Safety planning for women with disabilities

Safety plans can help women who are experiencing violence stay safe and be prepared for leaving a violent relationship.


Safety planning for women with disabilities can be even more challenging than for women in the general community and requires careful thought.

To be usable, a safety plan needs to be available in a preferred format that is accessible to the person it is being developed for.

At a minimum, it should:

  • List the contact numbers for a domestic and family violence organisation
  • List emergency contact numbers
  • Identify a safe place to go when there is danger, and how to get there
  • Identify a friend, family member or neighbour who can assist in an emergency, and how to contact them
  • Identify a way to get access to money in an emergency
  • Identify a way to access emergency personal care assistance and support if required
  • Identify a place to store valuables and important documents so they can be accessed when needed
  • Specifically address any barriers implementing the safety plan (for example, leaving a pet behind, or having mobility or communication difficulties).

When developing a safety plan, some of the things women with disabilities will need to consider are:

  • Where will you go if they need to leave quickly – a refuge, a friend’s place or a family member’s place? (Children are welcome at most refuges).
  • How will you get away? Do you need to get accessible transport? Would you need the refuge to pick them up or is there someone who can give them a lift?
  • Is there someone you trust who could help them leave quickly? If there is, let them know about your safety plan and how you would like them to help if you call.
  • Making a list of phone numbers of people who could help you. Important numbers might include: police, a friend or family member that you trust, domestic violence service, your nearest accessible transport service.
  • Putting aside some money in case they need a taxi.
  • Gathering together any special things and important documents for you and your children. These might include: a spare key for the house, photographs, important documents (or copies) like your birth certificate, Medicare card, passport, bank books or details, any medications you might need and any special information about their health.
  • Putting the special things in a safe place. A safe place might be somewhere in your home or at the home of a friend, neighbour or family member you trust. Go to a safe place like a women’s refuge. Sometimes you may decide it is best to leave the place they live for a while. You could go to a women’s refuge. A refuge may also be called a safe house or a shelter. Some refuges (but not all) are accessible for women in a wheelchair or with a mobility restriction. If you need to, ask the person helping you to find a refuge that is accessible.

Getting help

Here are things that women with disabilities can to do to get help:

Tell someone what is happening to you. In an emergency, call the police. If you are in danger, call the police on the phone by dialling 000 or using TTY by dialling 106. Tell them you need help now and ask them to come. They can use the law to protect you.

Talk to someone you trust. If you have someone that you trust – a friend or family member or a worker at a service – you could talk to them. Tell them what is happening to you and how it makes you feel. You can ask this person to help you make contact with services who can help – like a domestic violence service or the police.

Call a domestic and family violence service. If you need someone to talk to, or need support or information about domestic and family violence, you can call a domestic and family violence service. Workers at the service will listen to you. They will believe you. They know about domestic and family violence and they will understand. They can help you understand that the violence isn’t your fault and that you don’t have to put up with it. The person you talk to can answer your questions so that you can decide what is best for you and your children. You can call a domestic violence crisis service any day, any time and this is often a free call.

They can also help you to:

  • Make yourself safe
  • Plan for your safety if you need to leave quickly
  • Find a safe place to go
  • Use the law to protect yourself.

Make yourself as safe as you can. Many women say that they don’t want to leave their home. They just want the violence to stop. If you choose to stay where you are, try to make yourself as safe as you can. An important part of staying safe is believing in yourself and being kind to yourself. You do not have to put up with domestic and family violence. It is your right to feel safe where you live.

Find out about your options and who can help you. Knowing what you can do and how to do it can sometimes help you feel more in control of your situation and your safety.

Sometimes there are things you can do which may reduce the chance of violence happening. For example, one woman said that having a friend around when her mother came to visit stopped her mother from yelling at her. If the person who is being violent towards you is a worker at your home, or someone who lives at your house, report them to someone else. Let this person know that you do not want to be left alone with the violent person.

Using the law can help. For example, one woman said that once she got a protection order from the police, the violence stopped straight away.

Keep telling people until you get help. If you tell someone and they don’t believe you or they don’t help you – don’t give up. Tell someone else. Keep telling people until someone helps you. You have the right to be believed. You have the right to get help. You have the right to feel safe where you live.

Use the law to protect you. Many forms of violence are against the law. If someone is physically violent or makes you scared for your safety, you can use the law to protect you. The police can help you to get a protection order. A protection order stops someone from doing something. You decide what it is that you want the person to stop doing. For example, the order could say the person can’t approach you if no-one else is around. These are called ‘conditions’. A protection order is like a warning. It warns someone not to do something. If the person does something that the protection order warns them not to do, this is a ‘breach’. A breach is an offence. If someone breaches an order, you can call the police and they can arrest the person.

Useful phone numbers for assisting women with disabilities

Emergency: Police, Fire, Ambulance

  • Phone 000 or TTY 106

National Relay Service

  • Ph: 133 677 (24hr Using a modem or TTY)
  • or Ph: 1300 555 727 (24hr Speech to Speech Relay Service for callers with a speech/communication impairment)

Telephone Interpreter Service

Contact Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA):

Further Reading

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