If you and your children are in a domestic violence situation, your most important goal is to get yourself and your children out safely. Leaving an abuser may well be the most difficult thing you ever do, but you can do it. There are people who can help you and proper steps to take to ensure your physical safety. Read on to find out how you can remove yourself from an abusive relationship now.
Make Peace With Your Conflicted Feelings
The reason you haven’t left your abusive relationship yet might be that you are having confusing and conflicting feelings. He hits you one day but then apologizes and is loving for weeks. She calls you names and verbally berates you sometimes, but other times, she is sweet as can be. Maybe you know that you should leave but you are fearful of the future: How will you provide for yourself or your child without your partner’s financial help? What will people say about you? Will they think you were foolish or weak for not leaving before now?
In order to get out of your abusive situation, it is important to make peace with the fact that you are not feeling peaceful about leaving. It is very common to feel unsure or to worry about things like the reaction of others or your financial situation. None of that matters right now, though: The most important thing is getting out safely. Decide that you are going to focus on that and not on all of the questions you have bouncing around in your mind.
Make a Plan
If you are being abused, it is possible that you don’t have an easy way to leave. Your partner might keep a tight rein on the finances, ensuring you don’t have the money to leave. They might not let you have unlimited access to the car or to a way to fill up the tank with gas. It’s even possible that you don’t have a way to communicate with others in your family; maybe your abuser won’t allow you to have a phone or the privacy needed to make sensitive phone calls.
No matter what your situation, you need to make a plan. There are some things you can do to make it easier on you when the time does come for you to leave. They might include
- Squirreling away money that your partner won’t notice. For example, you might be able to cut down on what you are spending on groceries and keep the extra put away somewhere. If you can, set up your own savings account without his name on it; you might choose to have the statements sent to a family member’s home.
- Keep the car’s gas tank filled up. Rather than letting it get down to under a quarter tank, always fill it up as soon as it approaches a half tank. This will ensure that you have enough gas to get away in a hurry if needed.
- Be able to grab essential items if you need to make a quick getaway. These include medications that you need for yourself and your children, a few outfits for each of you, identification for each of you (if possible), diapers and formula (if applicable) and a few toiletries. Children’s comfort items should not be overlooked; if your child has a stuffed animal or a blanket that brings comfort, make every effort to take it without putting yourself at additional risk.
- Have a place in mind to go to. If at all possible, try to make contact with a friend or family member who can help keep you safe. Another excellent alternative is a domestic violence shelter. The staff and volunteers at these shelters know how to keep people safe who are fleeing an abusive relationship.
Keep Yourself Safe in the Meantime
While you are making your plan to leave, it is important that you take steps to keep yourself safe. You might not be able to leave right away, and your safety and the safety of your children are the most important factors to keep in mind.
Know what triggers your partner, and avoid those triggers. Watch for signs that he or she is getting agitated and might lash out. If you have children old enough to understand, coach them so they can stay safe, too. You might need to simply keep close tabs on your very young children; a toddler or preschooler is not going to be able to avoid an abusive adult on their own.
Have a plan as to which part of the home you should retreat to if your partner is acting violently. Going to a bathroom or an upstairs bedroom can cause you to become cornered, so avoid this if at all possible. Instead, try to go to a room that has a door leading to the outside. Going to the front porch or to the garage (where you can walk out into the driveway) is a good plan, particularly if you have neighbors who might hear the racket and help.
Speaking of your neighbors, let your loved ones know what is going on. You don’t have to share every detail; simply making them aware that you feel unsafe at home can allow them to be around more often or to intervene if the violence escalates.
Depend on Local and National Resources
Finally, don’t be afraid to depend on the resources in your community. Confide in your pastor, a child’s teacher, or some other mandated reporter if your children are in danger. This will cause social services to help you take control of the situation. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or visit their website.
You can also file charges against your partner and request a restraining order. Do be aware that a restraining order might not keep a determined abuser away from you and your children. In the midst of a crisis, do not hesitate to call 911 to get the local authorities involved.
You can escape a domestic violence situation. If you have recently left an abusive spouse or partner, you can contact National Family Solutions for help on how to file the paperwork for divorce and/or child custody. You don’t have to do this alone!