Safety Planning

Safety planning for victims of stalking cannot be a strict set of guidelines intended for the protection of the victim, but rather practical information to assist victims with their personal safety and security. There are no guarantees that implementing the following strategies will keep a victim safe, but they may reduce the risk of physical or emotional harm from a stalker.

 

Some victims of stalking can be at immediate risk of physical or emotional danger, while others may live with potential danger, but not be immediately at risk of harm. Safety plans for victims require constant flexibility, and most importantly, the input of the victim.

 

It is also important to note that intervention can often make the situation worse.  Apprehended Violence Orders are no guarantee that a perpetrator’s behaviour will not be antagonised.

 

There is no guarantee you will be safe even if you follow all or some of these guidelines. But by having a safety plan you can greatly increase your chances.

 

What is a Stalking Safety Plan?

A safety plan is a combination of suggestions, plans and responses created to help victims reduce their risk of harm.  It is a tool designed in response to the victim's specific situation that evaluates what the victim is currently experiencing, incorporates the pattern of stalking behaviour, and examines options that will positively impact the victim's safety.  

 

While victims can make their own safety plan, it is often helpful to enlist the assistance of trained professionals such as police, counsellors and advocates from domestic violence and rape crisis centres. Such professionals can help a victim determine which options will best enhance their safety and will work to devise a safety plan to address each unique situation and circumstance.

 

What to include in a Safety Plan

When considering what to include on a safety plan, victims can consider what is known about the stalker. In the majority of cases, the victim will know their stalker, particularly if they have been or are still in a relationship with the perpetrator. The stalker’s habits, attitudes, routines, behaviours and idiosyncrasies should be defined in terms of victim safety.

 

The improvement of the victim’s personal safety and security requires an analysis of the environment in which the victim lives and works. This not only includes household security and the need to change routines, but also issues concerning passwords and pin numbers.

 

Another important aspect of the safety plan is what to do in case of an emergency. Unfortunately, there is no single psychological or behavioural profile that can predict what stalkers will do, or the lengths their behaviour will escalate to. Victims of stalking cannot predict this level of violence, but they can determine their own responses by a well prepared emergency plan.

 

Safety plans need to be continually revised and updated given the average stalking case can last up to two years and the possibility of escalating violence is always pending.

Considerations in safety planning:

Evaluate the seriousness of the situation

Replace terror with sensible precautions

Consider Apprehended Violence Orders

Should you try to ‘disappear’, and if so, how?

How to protect your children

Maintaining your privacy

Identify strategies that don’t work

 

General Safety tips:

Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs): Consider obtaining an order for your protection. Treat all threats, whether direct or indirect, as legitimate and inform the police immediately. AVOs are not foolproof. They can only be enforced if they are breached. Police also require evidence that the conditions on the order were breached. Victims who obtain AVOs should be cautioned against developing a false sense of security.

 

Taking out an Apprehended Violence Order

There are two types of Apprehended Violence Orders.

·         Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO): is an AVO made where the people involved are related, living together or in an intimate relationship, or have been in this situation earlier.

·         Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO): is an AVO made where the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic or personal relationship, for example, they are neighbours.

If you are in fear for your safety, you can report your fears and experience to the police, and police officers can apply for an AVO on your behalf. Alternatively, you can make a private complaint through the Chamber Registrar at a Local Court.

 

Children affected by violence can be included on your AVO, or a separate application can be made for them. A police officer is the only person who can apply for an Apprehended Violence Order for a child under 16 years.

 

Urgent Protection

A provisional order can be applied for if urgent protection is required. Police can apply for a provisional order for your immediate protection through an authorised justice 24 hours a day. This order restricts the offender’s behaviour in order to protect you, until the matter can be heard in court.

 

  Attending Court

You will need to attend court so that a Magistrate can decide whether to make the Apprehended Violence Order. The defendant will also be issued with a summons to attend court to answer the complaint.

 

Mobile phones: Keep a phone readily accessible. If using a mobile phone, ensure you have adequate coverage, particularly in regional areas. You may wish to drive around between work, home and leisure activities to ensure that you’re not in a black spot for coverage.

Routines: Vary routines, including changing routes to work, shopping centres and other places visited frequently.  Try to vary the stores where you frequently shop.

Unlisted telephone numbers: Get a new, unlisted phone number. If possible, keep the old number active and connected to an answering machine or voicemail. Have a friend screen the calls and save any messages from the stalker. These messages, particularly if abusive or threatening, can be used as evidence in a stalking case. Mobile phone numbers can also be changed to unlisted numbers by contacting your service provider.

 Note: If you have moved to a residence unknown to the stalker, an unlisted number will not appear in the phone book or white pages with your address. There is a small monthly fee involved in having an unlisted number.

