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With the COVID-19 pandemic requiring people to remain at home, victims of human trafficking could be around their traffickers more than usual with limited access to support systems and at an increased risk of experiencing violence.
Exiting this type of situation is not easy and may even seem impossible at this time. However, there are supports available to help keep you safer until you are able to exit your situation. Creating a “safety plan” based on your current situation is a valuable way to help protect yourself from emotional and physical abuse. This plan will be useful while you are still living with your abuser and/or once you are ready to exit.
What is a safety plan?
A safety plan is a personalized, practical set of guidelines that can help to reduce the risk of being harmed while in an abusive situation, planning to leave, or after exiting an abusive situation. These guidelines should always be based on:
- your situation,
- the actions you are comfortable with and,
- the actions you have identified as realistic.
Since everyone’s situation is different, there is no right or wrong safety plan. We recommend seeing it as a list of suggestions that you can keep in mind. Remember, you know your situation better than anyone else; trust your instincts and consider your options before taking any steps.
How can I build a safety plan?
To assist you with building your safety plan, you can consult the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline’s safety planning page here. Also, Love Is Respect, a domestic violence support organization, has created an interactive safety plan tool that can be accessed here.
Though some of what you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, remember that in times of crisis it can be hard to think clearly or to make the best decision about your safety. Preparing with a safety plan can help you be in control of your situation and make the best decisions for yourself in those stressful moments.
How can I stay safe right now?
While each situation is unique and what is safest or practical for each person will differ, the safety planning tips and following recommendations are meant to help you brainstorm potential ways to reduce the risk of harm. We hope that you will find the suggestions useful, however we do not expect or encourage you to try and do everything right away. Take it one step at a time and start with the ideas that seem most doable for you. These plans and actions should not increase the risk of being hurt, and you know best what possible actions are available to you.
1. General tips:
- If your romantic partner asks you to do things you do not want to do, are worried about, or are uncomfortable with (i.e. photographing or videotaping sexual activity or nudity, forceful sex acts, engaging in commercial sex or sex acts with their friends or strangers, abusing drugs or alcohol, etc.), try to tell that person that you are not comfortable with those activities and do not want to engage in them. Also, consider telling a trusted person about your concerns in case things become worse.
- Staying in touch with a trusted person and letting them know of your situation and your concerns is always valuable.
- Making sure you know which areas of your house are safer to be in, such as rooms where there are no weapons (including kitchen knives) and where there are ways to escape (windows, doors) could be useful in case of violence.
- If violence is unavoidable, try to protect yourself as much as possible:
- Curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
- If there are children in the household, it is best to avoid running to where they are to reduce the likelihood of the children being targeted for violence during an argument.
- If possible, keep your important documents on you, as well as access to your money and ways to communicate. You could, for example, make copies of important documents or scan them and keep them in a secret place, such as a secret email address. You could also store them with a trusted friend. When travelling, keeping these documents with you, as well as the phone number of your home embassy is recommended.
- Try to be aware and careful when using technology such as smartphones and computers.
- If you can, disable and/or delete computer and smartphone functions which can be used to monitor your activity and your location such as GPS tracker, browser history, search engine history, chat logs, and histories on social media.
- Keeping your car fueled and ready to leave could help you leave faster.
2. If you are ready to exit your situation, the following tips could help you:
- Try to determine your location if you do not know it:
- This is important if you make a call for assistance and need to move farther away from the area.
- If it is safe to go outside, ask someone on the street or in a store for the location.
- Here are some clues that could help you find your location:
- street signs,
- mailing envelopes,
- building addresses, and
- signs in building lobbies.
- If you have access to a cell phone, it is possible to determine your current location using the phone’s GPS and location services. If you have internet access, you can determine your location here. Note: if you suspect your abuser has access to your phone’s location, make sure to disable location once you have determined where you are.
- If it is safe and possible to do so, packing a bag in advance and hiding it so it is ready to go when you are ready and able to exit, could make your exit easier.
- If you can, try to pack a small amount of important items such as:
- a change of clothes,
- prepaid calling card,
- important phone numbers,
- a phone charger,
- cash or prepaid credit cards that can’t be traced,
- important documents, IDs, SS cards, or copies of these,
- Note: if you are planning to leave with children, the above necessities for your children should also be packed.
- If you can, try to pack a small amount of important items such as:
- If you can, try to be mindful of any window of time you are alone so you can make your escape safely.
- Planning an escape route and rehearsing how you will make your way out could also save you time when you exit. If possible, try to practice with your children. If you can, try to :
- Determine if a taxi or public transit is a safe option, and to find out where you can be picked up without putting yourself in danger.
- Find and remember potential places to ask for help :
- doctors’ offices,
- Community shelters
- Emergency services (police and fire stations)
- Responsible organizations can always be contacted for assistance or information
- Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
- Access the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline’s online Referral Directoryto connect directly with social services and supports (such as shelters, medical assistance, legal advice, etc.).
- Victim Services can also be accessed by calling 211. Note that some can only respond with police involvement/accompaniment.
To find local services in your community, please visit the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline’s online Referral Directory.
Reposted from the Canadian Centre To End Human Trafficking website. With permission.