Written by: Shani Fowler
All relationships have their ups and downs, highs and lows, but being in an abusive relationship is different. It is destructive, demoralising and dangerous. It would never be recommended to stay in an abusive relationship but many people feel trapped for differing reasons. Leaving is imperative but you have to leave safely and planning the exit is essential. The following suggestions are ones that can help provide the best chances of leaving the relationship safely.
Firstly make sure you are aware of the telephone number and location of the nearest women’s refuge should you need to contact/attend them in an emergency.
Make trusted people aware
Ensure a trusted friend, family member or even a colleague at work is aware of the situation you are in, even if the situation embarrasses you. Your family and friends will want to help. Create a plan in case you need help. Use code words via text or phone calls or visual signals (like leaving a certain light on) which will instantly be understood by that person that you are in danger. Try to leave money if possible with your trusted source to save for you should you need it quickly.
Have an emergency bag at your trusted friend or family member’s house that contains things you will need should you leave quickly. Keep banking information, spare keys, ID information, medications etc as well as some clothing essentials stored in it.
Keep a record of any incidents that take place, noting dates and threats. Also keep a record of physical abuse (photographic evidence). If you have to attend your GP or A & E ask that the evidence is accurately and comprehensively documented.
Ensure the children know of a safe place and reassure them that they have to remain there and stay safe over any attempts to protect you.
Plan – where, how and when
If you need to escape, know beforehand how, when and where you will go. It is always best to reverse your car into a driveway so you are instantly facing the way you need to be for a quick get-away and hide any other keys for the car so that once you are in the vehicle, it cannot be accessed by the person you are fleeing from.
Ensure you have important telephone numbers to friends, relatives, schools etc. We usually have all these on our phones these days so having that with you is essential.
Don’t leave evidence
Erase internet browsing history, especially if you have searched for help on there. An abuser can often check on your movements and snoop on what you have been doing.
Choose a time to leave when you are certain that the abuser will be away from the premises. Most people follow some sort of routine so plan around it – choosing the time they will be away for the longest would be best.
If the offender leaves
If you obtain a restraining order and the offender has to leave, make sure you change locks on doors and change your telephone number. Try if possible, to take a different route to work and maybe change your hours. Keep the order with you at all times and let your trusted friends and family know that there is a restraining order in existence. If you are being threatened, call the police to enforce the order.
If you are the one that leaves
Consider using a post office box address for correspondence and be careful who you give your new actual address to. Again, change your work hours if possible. Make sure schools are aware of the situation and consider changing schools. Try and change your shopping and social venues at least for a while and ensure neighbours are aware you can be in danger and ask that they call the police if necessary.
Have the best security systems installed if possible and ensure anyone who takes care of your children are aware of the restraining order – supply a copy of the order.
Leaving any relationship has trauma, but leaving an abusive relationship has the added element of danger so it must be undertaken safely for yourself and the children’s sake. Once you are safely rid of the abuser, you can then begin to focus getting your life back on track again.