Leaving despite Fear
When you are in an abusive relationship, you feel fear. And more often than not, you have to leave it to be safe and whole again. But how do you go about leaving despite fear of retaliation or even death? Jill Curtis has a few suggestions to make it easier for you:
How to say 'I'm leaving you' when you fear for your life
To say 'I'm leaving you' is very hard, even when a relationship has been in trouble for some time. The difficulty increases beyond measure if there has been a history of violence between you and your partner.
Perhaps you have already tried to leave and so you are only too aware of what the reaction from your partner will be. So many of the emails I receive on my website FAMILYONWARDS.COM are from women, and occasionally from men, asking for some tips about how to break free from a tangled and painful relationship.
In her recent book, Getting Out, Ann Goetting, listened to the life stories of women who left abusive men. As woman after woman recounts her experience a pattern emerges. A woman threatens to leave, or does in fact depart, and then all too often she is 'reeled back' into the relationship with promises of change and undying love. Sometimes, though, the threat of 'what will happen to you if you ever try to leave' is enough to keep a woman in an abusive relationship. All these women were leaving despite fear, and managed to do so.
As well as suffering physical violence, emotional abuse can make even the strongest woman believe that she will not survive outside of the relationship. If self-esteem and self-respect are at rock bottom how can anyone summon up the courage to say 'I'm leaving, and this time I mean it.'
So how can you leave despite fear? First of all, the time has to be right. What do I mean by that? Well, it cannot be just a vague feeling that 'Perhaps I ought to go'. You must be desperate enough to be determined to go. It may be that something has happened to bring you to boiling point. One blow too many? An attack on a child? Another series of broken promises? The finger of scorn pointed once too often?
Don't wait until the next crisis arrives, as it surely will. First of all you must make a plan. Tell someone about it; there is no shame in telling a neighbour or family what is happening to you, and what you are planning to do. Secondly, you must believe that you have a right to live free from fear. Ask if you can deposit important papers, sources of help, some cash, clothes, toys and even a spare set of car keys with a friend. Find out about any local organisations which will help you. They will understand if you are not quite ready to leave, and will help you with your planning.
It is important to leave nothing to chance when it comes to the safety of yourself or your children. Pause and ask yourself, am I really going to leave? Have you gone away previously, and returned? What is different about this time? Is there a chance you might be seduced back by promises of love, or threats of suicide? Think these points through very carefully. Still ready to go? Even so, only when you feel that you have set up all the support you can, should you leave.
The only reason I can think of for not telling a partner you are leaving in a face-to-face situation is when there is a real possibility of violence. However, if you believe that you must confront your partner before you go, then make sure you have someone with you who can protect you when you break the news.
Before you tell your partner, make one-hundred per-cent sure that you have somewhere safe to go. Somewhere you will not be found. And remember this refuge will have to last for some considerable time.
So with good preparations made both psychologically, and practically, it is time to go. There is a new life waiting out there for you. A life without fear of violence.
© Jill Curtis 2001
Jill Curtis writes books and articles on family issues. Visit her website Familyonwards. Her latest book Find Your Way Through Divorce has just been published by Hodder and Stoughton at £6.99. Check out the Bookshop page for more details!
In This Section:
Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
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