Escaping Domestic Violence

January 11, 2009

If you are considering leaving an abusive partner, have an escape plan and don’t half-arse it. If you feel as though you can’t escape due to finances, forget it. Cut your losses and get the hell out of there. All the money in the world won’t mean a thing if you are dead. If you never have to see him again, any amount was money well spent.

If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to maintain your health. Your body and mind are under constant stress when you are being abused, and you need to look after yourself. Eat properly. Include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet to help keep you healthy. Do regular exercise to keep your body fit and strong. Exercise can lift your mood and increase your confidence. It is important that you get enough sleep. Your body and mind cannot function at their full potential if your body is lacking sleep. Learning about domestic violence and putting some time into emotional healing can also help give you strength.

Before you leave, know the answers to the following questions:

  1. Where will you go if you desperately need to get out?
  2. Can you stay at a friend or family member’s house?
  3. Where will you be safe?
  4. Where is your nearest women’s shelter?
    • What is their number?
  5. Where is your local police station?
    • What is their number?
    • When are their opening hours?

Try not to raise your partner’s suspicion. Tell someone you trust what is going on. Educate them on domestic violence and get them to read about it as well so they understand what you are going through. Keep some clothes, extra cash and medication for you and your children at a trusted friend’s house. Keep as much evidence of your situation as possible. Have the numbers of support groups like the Domestic Violence Women’s Line handy (ph: 1800 811 811).

Once you’re out, cut off all possible avenues of contact and close your shared accounts immediately. Do this while you’re still angry, before loneliness strikes. I read other women’s stories about domestic violence to keep myself angry enough to not want anything to do with my abuser. To put things in perspective, write a list of what you could gain and lose from staying with your partner. My gain side contained one item. That was short term happiness in the honeymoon phase. The loss side was a page long, with self-esteem, confidence, long-term happiness, sanity, and my life being among the things I could lose.

You know your situation better than anyone. Tell your support group how you need them to support you. In my case, I knew that if my abuser spoke to me, he would be able to manipulate me into going back. I explained to my family that no matter what, I could not have any contact with him whatsoever. I didn’t want to know when he called, what he said, or anything about him. I asked them not to tell him anything about where I was or what I was doing. They needed to be my barrier until I was emotionally strong enough to deal with him. This meant that they had to screen my phone calls, e-mails, and keep my mobile phone away from me so there was no temptation to speak to him as loneliness set in. I explained that while I was feeling strong and reasonable as I was discussing my plan with them, I knew that when I got upset that I would become distressed and fall back into the cycle of abuse if I wasn’t stopped. I also warned them not to speak to him if they could possibly avoid it, because he would manipulate them too. They listened and agreed to do whatever I asked. It wasn’t until one of his e-mails slipped through and they saw how much having contact with him affected me that they really understood how important their role was.

Once you’re out, make every effort to keep yourself mentally strong. Don’t be afraid of talking to the people you trust. You have been through a terrifying experience. It’s okay to talk about it. Book yourself in to a counselor. Use the Domestic Violence Women’s Line to help you through the hard times between counseling sessions. Exercise and stay busy to keep your mind off your abuser. Take up an interest that you couldn’t do while you were in an unsupportive relationship. If you have lots of friends, great! They can help keep you busy. If you don’t, put yourself out there and make the effort to develop new friendships.

Finally, let yourself cry. Alone or with someone, it doesn’t matter. The first step to healing is to face your feelings, not bottle them up. I assure you, whatever sadness you feel in leaving your abuser, it is worth it a thousand times over to be free.

For more detailed information about escaping an abusive relationship, visit Women’s Safety After Separation’s safety pages on escaping violence and long-term safety.

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