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It took me almost 20 years to even realize I was in an abusive relationship. I detail my experience with abuse in How I Got Out of Abuse, just click to read. Getting out of domestic violence can be one of the scariest things because this can be the most dangerous time for victims. Abuse is about power and control. When someone tries to leave their abuser they are taking that power back and away from their abuser. This may set the abuser off to act out in some pretty frightening and destructive ways.
Steps You Can Take to Get Out of Abuse
Decide to leave. This may seem like a simple step, but it was exactly what I had to do to leave. I first and foremost had to make up my mind to leave. Then I had to…
Make a plan. One of the best things I did to help myself get out and stay out was to seek therapy. If it weren’t for my weekly counseling sessions, I’m not sure I would have been strong enough to stick to leaving. BetterHelp is an excellent service to use because you can do sessions online, over the phone or on your phone. Plus they are super affordable.
Having a plan in place is going to help you in the long run. It’s extremely crucial in emergency situations.
Here are some steps to take:
- Safety at home – If you and your abuser get into a fight move to a safe space that has a phone, door or a window. Stay away from the bathroom or kitchen and away from any weapons. Don’t run to where your children are, your abuser may hurt them too.
- If the fight escalates and you feel in danger call 9-1-1 or use a secret code (a safety word or phrase [i.e. “lunch in the corridor tomorrow” make it something that your abuser wouldn’t see as a red flag that you’re trying to get help] you set up with a close friend that knows your situation and knows to call for help when you send the secret code) and text a friend who can call for you.
If violence is unavoidable – If your abuser gets physical and tries to hit you, try to make yourself a smaller target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
- If you are injured make sure you go to the hospital and report the incident to the police. Make sure they document everything and you are able to get copies.
- Make an Emergency Plan with Kids – Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house. Have a safe place planned for your children to go (a neighbor’s house or a locked room). Make sure your children understand their job is to find safety, not protect you.
- Let Neighbors and Friends Know – Let them know what is going on and create a signal or safety word that signals them to get help for you.
- Always Keep a Phone with You – If a situation escalates you can call or text for help.
- Arm Yourself with Self Defense Tools – These tools can give you the time you need to get away. My good friend Alison sells these amazing products that women be defensive.
Leaving your abuser.
- Keep evidence of abuse (i.e. pictures of bruises, hospital visits, police records). Make sure you keep this in a safe place where you abuser cannot get to it and destroy it.
- Keep a journal of all events that take place. Keep email exchanges, text messages, recordings if you have them, etc. Make sure to document dates and times of these incidents and again, keep this in a safe place. I was able to obtain a harassment restraining order against my abuser because I kept records of his harassment in the forms of text messages, emails, and a phone log of his attempted calls in the middle of the night.
- Know where you can go. Find a place you can go to get help and let people know what is going on so they can check on your wellbeing. Your local women’s shelter is a great resource, use it. It’s also free. They can help you with everything from counseling you and your kids, to finding a safe place to stay, to getting through the legal process of getting and keeping your abuser away. WomensLaw.org has state by state legal information.
- Money. Try set money aside or ask friends or family to hold on to the money for you. If you can, get a job to save up extra money.
When You Leave.
Make a plan for if you need to leave quickly. Know where you will escape to. You may request a police escort when you leave to keep yourself and your children safe as you leave. If you have to leave in a hurry, use the Emergency Checklist located in our Resource Library. Please note you must subscribe to get access, but I promise I won’t spam you.
After You Leave.
After you have left can be the most dangerous time. Please follow these steps to help ensure your safety after leaving your abuser.
- Change your locks and phone number.
- Get caller ID if you don’t already have it. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your ex nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.
- If possible, change your work hours and the route you take to work. Inform HR of your situation and make sure your ex is not allowed entry if you work securely.
- Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened if possible.
- Change the route to transport children to school or consider changing your children’s schools.
- Alert school authorities of the situation.
- If you have a restraining order, keep a certified copy of it with you at all times. Inform friends, neighbors, and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
- Call law enforcement to enforce the order and give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors, and schools along with a picture of the offender.
- 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 (you can have this remain confidential), and be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.
- Reschedule appointments that the offender is aware of.
- 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.
- Replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors. Install security systems if possible. Try this amazing door blocker/warning system.
- Install a motion sensitive lighting system.
- Tell people who take care of your children or drive them/pick them up from school and activities. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order.
- Get self-defense tools.
- Continue counseling for you and your children.
Some of these things listed above can be obvious but when you are in a stressful situation you aren’t going to think of all these things that you will need or need to do. Be prepared and use the checklist, it will help you get away quickly.
Most importantly stay safe throughout this process. Be strong! I know that is very difficult in this situation but you deserve better than this and so do your children. You can get out and have an amazing abuse-free life.
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