Leaving An Abusive Situation
Safety Should Be The Top Priority
Making the choice to leave an abuser can take time. After being battered, it is often hard to think about starting a new life. Ending a relationship is emotional and brings great unknowns. A person has many considerations, no matter how bad the abuse might become. It is an individual choice and one that should always be planned out as carefully as possible. Sometimes, planning is not an option and a person simply flees in order to survive. If you or someone you know is thinking about leaving, it is essential that they make a clear plan.
Simple Steps Can Make a Big Difference
- Talk to friends & family members you can trust about your plans
- Connect with local programs that provide assistance, like SAFE Harbor
- Trust your instincts-if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t
- Create an escape plan from your home & teach children to call 911
- Devise a code word for “danger”-share it with children, family, friends & co-workers
- Let trustworthy neighbors know what is happening
- Keep your vehicle locked at all times & avoid places where your abuser goes
- Alert your employer of your situation
- Keep an emergency bag packed and place in a secure location with the following:
- Spare house & car keys
- Phone numbers & contact info for friends, family, doctors, schools, etc.
- Change of clothing for you and children
- Any required medication for you and your children
- Copies of driver’s license, birth certificates, social security cards, school records, immunizations, legal documents, medical records, insurance, marriage license, bank records, financial information, tax records, etc.
- Special photos, other small mementos, jewelry or keepsakes
- Any other evidence that you might have pertaining to your abuse
Hide this bag somewhere your abuser will not find it. Try to keep it at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house. Avoid using next-door neighbors, close family members, or mutual friends. Your abuser might be more likely to find it there.
If you have to flee without preparation, get to safety. While it is nice to be able to plan and gather the items listed it is more important to be safe.
Take actions to conceal your plans. Call unrelated places, rental agencies and schools in other towns. Leave a trail of searched websites that don’t matter on the computer.
- Check on places to stay, such as the local SAFE Harbor Shelter.
- Leave when your abuser will least expect it. This will give you more time to get away before your abuser realizes you are gone.
- Get a new address if possible, such as a P.O. Box.
- Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports. Before filling out your new address on any forms, explore options to keep your address confidential.
- Be careful about giving out new contact information, such as address or phone number.
- If you have children, inform their school of what is taking place. Consider changing your children’s schools.
- Talk to people you trust about the violence. They can help you with planning.
- Carry a cell phone if possible. Have emergency numbers on speed dial.
- Reconnect to family and friends who understand and support you. Part of an abuser’s power comes from having isolated you from other people.
- Ask the police to escort you out of the house as you’re leaving if there is any possibility of your abuser being around.
- If your abuser will be away when you are leaving you can ask the police to be “on call”.
- Visit with a SAFE Harbor advocate about how to access other programs, preparing information for legal actions, getting an Order of Protection and other services that might help you with planning for the future.
- Practice what you will say if you have to communicate with your abuser in person or by telephone regarding the children or other legal issues.
- It can help to write out a script of what you will say when talking to your abuser. Don’t try to be logical or debate with the abuser. Simply have certain sentences that you repeat. For example: “I respect that you have a relationship with our child, but you and I no longer have a relationship. Here he is so you can talk to him.”
- End the conversation and hang up if he gets aggressive or verbally abusive on the phone.
- The Resource Section on this site has list of books and other sites that might be helpful.
- Visit with a SAFE Harbor advocate about attending a support group or to find a personal counselor to continue your growth and healing.