The one thing most abused women have in common is uncertainty of whether or not they are being abused. That is the insidious aspect of abuse; it causes you to question your own best judgment. If you’ve found yourself here, reading this article, then more than likely you are in an abusive relationship. It may be time to start planning your exit.
Every first step begins with a plan. If you’ve spent time in an abusive relationship getting out means planning for your escape; where you will live, your financial future. While putting your plan together follow the rules below. Keep yourself safe until you can get out of the relationship for good.
- Make sure you have a safe place to go if you sense you are about to be abused or receive violent treatment. You should avoid rooms that have no exits such as a bathroom or basement and rooms where weapons may be found such as the kitchen.
- Have a list of people that you consider to be “safe” contacts so you will have someone you can call or go to for help.
- Always have change with you in case you are stranded and need to make a phone call. Make a list of important phone numbers and memorize them.
- Create a secret word or sign that you can use so that your family, friends or co-workers will know you need them to call for help.
- Plan what you will say to your partner if they become abusive or violent.
- Always remember that you are entitled to live without fear and violence.
Now it is time to set your plan in action. You have to have somewhere to go, a way to support yourself so that your new life gets off to a secure proper beginning. Below are things you need to have in place in order to move on and rebuild your life.
- Leave: You need somewhere to go. If you can’t afford a place of your own find a friend or family member who will allow you to stay with them until you are able to get a place of your own. Or use the legal system to have him removed from the home.You can do this by filing for divorce and petitioning the court for exclusive rights to the marital home. The danger with this strategy is that he will know where you are. You are safer leaving and finding safe harbor with a friend or relative.
- Bank Account: You are going to need an account in your name only. If you’ve been planning correctly you will have this set up with a bit of money in it before you leave. DO NOT set up a new account in the same bank you have a joint account with him. Find a new bank, close to the location you will be living.
- Money: You’re going to need this too. Where can you get it from? All kinds of places; if you work deposit some of your salary in your new bank account. What if he is a financial control freak? All is not lost; collect change from his pockets, save some of the grocery money, do anything you can do and save up. When you are ready to go, don’t throw your wedding ring at him, pawn it! Don’t burn your wedding dress, sell it! Sell/pawn anything you can get your hands on before you go.
- Legal help: Yes, you are going to need an attorney. If you haven’t done it already, now would be a good time to go to your local women’s crisis center for information. They will know the law in your State and will be able to help you find legal aid services, offer counseling and assistance with housing, protection orders, child custody, divorce, etc…
Now that you are out or, he is out there are steps you need to take to protect yourself and your new life.
- If you’re still in the home you shared with your husband change every door lock even if the door was not in use. Your husband may have a key and you don’t want him to be able to get in. Be sure all of the windows are locked.
- Be sure you change your phone number if you’re still in the home you shared with him. Change it even if you have moved to a new location. Get an unlisted number and do not give it out to anyone you’re not sure you can trust.
- Get an answering machine so that you can screen your phone calls.
- Document and keep the records of all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving him in a safe place. You may need those records when contacting support programs for help. You will definitely need those records when seeking legal assistance.
- If you are confronted by your husband be sure you have an escape plan ready and be prepared to use it.
- Make sure all meetings with husband are held in a public place. Never agree to a private meeting even if he is being nice to you.
- Do not follow the same routine every day. Take different routes to and from your home or place of work. Shop at different times and in different locations. Don’t have lunch or dinner in the same place every day.
- If you have children in school alert them to your situation. Put a plan in place with the school so they will know what to do if trouble arises.
- Talk to your boss, tell him/her about your situation and make plans in case your husband harasses you at work or shows up. Alert your co-workers and business contacts too.
- Do your best to avoid being home alone. Don’t go to isolated areas.
I hope you understand the importance of having both a short and long-term plan when attempting to leave an abusive relationship. Start making your plans now so that you can get out and stay out either today or down the road. If you don’t, you may well end up dead. Please call the National Domestic Abuse hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233).