Silent elector status: Consider becoming a silent elector on the electoral roll. Anyone who believes that having their address shown on the publicly available electoral roll could put their personal safety, or their family’s safety at risk, can apply for silent elector status. Being a silent elector means that the person’s address will not be shown on the publicly available electoral roll.

Note: Silent elector status is not granted automatically. The Divisional Returning Officer will consider each application and a decision will be made based on whether the claims made by the applicant meet the conditions for silent elector status.

Electors who wish to apply for silent elector status must read page one of the application form to ascertain whether they meet specific criteria. If the elector believes they meet the criteria, they can complete the form on-line, then print and sign it before forwarding to the Australian Electoral Commission. The silent elector forms are attached as an appendix to this chapter.

Real estate agents: If you are renting your home, consider informing the real estate agency of your stalking situation and gain an undertaking from them that they will not divulge your address to anyone.

Post office boxes: Consider having all your mail, including magazine subscriptions sent to a post office box. If you live in a unit complex, this will prevent the stalker from finding your actual address. Destroy all discarded mail containing your name and address.

Telstra Malicious Calls Service: Malicious calls can include hang up calls where you hear the caller put the receiver down followed by the busy tone; or silence, hoax obscene or abusive calls where the caller holds the line open with silence or speaks in an abusive or obscene manner. If you have noticed a pattern in the unwelcome calls, contact your nearest Telstra outlet, or contact Telstra’s national Unwelcome Calls Centre on 1800 805 996, or an enquiry form can be completed on line at the website www.telstra.com.au

 

Safety at Home:

Doors: Install solid core doors with dead bolts. Fix any broken windows or doors.

Keys: If all keys cannot be accounted for, change the locks and secure the spare keys. Never leave your house keys unattended at work etc, where the stalker may have access to them. Change all locks if the stalker has been known to you.

Security cameras within your home: Consider buying a spy camera that can be connected to your VCR or DVD recorder. These cameras can be purchased for around $80.00. Movement activated cameras can be purchased for around $300.00 and plug into a power point. Both will record any unwanted intruders in your home.

Evacuation plan: Have a thorough safety plan that incorporates an emergency evacuation plan. Identify escape routes out of your house.

Tradesmen: Obtain the name and description of the tradesman who will be attending your residence. Positively identify the person before opening the door. Install a wide-angle view in the primary door.

External lighting: Consider installing veranda lights and floodlights around your home that are on a timer or with motion activation.

House number: Ensure your house number is clearly visible from the street, or have the number painted on the gutter. If emergency services can’t find your house they can’t find you!

External garden: Trim shrubbery, especially away from doors and windows.

Fuse box: Keep the fuse box locked. Have flashlights, candles, matches, or lanterns on standby in each room.

Alarms: Install an alarm system if finances permit.

Trusted people: Inform trusted neighbours, and if you live in a unit block, any on-site managers about the situation. Provide them with a photo or description of the stalker and any vehicle that he may drive. If you have an Apprehended Violence Order and depending on the conditions of the order, neighbours should call the police if they see the stalker at your house. Rely on trusted family and friends to retrieve your mail. Have people at work or school screen your phone calls. Relying on trusted friends and family is important for victims of stalking to reduce isolation and feelings of desperation that may be experienced.

Emergency bag: Pack a bag with important items you may need if you have to leave home in a hurry. This may include extra money, clothing, medications, passports or other important documents and toiletries. Always keep a full tank of petrol in your car. If you have children, you may wish to pack a few toys, books, or other special items belonging to the child.

 

Knowledge of, and access to, critical telephone numbers and locations

Ensure victims have knowledge of and access to the following:

·         ‘000’ emergency

·         The location of the nearest police station

·         Safe places such as friends, domestic violence shelters etc that are unknown to the stalker.

·         Contact numbers for use after safety is secured such as police, Centrelink for assistance if required, neighbours, medical care, child care, pet care etc.

 

Technology safety planning:

The means by which a stalker may use technology to assist them in stalking their victims is included in our technology stalking chapter.

 

When safety planning with a victim about technology issues, it is important to ask the victim if her stalker has had access, or the opportunity to access, her phone, car or computer. If so, a trained professional should check the computer for Spyware programs, the vehicle should be checked for Global Positional System (GPS) devices, and her mobile phone should be checked for tracking devices.

 

It is also important for victims of stalking to make a list of all organisations and businesses that have access to personal information such as addresses, phone numbers, last names etc. This information can sometimes be accessed and exploited by stalkers. For example, local tradesmen, mechanics, even the mobile dog wash used by the victim would have the victims name, address and contact phone numbers on a data base. Victims should instruct businesses to not give out any personal information. In some instances, victims can ask that their account be password protected. This password should only be known by the victim and no information should be released or discussed without the password being verified.