In the discussion of domestic violence issues, many people ask, “Why do these women stay?” It is disheartening to hear the stereotypical responses, “Doesn’t she have any respect for herself?” or “Doesn’t she want to protect her children?” The truth is, many women are aware and afraid of the fact that they are captive to an abusive relationship. The real dilemma is not identifying whether or not you’re in one, but whether or not you can ever truly escape it. An abusive relationship is built on the foundation of isolation. Many abusers recognize that the only way to maintain true power over their partner is to create the illusion that they are all alone. Leaving an abusive relationship for good can be both the most liberating and most frightening part of a person’s life. Heed the following advice carefully and speak with an individual from your local battered women’s shelter before you execute your plan to leave. In many cases, leaving an abusive relationship can be violent, dangerous, and in some cases, deadly.
First, let a trusted family member, friend, or co-worker know about your situation. Develop a plan for when you need help; code words you can text if in trouble, a visual signal like a porch light: on equals no danger, off equals trouble. If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit. Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made. Keep any evidence of physical abuse (you may take pictures).
**This is important**
Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you. If you need to sneak away, be prepared. Make a plan for how and where you will escape. Back your car into the driveway, and keep it fueled. Keep your driver’s door unlocked and other doors locked for a quick escape. Perhaps, hide an extra set of car keys. You may begin to quietly set money aside. Ask trusted friends or family members to hold money for you.
Pack a “go” bag.
If you are going to start a new life, you’ll need to be prepared. You will need to include an extra set of keys, IDs, car title, birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards, marriage license, clothes for yourself and your children. Other needs may include shoes, medications, banking information, money or anything that is of sentimental importance to you. Store them at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house.
- Take important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc.
- Citizenship documents (such as your passport, green card, etc.)
Titles, deeds and other property information
Children’s school and immunization records
Verification of social security numbers
Valued pictures, jewelry or personal possessions
Study Your Abuser
You are likely to be familiar with your abuser’s schedule. You will know when they leave and when they arrive home. Be cautious when reaching out for help via Internet or telephone. Erase your Internet browsing history, websites visited for resources, e-mails sent to friends/family asking for help.
**This is important**
If you called for help, dial another number immediately after in case abuser hits redial. Create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to relocate. In the case that your abuser comes looking for you, this will divert their track long enough for you to make your escape.
After Leaving the Abusive Relationship
- Change your locks and phone number.
- Change your work hours and route taken to work.
- Change the route taken to transport children to school.
- Keep a certified copy of your restraining order with you at all times.
- Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
- Give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools along with a picture of the offender.
- Call law enforcement to enforce any restraining orders
- Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail. Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports. Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.
- Change your work hours, if possible.
- Alert school authorities of the situation.
- Consider changing your children’s schools.
- Reschedule appointments if the offender is aware of them.
- Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
- Alert neighbors, and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
- Talk to trusted people about the violence.
- Replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors. Install security systems if possible. Install a motion sensitive lighting system.
- Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.
- Tell people who take care of your children who can pick up your children. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order.
- Call the telephone company to request caller ID. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.
You may have noticed that we emphasized trusted relationships are a must in your escape plans. You must be sure that you can trust the individual(s) that you disclose your plans to. It is not recommended that you disclose your plans to close family, neighbors or mutual friends. Remember, the fewer people who know of your plans, the better.
If you or someone you know is frightened by their relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
National Domestic Violence Hotline (2014) Retrieved from here.
An Exit Action Plan: Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship. (2014) Retrieved from here.
**All of the listed insights from this blog post were pulled directly from the Dr. Phil Website.