An unintended outcome of my work with executive leaders and their employees is that I hear no shortage of stories from people who have lived with abuse. Many are former victims, now survivors, or they were indirectly victimized because they lived with someone, like a parent, who was directly victimized. I’m glad this happens; these stories. It never ceases to amaze me; all the heinous ways in which one person can purposefully torture another.
There are lots of success stories from these courageous people who found a way to leave their abusers. The list below are 10 ways to leave an abusive situation. The order in which they appear is my own opinion. Yours may be very different. And besides that, rarely is only one of these tips going to lead to escape; it typically takes a combination. So don’t despair.
In my book Battered and Abused – Bringing the Darkness into the Light Dawn wrote the story of the atrocious abuse at the hands of her live-in boyfriend. She finally fled with the help of a friend.
“He had total control over me.
How could I let this happen? How could I let things get so out of control? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? Why didn’t I leave again? It was because I was ashamed. I didn’t want my family and friends to know what was happening to me.
I knew it wasn’t my fault. I knew it was wrong. I knew all of these things in my rational mind, but every time I thought rationally, I would hear that scared irrational voice in my head. What if he was right? What if my family and friends thought I was the crazy one? What if they believed him and not me? What if they thought less of me? What if they were ashamed of me? What would everyone think when they found out all of the horrible things he had done to me?”
Dawn did everything on this list, expect #3 because she didn’t have children or a job at the time. She did them in her own order and at a pace that felt right and felt safe for her. But she survived.
10. Contact the National DV Hotline for someone to talk to
9. Contact a local shelter and/or an alternative safe place to go. Or call the National domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.
8. Collect things you’ll need in an overnight bag for you and your children) hide the bag someplace you can get to it.
7. Talk with your children about a plan
6. Set aside money and spare keys.
5. Make copies of important documents; i.e. Marriage license, insurance, driver’s license, Orders of Protection.
4. Be sure to clear the history, cookies, internet searches and private conversations from your computer. Use only computers not accessible to your abuser or the abuser’s friends who might help them find you.
3. Talk to your children’s school about your safety plan. Talk to your employer.
2. Keep notes of the abuse; what was said, who witnessed, dates times – the devil is in the details. Keep photos of injuries and keep medical records. Maybe it’s the Human Resources manager in me but the credo here is: document, document, document. Be crystal clear and very specific.
1. Contact the police to help you get your things out of the house. Never go along and resist the urge to bring your friends.
- Put Safety Plan Shoe cards in all of your shoes; hide them in books too. Available in English and Spanish at http://hressential.com/resources.html
- YOU must absolutely, completely and totally stop coming up with excuses to stay, denials that the abuse will happen again, and the belief the abuser will stop. Abuse is not love. Why would you deny yourself the opportunity to have a healthy relationship? Why would you continue to expose your children and risk lives? This is NOT re-victimizing you. Face it though – there comes a time where you – and only you can make the decision to go.
- Don’t get involved with an abuser in the first place. Know the warning signs and red flags early on. Refuse to accept excuses and justifications for abuse!
What constitutes abuse? The National Domestic Violence Hotline asks the following questions.
“Does your partner:
• Embarrass you with put-downs?
• Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
• Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
• Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
• Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
• Make all of the decisions?
• Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
• Prevent you from working or attending school?
• Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
• Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
• Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
• Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
• Force you to try and drop charges?
• Threaten to commit suicide?
• Threaten to kill you?”