How to Leave an Abusive Relationship
For this very serious topic, I want to emphasize safety. If there are children involved, or if you truly feel as if your life is in danger, you may need to involve the police so that the situation doesn’t get out of hand. Always proceed with caution when dealing with abusive individuals.
When it becomes necessary for you to leave your abusive environment at home, remember that both men and women are more likely to die during or after the act of leaving their abusers than at any other time during a crisis relationship.
If it is time for you to leave an abuser, take the following under consideration first.
Planning to Leave
If you are in an abusive relationship, you should go ahead and put a few things together in anticipation of the time when you need to leave.
For starters, decide where you will go. You need a safe place to escape to, the home of someone you trust, maybe even someone who your abuser doesn’t know.
Think of all of the “things” you will need to bring with you when you go to that safe place. Now is the time to really prioritize those things that are most important to you. Here’s a list of things you may need to pack and prepare —
- Legal documents related to all people who are leaving
- Birth Certificates
- Social Security Cards
- Insurance papers
- Evidence documenting abuse including — Photographs, statements from friends, a diary that recorded abusive events, etc
- Credit / debit cards or prepaid cards
- Bank Account Info including account number or numbers
- Mortgages in your name or under joint ownership
- Credit card agreements in your name or under joint ownership
- A legal will
- A sheet of contact info for any support resources you will be using like shelters, AA or NA, etc., crisis line numbers, support groups
- Any personal items with sentimental value
Look at this list and decide which things you can “pack away” now and which things you may need to leave behind in a hurry. If you have a handful of pictures you know you’ll want to bring you can move that a lot faster than if you try to move an entire attic’s worth of photo boxes. It will take less time to bring Grandma’s recipes than to try and bring her copper pot.
Remember that you may be gone for a long period of time. Unless you have really solid finances or an apartment lined up somewhere, finding a place to live will be the first of many difficulties.
The main reason you plan to be gone for a long time is that your abuser will likely experience a miraculous “recovery” within a couple of days — this is pretty typical. Do not believe the abuser, and do not return home, no matter how dire you feel your circumstances currently are.
You need to have a safe place to live basically set up before you leave because even emergency shelters only give you a few weeks of time before they make you leave.
Find an Attorney
You need to find a lawyer with lots of experience helping victims of abuse. The closer your specific case to the attorney’s experience the better. Good legal legal representation can be the difference between appropriate action against the abuser and being basically ignored. You must make sure that the proper legal steps are taken to protect you and whoever left the abuser with you.
Don’t think that protective orders or “do not call” orders from a judge work perfectly. They are limited. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek the appropriate legal orders, just that you should always behave carefully, even when protected by the law..
Leave a Note
There are many reason why you won’t want to tell your abuser exactly what is going on — fear, anger, resentment, etc. You should try as hard as possible to leave some kind of note, both for compassion’s sake and because this last step can sometimes make the difference between an enraged abuser and an abuser that reacts to the news of your leaving without much concern.
Your note should explain that you (and whatever children go with you) are leaving because of the abuse, that you are going to a safe place, and that you don’t want your abuser to find you or bother your family or friends. Be as specific as you think is safe, but don’t give any clues to the abuser. Sometimes the abuser will read this note, realize they were in the wrong, and react to it very little if at all. Leaving a note is also a kind act, demonstrating to your abuser that you act in love even when they’re acting out of hate.
When leaving an abuser becomes necessary it is nice to know the steps to take in order to be safe. I’m not trying to tell you that you should or shouldn’t leave your abusive partner, only showing you that it can be done and that if done properly, leaving an abuser can be a less painful and more rewarding experience