If you are in danger, please use a safe computer or call 911. your local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.
Abusive relationships steal your value and identity, don’t let it. Use the steps below to plan your exit.
The ONLY person you can change is YOU!
You don’t deserve abuse! You can’t control an abuser! Abuse is NOT normal! It is NOT OK!
7 Steps to freedom
- Tell someone – admit you’re in an abusive relationship and are getting out and need help
- Tell someone else – choose who you confide in carefully but two is better than one
- If you become afraid for your life, leave and contact local or national help helplines
- Make a plan
- Provisions – ABCDE
- Attorney – ask your confidant to research legal aid, protection orders, and custody issues. Abusers don’t give up easily and you will need legal advice and an attorney.
- Bread or Money – food, gas, hotel, diapers, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you told you want out, they want to help, let them.
- Cover – identify several places you can stay, one is good but four is perfect. Collect and store spare clothing for all people you are taking with you at the locations or a friend’s.
- Documents – birth certificates, driver’s license, marriage license, social security cards, insurance cards, bank account info, credit card accounts, bills in your name, your partner’s full name and social security number. Phone numbers and addresses written down, don’t rely on a cell phone. If you don’t have access to some of these because of your partner, ask those you told for help to obtain copies from the appropriate agencies.
- Exit plan – think, plan, and practice leaving under various situations. Is there an exit that moves you away from things that can be used as weapons against you? Try and ensure you have a couple of places you can hide or exit away from weapons. Old cell phones must connect to 911 if the battery is charged – they do NOT need to have an active plan – keep one and keep it charged.
- Provisions – ABCDE
- Set a reasonable timeline – If you have no access to critical documents and a safe place to go, start there first and give yourself some time. Set a timeline and share it with your confidants to help keep you focused.
- Protect Yourself – take your electronics, personal items, journals, anything of yours and won’t be missed and remove it from the home. Don’t expect the abuser to leave the home. It’s safer if you leave and sort out the property later.
- Leave when opportunity opens – When you have prepared what you can, leave. If your situation gets worse and you must flee before you’re ready, leave. You know your abuser better than anyone – trust yourself.
- Seek legal protection – No children, no pets, no property, no problem. But if you share any of these things and want some say in how they are shared or used you need to go to court. There are legal aid and victim advocates to help but they may have lengthy waiting lists. Have the people you tell you are leaving start here. Call the police if your abuser threatens or stalks you, even if your abuser has connections or ties to local police.
- Seek help – Go to counseling. No victim deserves to figure out how to stay safe, use the many support systems that are near you. Sheriffs, Social Services, Crisis Centers, Health and Human Services Department, Catholic Charities, and other religious or social organizations are available. Getting safe is only the first step. Learning to value who you are and discover what you like and don’t like can take time.
This may seem like a lengthy process to prepare to leave but it’s important. First it changes the way you think about yourself as a valuable individual. Second it builds a determination to sustain you throughout the process. Third it protects you from the abuser by shifting from reacting out of fear to acting with intention. Leaving unprepared leaves victims vulnerable to the abuser often forcing them to return. Often abusers destroy everything you leave behind hindering your access to physical and legal safety.
A resource by state found here. It’s listed as domestic violence against women but the information is useful regardless of gender including state laws and resources.
If you think someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, be careful for their sake. Don’t assume and don’t push, but be willing to help. Start by printing the list of questions found here I posted earlier. Share them discreetly and let her/him decide. If the person asks for help, print this list and show them what you are willing to do to help. You can do nothing until they ask for help, if you try they may never come to you.
©2016 Elayne Cross