By Dana Rosenwasser
September 12, 2018
Safe Horizon has three confidential 24-hour hotlines that are open seven days a week, 365 days a year. At the Hotlines, Client Advocate Specialists like Nia speak to victims of all types of crime and abuse and help them find ways to be safe. One way they do this is by safety planning. Safety planning one-on-one can help survivors clarify their unique safety concerns, manage risk factors, and identify resources and options.
Safety Planning with Survivors of Crime and Abuse
To protect the safety of the callers, the first thing Nia does is ask if they are in a safe space to speak freely. If they are not, Nia will offer to call 911 if needed or explore ways the survivor can connect with us safely. “If clients do feel comfortable to speak, I reassure them that the call is confidential,” Nia explains. “I then ask why they are calling or what their concerns are.”
Some callers are interested in finding shelter while others want legal assistance, like help filing an Order of Protection. Whatever the presenting need, Nia makes it a priority to engage survivors in safety planning. A safety plan is a list of options and strategies to help avoid danger or manage it when it happens. Nia helps callers identify the risks they are facing, and brainstorm steps they can take to increase their safety. “While safety planning I’ll ask the survivor to take me through some concerns they have. I ask them to tell me what they think would happen in that situation. Then we can brainstorm together to figure out other options.”
Nia provides an example, “A survivor may not feel safe riding the train because it’s where they were attacked. If they need to take that subway to get to work, we would brainstorm ideas of how they could protect themselves while on that train. Their safety plan could be staying next to the conductor car. That way they could feel safer that if anything happened, they could tell the conductor.”
Nia says that the most important thing to remember when safety planning with a survivor is not to be judgmental. This is at the heart of Safe Horizon’s client-centered approach to working with survivors. Advocates like Nia empower survivors to choose what is right for them without judgment or criticism. “A safety plan is whatever is feasible for the client. You can’t judge somebody’s safety because what they consider to be safe may be different from what you think. Whatever the client feels would be best for their life is what we try our best to respect.”
Our Client Advocate Specialists answer nearly 100,000 calls to our three hotlines each year. Safety planning is one of the critical services survivors can use in their journey to safety.
If you or someone you know is in a situation where safety is a concern, we’re here to help. You can visit our Hotlines page.
You can support these lifesaving services by making a gift to Safe Horizon. Your support will help victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking and all forms of violence move from crisis to confidence.