Thinking about Leaving an abusive relationship?
You often start thinking about leaving an abusive relationship once
you have realised that the home situation is simply untenable. In
some situations, eg where you still live apart and don't have joint
children, this may not seem too physically impossible, despite the
emotional hurdles to be faced. But where your life is very much intertwined
(joint house/mortgage, joint bank accounts and debts, joint children,
etc) even thinking about leaving can be daunting.
Even if you feel that at this stage the abuse is still managable,
it is still a good idea to start thinking about leaving and be prepared
in case the situation suddenly escalates. The following suggestions
are from survivors of abusive relationships who have left their abuser
and now live safely.
Getting Prepared Emotionally
- Visualize yourself having left, going through
everything, where would you stay, how would you feel, what would
you do next, etc. If you start thinking through the process and
about your reactions, it will be easier to deal with the reality
- Decide if and when you've had enough. You have
to be sure that what you're doing is the right thing for you and
your children at the time. It's a big change.
- Keeping a diary or journal (hidden privately) can help.
Many victims write journal notes or diaries as a way to sort out
their feelings and the situation. It helps to have these notes to
read through and reflect. If you keep a diary, be sure it is in
a well-hidden place and cannot be found, especially if it mentions
that you are thinking about leaving.
This list on thinking about leaving
was compiled with help from regular visitors to the Rhiannon3 / Hidden
Hurt message forum. Special thanks to AJ, Kiara, Lynn, Nuance, Sunny
and Vela for the well thought-out posts that contributed.
- Realise staying is not a long term solution to protect
yourself, your safety or your children's safety. The classic
pattern of abuse escalates over time. Think about what you want
in your life and how you want your children to grow up. Ask yourself
if the relationship or family situation is getting better or is
it progressively getting worse.
- Realise that there will still be problems to overcome
if you leave and an abusive partner may still try to control you
through emotional, financial or other means. Those who leave abusive
relationships still face challenges; their lives improve greatly
by leaving but they know there are challenges ahead and make a decision
to face them. Many choose counseling or support groups to help themselves
meet this challenge.
While thinking about leaving an abusive relationship, safety planning
is the highest priority - more women and children are seriously assaulted
or even killed when they try to leave or shortly after. The key to
safety planning is taking a problem, considering the full range of
available options, evaluating the risks and benefits of different
options, and identifying ways to reduce the risks. If you are able
to contact a local Womens' Aid or Refuge, they have qualified staff
to help you with your safety planning.
Here are some tips from our forum members who have already escaped:
- Gather together any documents you may need.
Store them in a safe place such a bank safe deposit box, with a
trusted relative or friend. Ensuring the documents are available
if you must leave in a hurry due to danger, or are actually planning
to leave, is important. Documents will help you in getting assistance,
filing other paperwork and protecting your interests. These documents
Is there anyone you can ask to call the police if they hear suspicious
noises coming from your house or apartment?
If you need to get out of your house or apartment in a hurry,
what door, window, elevator or stairwell will you be able to use
in order to get out safely?
Where can you keep your purse, car keys and some change to make
a phone call so that you can grab them quickly?
Is there a code word you can use with friends, family and/or your
children to alert them to call for help? Do your children know how
to use the phone to contact police?
If an argument occurs, how can you get to a room where there are
fewer things that can be used as weapons? Avoid getting trapped
in the kitchen, bathroom, basement or garage.
- Social security cards/numbers for yourself and
- Birth certificates for yourself and any children
- Medical records and vaccination/immunization
records for the children
- Marriage certificate
- Insurance cards or policy numbers
- Bank account numbers (checking, saving, credit
cards too) and a copy of any recent statements showing balances
- List of everything of any value at all in the
house that may later be needed for divorce court or distribution
- Keys - house, car, office, post office box,
safety deposit box
- Drivers license, car registration and title
- Medications and prescriptions
- Passport, green card, work permit and any other
- Children's favorite toys, security blankets
- Start putting back a little money here and there,
just enough that isn't going to be missed. Be prepared as much
as you can be financially.
