If you do decide to leave an abusive household, it is crucial that you PLAN AHEAD so as to safeguard yourself and any children involved both before and after you have left.
It is a fact that abusive behaviour often INCREASES after a survivor has left a perpetrator, so it is crucial you have as much knowledge, help and support you can gather at this time.
TEN TIPS BEFORE LEAVING
TIP 1: KEEP A JOURNAL / EVIDENCES OF ABUSE noting dates, events, threats made, and the names of any witnesses if present. Keep screenshots of abusive texts, emails, pictures, Facebook posts and injuries. Be careful to keep everything in a safe place. Should your phone / devices be monitored, try to send / store these images with friends or family as these can help you to get a protection order.
TIP 2: KNOW WHERE YOU CAN GET HELP. Try to find out your nearest services and shelters. Take care not to leave a ‘digital trace’ of any research you do on your devices. If safer, head to a nearby internet cafe / library / a friend’s house and use their available devices.
TIP 3: HIDE YOUR ONLINE TRACKS by following this guide by Rape Crisis.
TIP 4: REPORT INJURIES. If you are ever injured go to a doctor or ER and make sure they document your visit.
TIPE 5: IDENTIFY SAFE SPACES for children like a room with a lock or a friend’s house they can go to for help.
TIP 6: CONTACT YOUR LOCAL SHELTER and find out about what resources are available to you before you have to use them in a crisis.
TIP 7: TRY TO SET MONEY ASIDE or ask friends or family members to save money on your behalf.
TIP 8: READY AN ESCAPE BAG and store it somewhere safe (like at a neighbour’s house or the basement etc). It should include spare keys, important papers, medications and some spare cash in case you need to leave in a hurry. If you need prescription medicines, keep a spare script in your escape bag too.
TIP 9: GIVE SPARE COPIES of keys, important papers, photocopies of bank cards and credit cards etc. to a family member, friend or someone you trust for safekeeping.
TIP 10: ARRANGE A CODE WORD with friends / family so that you can ask them to come and get you even if the perpetrator can hear you. This is especially important if you have mobility or disability issues.
AT THE POINT OF LEAVING
Make a plan for how you can make your escape quickly. Try to leave when your perpetrator is away e.g. at work or out at an event. Remember that you can request a police escort or stand-by. Try to take as many of the following items with you as you can:
ID & FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS
- Driver’s license
- Birth certificate and children’s birth certificates
- Financial information e.g. benefits etc.
- Money and/or credit cards in your name
- Savings account books
LEGAL PAPERS & EVIDENCES
- Log books / photos / journals cataloguing the abuse you have suffered
- Protective / Restraining orders
- Marriage license / Divorce / Custody papers
- Copies of any lease or rental agreements, or the deed to your home
- Car registration and insurance papers
- Health and life insurance papers
- Medical records for you / your children
- School records
- Work permits / visa
IMPORTANT CONTACT NUMBERS
- Your local taxi services / accessible taxi services should you need them
- Your local police department (Call 101)
- Your nearest domestic violence shelter
- Friends, relatives and family members
- Your local doctor’s office / hospital
OTHER CRUCIAL ITEMS
- Changes of clothes for you and your children
- Any valuables e.g. jewellery
- Pictures and sentimental items important to you
- Emergency money
FIVE TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE AFTER LEAVING
TIP 1: CHANGE YOUR PHONE NUMBER and request that your phone number be blocked. This will ensure that if you call anyone, neither your abuser/s nor anyone else they know will be able to get your unlisted number.
TIP 2: ALTER YOUR ROUTINES as much as you can and change any appointments your abuser/s may know about. Try to stay away from those areas known to them.
TIP 3: IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, ALERT SCHOOLS / NURSERIES / CHILDMINDERS of developments, and making sure they do not release the children to anyone else, or give your new address or telephone number out to anyone.
TIP 4: KEEP A COPY OF ANY RESTRAINING ORDERS ETC. WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES. Inform local police, friends, neighbours, your childrens’ schools and employers that you have a restraining order in effect and provide them with a picture of the offender.
TIP 5: CONSIDER RENTING A POST OFFICE BOX / USING ANOTHER ADDRESS FOR YOUR MAIL e.g. a friend’s address (don’t forget that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports, so be careful who you give your address and phone number to).
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE: So that you can think through difficult situations and discuss potential options.
TAKE SMALL STEPS: Don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with or which may place your life at greater risk. Take small steps towards your own goals when you are ready.
GIVE YOURSELF SPACE: Everyone needs a physical space they can feel safe in. If you don’t have one inside your home, try to find one outside it – like a nearby park, cafe or public building such as a library.
REMIND YOURSELF YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME: Whatever form of abuse occurring is not your fault and has no bearing on the wonderful value you have as a person in your own right.
TAKE CARE OF YOU: Give yourself emotional breaks wherever possible. Step back from the situation and breathe so that you can make the decisions that are best for you and anyone else dependent on you.