Safety Checklist

Dawn Bradley Berry

As mentioned before, a woman is often in the greatest danger when she leaves a violent relationship. Many women are stalked, attacked, even killed by former inmate partners.  The following safety and security recommendations can help protect you when you feel you may be at risk from someone you have left. Some are merely precautionary measures, while others can be effective if you know you are being stalked-and by whom.

Residence Security

1. Be alert to any suspicious persons. Don't ignore "funny feelings." If a noise or just the atmosphere makes the hair on the back of your neck prickle,  be especially cautious. Trust your intuition.

2. Ask anyone who knocks at the door to identify him' or herself before you open the door. Always ask service people, delivery workers, salespeople, charity collectors, and even police for identification. Install wide-angle viewers on main entries.

3. Install a porch light at a height that makes it hard to reach. Put in other outside lighting as well. Trim and illuminate shrubbery.

4. Make sure you have dead bolts on all outside doors. If you cannot account for all the keys, get the locks changed. Have only the spare keys you absolutely need, and keep them secure. Make sure windows have sturdy locks. Put a dowel rod in all sliding glass doors and windows. Install locks on outside gates. Keep doors and windows in other rooms locked even when you are at home.

5. Keep the garage door locked at all times. If possible, get an electric door lock and opener. Always park in a secured garage, if its available.

6. Keep your fuse box locked. Keep flashlights and battery lanterns handy in the house and garage, with spar batteries nearby.

7. Consider installing a loud outside alarm bell that can be activated in several places inside the house.

8. Get an unlisted telephone number. Make sure your employer and all receptionists know it's unlisted and that your telephone number and address are not to be given to anyone.

9. Make sure all members of your household trade information about suspicious calls or activity. If odd calls or activity continues, notify a local law enforcement agency. Ask about "panic buttons" or other special protections they may have.

10. Keep in touch with neighbors.  Ask them to call you if they notice suspicious vehicles or people, especially when you aren't home. Form and/or join a neighborhood watch group. Your local police department can help you set up such a group and provide training and support.

11. If there are firearms in the house, all adults should know how to use them. Store ammunition in a separate but nearby location. Be sure .any guns or other weapons are stored out of the reach of children and preferably locked.

12. Report any direct threat against a member of your household to a law enforcement agency. Never dismiss a threat as just talk. Listen carefully, record it if possible, or write it down so you recall exactly what was said. If anyone else witnessed the threat, tell the police.  Police officers say they would rather answer one hundred calls that turn out to be nothing than one that involves a homicide.

13. Thoroughly check out anyone employed to work in your home before you hire the person. Make sure he or she understands all security rules. Have a strict policy that the employee does not discuss family business or schedules with anyone.

14. If anything suspicious shows up, such as a box or package that you did not order or expect, do not move it. Call the police.

15. Keep fire extinguishers and smoke detectors handy in all main areas and keep them in good working order.

16. Tape emergency numbers to all telephones.

17. Get an automatic timer for your lights. Use it when you are going out for the evening, not just for extended absences.

18. Make a safe evacuation plan, make sure all household members know about it, and practice it occasionally.

19. Get a dog. A family dog is one of the least expensive and most effective alarm systems. Some breeds are considered better watchdogs, but any dog will bark at an intruder.

20. Know the whereabouts of family members at all times. Children should be accompanied to school or bus stops. Be sure children are taught basic safety rules. Such as never to take rides or gifts from strangers.

21. Vary regular routes for driving and walking from time to time.

22. Keep trusted friends and neighbors informed about whatís going on.  Give them a photo or description of the suspected stalker and his vehicle. Be sure to tell them if you are going away on any trips. Have neighbors pick up mail and newspapers or have delivery suspended while youíre gone.

23. If you live in an apartment or condominium with an on-site manager, door attendant or valet. Give him or her a picture or description of the suspect.

