take risks that you could avoid, such as walking across campus or home from a bus stop alone late at night.

Find support. Making a decision to leave a situation or relationship, where you feel unsafe might be hard and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, like a friend, teacher, counselor, or other mental health professional.

Talk to the police. If you feel you are in imminent danger, call the police. They can also help if you’ve been hurt, know of someone who has or if someone has threatened your safety.

Believe in yourself. If someone is threatening to hurt you or harming you in any way, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence. Remember: It’s never O.K. for someone to hurt or threaten to hurt you.

Know your rights. It might be a good idea to check out your legal rights if you suspect someone is breaking the law. Harassment and assault laws, as well as other laws dealing with your safety, vary from state to state.

Prevent access to your internet activity. If someone is hurting you and you are searching for help on the internet, you may not want that person to have access to this information. It is also good to be cautious about your safety when using the internet in general. With so many forms of personal information on the internet, you have to be careful. The Nemours Foundation and Wired Safety offer several suggestions for internet safety. Check out the Safe online chat fact sheet for more information on this topic.

Stop and think about the consequences of taking unnecessary risks

Some things that jeopardize your safety are things you can control – like making good decisions about drinking and not driving, not drinking to the degree that your judgment becomes impaired, not going home with someone you don’t really know, not having unprotected sex, or taking other chances that could put your safety at risk. It’s particularly tempting when you first get out on your own and are not under your family’s eye to experiment and try things that you might not have tried before. That’s natural. But you can still be independent without making unsafe choices.

Consider a safety plan

It might be necessary to have a safety plan in place before you leave the situation where you feel unsafe. Consider these points before making your safety plan:

Have somewhere safe to go. If you can’t think of anywhere to stay, you might want to contact a shelter.

Tell someone. If possible, tell your friends and family members to see if they can help protect and support you. You might also want to talk to someone who’s removed from the situation, like a counselor, social worker, or one of the trained volunteers at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, or RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network at 1-800-656-4673 or the Boys Town National Hotline (1-800-448-3000). If you’re in immediate danger, call the police.

Have cash on hand. If you can, save some money so you can leave a situation that you don’t feel safe in. In these situations, you might need to pay for transportation or temporary housing, and having cash can make this easier.

Minimize your time alone. Remember: There’s safety in numbers. Try and be around other people whenever possible.

After you feel safe

Once the crisis has passed, it’s usually easier to work out what to do in the future should you find yourself in the situation again. If someone close to you is putting you in danger, it might be necessary to end your relationship with the person, which could include moving. This will probably be a hard step to take, so have as much support as possible. If you’re concerned for your safety in the future it might be necessary to talk to the police, change your phone number or screen your calls through an answering machine. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides important advice about protecting your identity after moving to a new location. You might want to check out the website even if you are not worried about a specific person, as it contains useful tips for anyone to protect him or herself.

Remember: There are many people and services that can help. Just talking to someone you trust about your concerns can help you see your options more clearly. The Get Help section has information about counselors, social workers, police and other professionals who can help you keep safe.

The following resources provided information for this fact sheet and can give you more information about this topic.

The National Domestic Abuse Hotline (1-800-799-7233) provides help to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The US Department of Agriculture, Safety, Welfare and Employee Division offers tips on what makes a good safety plan.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Nemours Foundation

Wired Safety

Last reviewed: Feb 27, 2013

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