Protecting yourself during an assault

If your partner or ex-partner starts being aggressive, attempt to reach safety as quickly as possible.
If you cannot escape or call for help, there are strategies as a last resort that may help you calm their aggression.

Verified by Gabrielle Hazan, Police Commissioner, on 03/03/2022

Last resort strategies

Remember that you are never safe with someone who has already used abusive or controlling behaviour.

If you are unable to call the police on 17, send the police an SMS on 114, call a neighbour for help, or escape at the moment of assault, you can follow the advice below to try to protect yourself during an assault.

If possible, always keep your phone with you so that you can call for help.

    • Try to regulate your breathing. 
    • Try to relax certain parts of your body like your hands and face.
    • Try to reassure yourself – tell yourself it’s going to be OK.
    • Keep a distance from your partner or ex-partner.
    • Try not to make any sudden movements.
    • Move calmly and slowly.
    • Try not to argue with them or interrupt them.
    • Speak softly and calmly.
    • Be understanding and compassionate, for example by acknowledging that it must be very frustrating or difficult for them, even if you don’t think so.
    • Tell them that you agree with them, even if it’s not true: if they feel understood, they may calm down.
    • Apologise if they are angry because of something you have said or done.
    • Try to look as serious as possible, so they don’t think you’re mocking them.
  • Where possible and without putting yourself in danger, try to follow their instructions. If they think they are in control, they may start to calm down.

  • If the tension continues to rise, seek refuge in a safe place:

    • rooms where there are no weapons or objects that could be used as weapons such as knives, scissors and tools
    • rooms that have an exit if needed, for example a door to the outside or a window on the ground floor

    rooms that can be locked, where you can call the police on 17 or send them a message with your address via 114.

  • Only if you cannot escape in time, do not have a phone to call the police and there is no one around to help you:

    • protect your body as much as possible by curling up into a ball
    • protect your face and head with your arms.

Find support

In France, there are many services that can support you, give you advice, and assist you with procedures and paperwork. Most of them are free of charge.

  • The role of the police is to ensure the safety of all people, whatever their situation, even for people without French residency rights. A police officer will be able to advise you and offer assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can contact the police in four main ways:

    • By telephone: call 17, a free number. Languages available: interpretation in all languages.
    • By text message: send an SMS to 114 in French, specifying your exact address.
    • Online: chat service. This service is available in many languages.
    • Go to any police station, i.e. either a “commissariat de police” or a “brigade de gendarmerie”. You can find the closest police station to you on this website. If you don't speak French, they will need to find you an interpreter, this can take some time.
  • There are two services that can assist you in the case of a medical emergency in France. 

    The ambulance service called “Service d’aide médicale urgente (SAMU)” and the emergency services called “pompiers”. If you need emergency medical attention, they can help you quickly and take you to a nearby hospital.

    • In the event of a life-threatening emergency, you do not need to be registered for state health insurance or have valid residency rights to use these services.
    • If there are fees because they estime it was not an emergency, these fees can be covered by your state and private health insurance.
    • Languages available: interpretation in all languages.
    • Contact: call 112, a free number available 24/7.
  • This telephone counselling service is intended for people facing all types of violence and those who support them.

    • This service is free of charge.
    • On the telephone, a trained counsellor will listen to you and support you. They can then direct you to relevant services near you.
    • Available languages: French. Sometimes the following languages are available: English, Arabic, Spanish, Turkish, Mandarin, Chinese, Kurdish, Azeri, Polish, Hebrew, Farsi, Soninké, Creole, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and Swahili. At present, these languages are unfortunately available at irregular and unscheduled times.
    • Contact: call 3919, available 24/7. The call will not appear on your telephone bill.
    • For people who are deaf, have difficulties hearing, people with aphasia or who have language impairments, you can access a service adapted for your needs by clicking on the telephone icon at the bottom right of the website http://www.solidaritefemmes.org.

While the utmost care has gone into providing you with the most accurate and up to date information, this page is not intended to replace legal or professional advice. Laws and procedures change regularly so it is important to consult qualified professionals.

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