I was cruising along the internet the other day looking for something in particular and I stumbled upon a blog or online community of some sort where folks were giving relationship advice. It was actually a little interesting to see how supportive and yet firm many of the responders were to posts that talked about abusive partners. “Get out” was the common phrase, often with various tidbits of advice, most of it very good.
But that got me thinking about, how does a person prepare for leaving an abusive relationship. One of, if not the most violent time in an abusive relationship is the minute the woman leaves, or tries to leave. In fact, in domestic violence cases, more than 70 percent of injuries and murders happen after the victim has left. The advice offered, while good, wasn’t actually very practical or realistic in some cases when it comes to trying to prepare yourself to leave.
Below are some things to consider when you are leaving and just after you leave.
Consider going to a shelter.
Keeping you safe is their job. Most shelters do it very well. They have a lot of experience in terms of knowing what you will be going through, how you will be feeling, providing you with a safe residence (for you and your kids) and most have programming and resources to help you get back on your feet. Even if you don’t want or don’t need to go to a shelter, they often have outreach workers that will help support you in this process.
Keep a bag packed.
Include an extra set of keys, emergency phone numbers, copies of all identification for you and your children including birth certificates and social insurance cards, clothes for you and your children — shoes, money, jewelry, pictures of you, your kids and your partner in case it is needed for anything. If something has special sentimental value and you are able to bring it then do so.
Consider involving the police.
While there are always pros and cons to police involvement, having them involved may mean another level of protection for you and your children. If they know what is going on and something starts to go badly, they’ll already have a history or information and that can be a very good thing at that moment in time.
Be careful when using social networking websites.
Make all your accounts private and consider shutting down current accounts and creating new ones. Keep your account settings to private and be sure not to disclose your location or whereabouts. You don’t want information about what you’re doing or who you’re friends with public. You don’t know who could be friends with your ex and there are ways to track a person’s whereabouts through things like facebook quite easily. In fact, spyware may be on your computer allowing your abuser to track everything you are doing. You may need to consider getting a new computer.
Secure your accounts.
Change your passwords and PIN codes to something that is not obvious. If you are staying in the family home and your ex-partner is leaving, consider calling utility companies and ask them to add a password that only you know to your account.
Get a new cell phone and number.
Money will likely be very tight but many shelters and victim service organizations can assist you with this. Even if it is a pay as you go phone for now, having a different number and phone might help you keep your location private.
Don’t move to a secluded area.
Move to a neighborhood with lots of neighbors, perhaps an apartment complex, with a Neighborhood Watch program, neighbourhoods with street lights or something similar. Your heart may belong in the country with the horses and trees but that might be something to strive for after you are in a safer ‘space’ in your life.
Keep your new address confidential.
Get a P.O. Box, and don’t give out your real address. Try not to post pictures of your new place online. Many phones and cameras have geo-locators that will actually show where the location of the photo to anyone who knows how to look for it.
Secure your new home.
Consider new window and door locks, dead bolts, outdoor lights, an alarm system, steel doors and make sure you have working smoke detectors.
Protect yourself at work.
Alert your supervisor and the security staff, remove your number from the office directory, and even change office locations. Ask security to walk you to your car.
Don’t isolate yourself.
Don’t park your car in large parking garages or jog at night or in secluded areas. Park as close to the location you are traveling to as possible. Remember that the more people who are around you, the less opportunity for your ex-partner to trap you alone.
Safety plan with your children.
Teach children what to do if the abuser kidnaps them or breaks into the house. You don’t want to scare your children, but help them be prepared. Alert the school or daycare of the danger. If you have a no contact order or something similar that does not allow contact, bring a copy to the school or daycare so that they are able to keep your kids safe from your abuser.
Keep records of all texts, emails, stalking and harassment. Keep a video or written journal and hide it! For everything that happens, keep an ongoing record. The more evidence you have the better prepared you will be to provide detailed information during an emergency.
Keep other people informed.
As difficult as it is to tell other people what is going on, the reality is that the more people who know, the better able you will be to keep yourself and your kids safe. Tell trusted family and friends, colleagues and neighbours. Make sure someone knows where you are going on a regular, if not daily basis. Schedule check-ins so that others know you are safe.
Have 911 ready to call when you are walking to your car. Be aware of your environment; if something feels out of the ordinary, IT IS!
Change your patterns.
Shop at new stores shop at different times and days than you normally would, take different routes to work, change coffee shops and gas stations, go to a faith service at a different time, switch to a new bank go for walks in different neighbourhoods and so on. While routines are comforting, they are also an easy way to figure out where you will be without anyone having to tell.
No one deserves to live in an abusive environment. If you are in an abusive environment, please consider getting help and support as you figure out what you want or need to do to take care of yourself and your children. For more information, please visit;