Staying safe — both you and your family members — is the key priority when deciding to leave an abuser. You should never blame yourself or your children for the actions of an abuser, but many people do. They justify the status quo by continually aiding and abetting the abuse.
It is okay to demand that all abuse stop immediately, and you should take whatever steps are necessary to guarantee your safety. Options are always available, such as relocating somewhere safe, getting help from a special service agency, or filing a protective order with the local sheriff or police department.
Getting Your Family to a Safe Place
The top priority in abuse cases is putting distance between you, your children, and the abuser. Unfortunately, stats show that the most dangerous time for abused families is when the adult victim or kids begin to take proactive action to leave or file an arrest report.
Most victims of domestic abuse are women and children, but if you are a battered man, the same rules apply to you as well. A common strategy when abused men decide to stop the violence is for the abusers to jump the fun and file false charges of domestic abuse themselves.
Preparation is the key to safety. You prepare by making an escape plan, following the plan and enlisting help along the way. Your first priority is finding a secure place to stay — a victim’s shelter, hotel, friend’s high-security home, or the home of someone who is not known to the abuser. Don’t choose a place where the abuser can likely find you.
Your escape plans should include a supply of cash because your credit cards might be cancelled by your spouse or traced by a private detective to your location. Ideally, you should store some clothes and personal items with a friend because you might not be able to pack up after deciding to leave the abuser.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence recommends that you leave the domicile you share with an abuser as soon as possible. The following planning steps can provide invaluable resources when you decide to move out:
- Make a list of safe people and organizations to contact when you need help.
- Memorize key phone numbers so that you don’t need to rely on a list.
- Keep spare change to pay for phone calls if you no longer have access to a mobile phone.
- Prepare critical items like birth certificates, bank account information, driver’s license and passport to take with you when you leave.
Pre-planning makes it easier to apply for social services and other benefits when you’re faced with getting away from your abuser quickly. Your planning should extend to finding a good divorce lawyer to confide in and from whom to get practical advice. Click here for a comprehensive guide about domestic violence.
Final Steps for Staying Safe
In the run-up to leaving your abuser, it’s helpful to make notes about the dates and times of violent incidents. You might also take photos of any corroborating bruises and wounds. The NCADV recommends gathering the following documents before leaving your abuser:
- Checkbook and credit cards
- Your Social Security card and the cards of your children
- Birth certificates
- Proof of income, such as pay stubs or W-2 forms
- Important papers like copies of property deeds and banking records
- Any documentation you have that proves the abuse, such as photos, emergency room visit records, etc.
Consulting an attorney is an important step because you could be charged with kidnapping for taking the children away from the family home without a court-issued protective order. Shelters can also help you obtain these protective orders to prevent your abuser from turning the evidence against your interests.
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