24. If you are moving into anew apartment or condominium, check security features carefully and inquire about past problems. An upper floor apartment is considered safer. Insist that all windows and doors have sturdy locks.  Public housing authorities sometimes move people with orders of protection to another apartment or change their locks free of charge.  For example, the Victim Service Agency in New York City employs four locksmiths who change some three hundred locks per month for crime victims.  One-third of whom are battered women. New York also has a progressive human rights law that forbids landlords from discriminating against a battered woman or requiring her to divorce her abuser.

Work Security

1. If there is a receptionist. or you have a secretary. he or she should screen all calls. visitors, mail, and packages. Do not accept packages you didn't order or do not recognize.

2. Keep staff or security alerted to all suspicious people and packages that turn up somewhere they donít belong.

3. Pay attention to keys, locks, and security codes. All should be changed from time to time, especially after employee turnover.

4. Park in a secured area if possible. If you have to park in a lot, be sure there is adequate lighting. Leave the building with others if possible.  If your name is on a reserved space, have it removed. Be alert to anyone watching or following you on foot or by car.

5. If there is a security director or guard on site, be sure he or she is aware of your situation and has information about the suspect.

Personal Security

1. Remove your home address from personal checks and business cards.  Use your work address or get a private mailbox service (not a U.S. Postal Service box) if necessary. Have all personal mail sent there.  Make this your official address. Destroy all your discarded mail.  File a change of address card with the post office listing this as your new address. Send cards with the new address to friends, creditors, and business associates, and request they remove the old address from their personal address books, files, and directories. Be careful who knows where you live.

2. Request that credit reporting agencies remove past addresses from your credit history. File a change of address with the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a driver's license with your new address. Do this for other identification or membership cards as well.

3. You can place your real estate in the name of a trust, and put your utilities and tax identification in the name of the trust. Lawyers who deal in real property matters can take care of this simple procedure for a low fee.

4. File for confidential voter status or register with a private mailing address.

5. Telephone services, such as call forwarding, and answering services are now relatively inexpensive. Call your local service providers to find the right service for you.

6. Place residential rental agreements in another person's name. This person's name should not appear on service or delivery orders to the residence. You can use a business or other name for such purposes.

7. Notify your local law enforcement precincts about your situation.  Ask for periodic police drive-bys. Some departments provide a free home security checkup.

8. Document and report any instances of harassment.  Note down the date and time of any telephone calls. Get statements from any witnesses.  Keep mail correspondence or any notes delivered to you. If the stalker shows up, take pictures, use a video camera, and call the police every time.

9. There are support groups in some areas-look into this option.  Discuss your fears and exchange ideas with people you trust.

Vehicle Security

1. Park in well-lit or secured areas. Avoid lots where doors must be left unlocked or keys surrendered; if necessary, just give the attendant or valet the ignition key. Do not allow items to be placed in or removed from the trunk except in your presence.

2. When you are parking in your residence garage, turn the light on, and lock the car and the garage doors.

3. Install a locking gas cap. The hook, locking device should be controlled from inside the vehicle.

4. Always check the back and front passenger areas before getting into your car.

5. Find a reliable service station and mechanic for service, maintenance, and repairs.

6. Keep your doors locked while you're driving.

7. Be alert for vehicles that appear to be following you. If you believe you are being followed, drive to the nearest police or fire station.  Sound the horn to attract attention. If a police station isn't easily accessible, drive to a heavily populated area such as a mall. Plan ahead and know where these places are located.

8. Vary your schedule and routes.

9. Do not stop to assist stranded motorists. Drive to the nearest safe telephone and call someone to help.

10. Get a car phone. Many cellular phones can also be carried in a purse when you're out of the car. Service packages are available that can keep the monthly maintenance cost fairly low if the phone is not used often.

11. Shop at stores and shopping centers with security personnel. Ask them to escort or watch you as you go to your car. Many libraries, health clubs, and other businesses provide escorts. Find out and use their services. If your stalker tries to approach you in public, scream and run to the nearest populated area.

 

Reference

Berry, Dawn Bradley, 1995.  Domestic Violence Sourcebook,  p.196-202.  Lowell House, Los Angeles, CA.  

 

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage


     
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