In an ideal world, leaving an abusive relationship would be as simple as walking out the door. But for too many, escaping from their abuser is a complicated, harrowing and potentially violent ordeal.

Whether you live with your abuser and are considering leaving or sense that a loved one may be in danger, those in abusive situations must have a safety plan in place before they get out. A safety plan is a practical strategy that helps you to avoid dangerous scenarios and establishes how you will react when you are in peril. An essential aspect of a safety plan is having a go-bag ready and waiting.

Having a go-bag packed with all your essentials can help ensure you and your children can evacuate quickly and safely if things should escalate with your abuser.

What to take with you

What you pack in your go-bag will depend on your specific circumstances and experiences. However, you should try to include the things you will need if you are unable to return to your home for a while. In many cases, going back to get more things may not be an option.

You may consider including the following in your go-bag:

  • Important documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports or social security numbers for you and your children
  • Marriage, divorce or custody documents
  • Health insurance and medical records
  • Retraining orders or legal protections
  • Cash or prepaid credit cards that your abuser cannot trace
  • A prepaid cell phone that your abuser can’t trace
  • Clothing for you and your children
  • Any prescription medications for you and your family
  • Beloved keepsakes
  • A spare set of keys for your home and car

It would be best if you keep your bag in an easily accessible spot that only you know about in case you have to leave in a hurry. It could be in the trunk of your car, near the front door or given to a trusted friend. Whenever possible, make sure your phone always has a full charge, and your vehicle has a full tank of gas.

Anyone affected by abuse or in need of help can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for additional resources and support. Advocates can even help you develop your safety plan.

Remember, you are not alone, and you deserve to be safe.