Considerations: Leaving an Abusive Relationship
Your fist priority in an abusive relationship is to get yourself and your kids to safety. But statistics indicate that the most dangerous time for women (most battered spouses or partners are women, but if you are a battered man, this advice applies to you as well) living with batterers is the point they leave the relationship. When you leave, don’t go to your parents’ houses, your best friend’s house, or somewhere else he is likely to look for you. Find temporary housing in a battered women’s shelter, a hotel, or the home of a friend the abuser doesn’t know.
If you have time, start putting aside cash, preferably somewhere other than your house. Leave clothes and important items with a friend, in case you have to leave your house quickly. And start making detailed documentation of every incident of physical or emotional abuse against you or your children. Note the date and time the incident occurred, and exactly what happened. In addition:
- Make a list of safe people to contact
- Memorize phone numbers of people or places to call for help
- Keep change and cash with you at all times, and
- Establish a code word with family, friends, and coworkers so that you can seek help without alerting the abuser.
You should also prepare important documents to help you take the right legal action, including:
- Your credit cards and checkbook
- Social security card
- Birth certificates
- Copies of deeds, leases, and insurance policies
- Proof of income for you and the abusive partner, such as pay stubs or copies of W-2 forms
- Copies of bank or credit card statements if you cannot easily access them online, and
- Any documentation that proves past abuse, including photos, police reports, or medical records.
If you leave your home quickly, go immediately to court for a protective order that requires the abuser to stay away from you as well as giving you custody of your children. Otherwise, you could be accused of kidnapping. Many courts have domestic violence resources, including restraining order packets with instructions; clinic clerks can help you with paperwork or find courts available 24 hours a day.
After you leave, here are some additional suggestions to keep you and your children safe:
- If you are staying in your home, have the locks changed
- Don’t stay alone
- Change your routine frequently
- Plan how you will get away if the abuser confronts you
- If you must meet the abuser, do so in a very public place
- Contact people you trust at your work place and your children’s school so they can be alerted to anything unusual.
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