HELP Toolkit: Identifying and Responding to Family Violence for Family Law Legal Advisers – Supplemental Material

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Tab #10: Safety Planning

A safety plan is an individualized plan that identifies methods to enhance the safety of victims and their children when confronted by family violence.

A good safety plan will include:

Risk is not static, so the safety plan must be dynamic to reflect changes in the victim’s circumstances as well as those of the abuser. While an important focus of any safety plan is physical safety, emotional safety must also be taken into account.

Remember to be cognizant of your client’s particular circumstances and try to find resources that suit their individual situations. See Tab #7: How to Incorporate Cultural Safety into Client Interactions. Your clients may be more likely to contact and “buy in” to resources and services that demonstrate specific consideration of intersectional factors.

1. Whenever possible, you should work with your client to connect them to a support person, such as a frontline advocate, to help address safety concerns.

You may need to explain to your clients that you are acting only as the legal adviser and that other community services are better placed to help them evaluate their safety risks, develop a safety plan and provide them with the tools and resources they will need to sustain themselves throughout the legal process. The Public Health Agency of Canada has resources to help guide victims of family violence in developing a safety plan:

A good practice is for you to become familiar with the resources in your community that can assist your client in the areas you cannot. Collaboration and information sharing will be important to ensure there are no gaps or overlaps in what people are doing.

Your clients may find it helpful if you prepare or obtain a handout, card or other way to safely provide information to them on local resources. Remember to discuss ways the person can conceal the materials provided or website visits from their ex-partner, or otherwise ensure that having the handout or card will not put them at increased risk.

See Tab #12: Making Referrals.

Frontline advocates may not be available in all circumstances. While a trusted family member, friend, colleague or member of the community can help support your client, for example by accompanying them to meetings, you should caution that the involvement of these informal support persons in promoting safety could make those people targets of violence where there are indications of higher levels of danger and lethality.

Tip: Remember that the time of preparing to separate and actual separation are when many victims are at increased risk of serious injury and death.

2. Safety planning and the family law process

As you work with your client, consider how you can help to reduce their risk in relation to the family law case:

Consider offering your client information on technology safety (see below for some resources).

3. Safety planning resources

There are many safety planning resources available online, including:

For resources specific to technology safety, you may wish to consult the following links: