Safety planning is an essential step in working with DFV victim-survivors. It is a process where the practitioner guides the DFV victim-survivor to consider their situation and to assess what practical measures they could implement to feel and be safer. These measures are often written down in a safety plan document and kept somewhere safe.
Most DFV victim-survivors will already have developed a number of strategic ways to keep themselves and any children safe, which should be incorporated into the safety plan. The practitioner should treat each DFV victim-survivor as the expert on their own situation and the best judge of what is safe and realistic in that situation, rather than assuming they know what will work best.
Each DFV victim-survivor’s circumstances are different. A safety plan needs to be tailored to their personal circumstances and the particular dynamics of their DFV relationship. Safety plans are relevant when a victim-survivor is living in a DFV relationship but also when they are preparing to leave or have left the relationship, as the most dangerous time in a DFV relationship is often when the DFV victim-survivor leaves. However, the nature of the safety plan will be different, depending on whether or not a DFV victim-survivor is still living in the abusive relationship. Any safety plan developed while a DFV victim-survivor was living in the abusive relationship should therefore be reviewed and adapted to their new circumstances once they leave that relationship.
There is no standard safety plan tool or template used across NSW and services tend to develop their own safety planning tools. The following are some good quality safety planning resources to consider:
- DV West has developed two separate safety planning handbooks, one for when the DFV victim-survivor is living in a DFV relationship and one for after they have left the relationship. Both are available here.
- Insight Exchange has produced My Safety Kit, which is designed to help people reflect on and understand the DFV they are experiencing as well as to start developing safety strategies.
- Relationships Australia has published Safe From Violence: A Guide for Women Leaving or Separating. It explains what DFV is and sources of help and support for women and provides a safety planning guide.
- SEWACS has developed a free app, called Safe Around Me, that includes safety planning ideas and a location-aware list of local services. (Note that practitioners should be careful about encouraging a DFV victim-survivor to use an app if they are subject to technology-facilitated abuse. The victim-survivor should consider whether installing an app will increase risks to their safety).
- Tangentyere Family Violence Prevention Program has developed safety planning cards that are culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse clients experiencing DFV. These cards can also be used for risk assessment. You can order them here.