- Mortgage payment book, copies of current unpaid
- Pictures, jewelry, items of sentimental value
- Pictures of injuries you may have gotten from
your partner's abuse
- Any evidence that might help police in investigating
your case, for example, threatening letters or phone message tapes
- Counseling or a Support Group - When you leave
an abusive relationship, you need support to help sort through the
emotions, feelings of lost hopes, and rebuild your self esteem and
personal strength. Counseling and support groups help many victims
tremendously through this difficult time. So while thinking about
leaving, also think about what counselling or support group might
be suitable for you and possibly your children,
- Let police help you - What the police can do
for you depends in part on what you tell them or give them. Be as
open as you can, help the police by telling them all you can. Any
statement you give to the police is very important. Read your statement
carefully and if there is anything that is incorrect, ask the officers
to change the written statement so that it matches what actually
happened. Sign it only when it says what you want it to say.
- Get a Protective order or Restraining order -
if you are afraid of your partner or that you will be pursued, or
if violence has been shown previously; get a protective order. Many
people think protective orders don't work, but it is actually your
first line of legal defense. Follow up, if the order is violated
in any way, file charges. (see the sidebar giving details about
the NCDV who can help you to safely escape and help you through
the legal processes of gaining protective orders and going through
- Seek help and support from local domestic violence organisations
and shelters - Programmes offer safe shelter for victims
and their children, resources and contacts to legal help, court
advocates to assist you in court, and counseling or support group
services. As soon as you are thinking of leaving, look in your local
phone book for these groups, call your local social services, or
state or regional domestic violence coalitions for help and advice.
- Legal help - Investigate your legal rights and
position. You should feel comfortable when you talk to your lawyer
and be sure that she/he understands your situation and knows how
to help. If you do not have confidence in the first lawyer you speak
with, you should seek another one. Your local social services or
domestic violence organizations can usually refer you to a lawyer.
Seeking legal help is particularly important to protect your safety,
child custody and financial issues. Know your rights.
- Family and Friends - The first place an abusive
partner will look for you when you leave is with family or friends.
Choose very carefully about where you will stay. If you fear the
partner will become violent, then chose a shelter of Refuge to protect
everyone's safety. Ask your family and friends for emotional support.
Survivors of domestic violence and abuse need emotional
support. Be careful to ask those closest to you, who you
feel the abusive partner could never persuade. A survivor of domestic
abuse cannot afford contact with anyone who may side or feel sympathetic
with their former partner.
This list of considerations when thinking about leaving was developed
by experienced domestic violence survivors - women who have
already been through the challenge of leaving an abusive partner and
Return from Thinking about Leaving
to the Abuse Victim
In This Section:
Are you a Domestic Violence
You a Domestic Violence survivor?
and your Safety
Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
by Lundy Bancroft
with the Dominator: A Book About the Freedom Programme
by Pat Craven
People: How to Recognize, Understand and Deal with People Who Try
to Control You
by Patricia Evans
If you are thinking about leaving an abusive relationship:
Do not Suffer Domestic Violence in Silence - NCDV Can Help
Since it was set up in 2002, the NCDV (National Centre
for Domestic Violence) has been helping victims obtain
emergency injunctions - such as an occupation order
or a non-molestation order - regardless of race, gender, sexual
orientation or financial situation. We aim to provide instant, effective
protection against domestic violence and give advice to anyone who
- A One Stop Shop
- Immediate advice
- A 24-hour telephone helpline
- Specialists in Non-Molestation, Occupation and Prohibitive Steps
- Direct links to other support agencies
- Police & agency training
- We have obtained more than 10,000 injunctions
- "McKenzie Friend" training schemes in universities across the
country, allowing law students to attend court with victims of domestic
violence who cannot access public funding
We offer our services completely free. We never have and
never will charge for our services.
NCDV is an independent, self-funding organisation that works with police
forces, Refuge, Women's Aid, Victim Support and Citizens'
Advice Bureaux across England.
We provide a free, fast service to those who have experienced
domestic violence. We specialise in offering legal support,
making it possible to seek legal advice as well as court assistance.
In practice, this usually means helping individuals to apply for
an injunction at their local county court. To do this we use firms
of local solicitors and trained volunteers who act as "McKenzie
Friends". This means we can offer an emergency service to victims
of domestic violence whatever their financial circumstances, including
those who do not qualify for legal aid.
If you need any further information about NCDV, or to learn more
about applying for a Non-Molestation Order or other forms of injunction,
contact us on 0844 8044 999, or visit our website www.ncdv.org.uk