Preparing for a Violent Incident
- Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
- Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used to strangle you.
- Keep your cellphone charged and as accessible at all times as possible.
- Identify one or more neighbors you can trust, tell them about your situation, and ask them to call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home.
- Plan a code word or visual signal to use with trusted neighbors, friends, or family members for when you need help.
- Instruct your children not to get involved in the violence between you and your abuser. Instead, teach them how to get help and plan a code word to use with them to signal to them when they should get help or leave the house.
- Plan for what you will do if your children tell your abuser about your safety plan or if your abuser otherwise finds out about your safety plan.
- Pack a bag with money, spare keys, extra necessary medications, a change of clothes, and copies of important documents and keep it at the home of someone you trust.
- Practice getting you and your children out of your home safely.
- Identify which doors, windows, stairwell, or elevator to use.
- Plan where you will go if you have to leave your home.
Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
- Make a habit of parking your car where you cannot be blocked in, back your car into the driveway so you can drive away quickly without having to reverse, and keep your car fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and all the others locked for a quicker, safer escape if your abuser follows you to your car as you are trying to leave.
During a Violent Incident
- Follow your instincts and intuition and use your judgment. In some dangerous situations, it may be best to give your abuser what they want in that moment to calm them down until you can escape.
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are exits and no weapons. During an argument, try to move to those areas. Avoid arguing in bathrooms, the kitchen, the garage, or anywhere near weapons.
- Do not run to where your children are as your abuser may hurt them as well.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Get into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected, arms around each side of your head, fingers locked behind your head.
- If you can, call or text 911 with the address where you need help.
Preparing to Leave
- Open a checking or savings account in your own name.
- Get your own post office box.
- Keep money, spare keys, extra necessary medications, a change of clothes, and copies of important documents in a safe place or at the home of someone you trust.
- Plan a safe place where you can go and someone who is willing to loan you money.
- Keep your cellphone charged and with you. If you don’t have a cellphone, keep important phone numbers and a pre-paid phone card or some change for making emergency phone calls with you.
- If you have pets, make arrangements for them to be cared for in a safe place. You can contact the Knoxville Family Justice Center for referrals.
What to Take When You Leave
- Driver’s license and/or other photo I.D.
- Birth certificate
- Children’s birth certificates
- Social security cards
- Money and/or debit/credit cards in your name
- Checking/savings accounts information
- Order of Protection
- Lease/rental agreement or house deed
- Vehicle registration and insurance information
- Health and life insurance documents
- Medical records for you and your children
- School records
- Work permits/green card/visa and/or passport
- Marriage license or divorce and custody documents
- House and car keys
- Clothes for you and your children
- Children’s favorite blankets/toys
- Pictures and other possessions of sentimental value
- Valuable jewelry
- Address book
Obtaining an Order of Protection
- You can file for an Order of Protection at the Knoxville Family Justice Center or at the Fourth Circuit Court in the City-County Building.
- Always keep your Order of Protection with you.
- Inform your family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors that you have an Order of Protection in place.
- If your abuser violates the Order of Protection, call the police to report the violation. Before a violation occurs, plan ways you would stay safe until the police respond in the event of a violation.
- If you are working with an attorney and/or an advocate, let them know about the violation and inform the Court of the violation as well. If you are not already working with an attorney and/or advocate, you can get help with the violation at the Knoxville Family Justice Center.
- Document all violent and threatening incidents by listing dates, times, and witnesses of the events. Keep all voicemails, emails, and text messages from your abuser and take them to law enforcement, your attorney, and/or your advocate to record as evidence of violations of the Order of Protection.
- File a criminal complaint. Your abuser can be charged with a violation of the Order of Protection as well as any crimes committed during the violation. Your attorney and/or advocate can help you with this. If you do not already have an attorney and/or advocate, contact the Knoxville Family Justice Center.
After You Leave
Register with VINE, an automated victim notification service that can call, text, or email you when there are changes to your abuser’s criminal case or when they are released from custody.
In Your Own Home
- If you are staying in the home you shared with your abuser, change the entry locks as soon as possible and keep your windows locked. You can arrange to have your locks changed through the Knoxville Family Justice Center.
- Inform your neighbors and landlord that your abuser no longer lives with you and ask them to call the police if they see your abuser near your home.
- If you have moved, do not give your new address to your abuser.
- Make a safety plan with your children in case your abuser shows up when you are not with them.
- Inform your children’s school/daycare about who has or does not have permission to pick them up.
- Do not call your abuser from your phone. Your phone number will show up on caller ID and can help your abuser locate you.
- Request an unlisted/unpublished number from the phone company. Try to look up your number on the internet and, if it is there, request that it be removed.
On the Job and in Public
- If possible, change your work hours and/or location.
- Inform someone at work of your situation, especially security officers. Provide them with the name and a picture of your abuser.
- If possible, have someone screen your work calls.
- If possible, have someone walk with you to and from your car/the bus/the train.
- Don’t take the same route to and from work every day.
Digital Safety Planning for Tech-Enabled Abuse
- Change passwords and PIN numbers frequently.
- Check your cell phone settings. If your phone has a Location Services feature, toggle that feature off.
- Search your name on the internet to see if there are any results that contain your personal information. Remove any personal information that you find.
- Your abuser may be monitoring your activity on your devices. Consider only using safe devices that do not belong to you (such as a trusted family member’s or friend’s or a public device) from safe places (such as a public library, community center, or internet café) until you are able to make a digital safety plan with an advocate.
- Do not post anything you would not want your abuser to see
- Do not add your location or other personal information to posts
- Change your privacy settings to make your profiles private rather than public
- Monitor and control the content posted about you by your friends and followers.
- Only interact with people you know online. Do not trust friend/follow requests or messages from people you do not know.
- Do not save your passwords and change them frequently, using passwords your abuser would have no reference point for (e., do not use birth dates, pet names, etc.)
Important Phone Numbers
- Knoxville Family Justice Center: 865-521-6336
- McNabb Center’s Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline (24/7): 865-637-8000
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (24/7):
- Knox County Domestic Violence Shelters (24/7):