If you’re thinking about leaving a violent relationship, I’m not going to lie. It can be HARD. But you CAN do it. You don’t have to settle for a life of torment and abuse.
I helped my Mum secretly flee a violent marriage when I was only 17.
I fled my own violent marriage when I was 34.
If I can do it, so can YOU. Believe me when I say that.
You don’t need to doubt your ability to MAKE this happen. You don’t have to listen to those who think they know what’s best for you because YOU know what’s best for you! You don’t have to settle, ever, for a life that is less than you DESERVE.
Let me share with you the below. 5 things to consider doing when you have made you decision to leave but not yet decided where to start taking action. These 5 things are all things I did, and all things that made my separation experience significantly less scary and overwhelming.
Will these steps be right for every reader? Likely not. But that’s ok. If you’re reading this, there’s a reason why and you need to take what works for you and leave the rest.
Here we go…
Sort financial affairs where possible
Quite a few things fall under this category but the main things I would suggest are;
- Putting money aside if you can – your real life ‘running away’ account
- Saving all your coins (every little bit adds up!)
- Getting any loans/credit cards you may need to survive BEFORE your income drops (if your employment situation will change post leaving the relationship)
- Minimising any financial commitments you will be responsible for going forward (eg. phone bills and other expenses)
- Finding out what support payments you may be eligible for
- Opening a new bank account in your name only
- Tidying up you finances – closing accounts you don’t need, selling any shares you own to pool cash, getting copies of any financial documents (more on this one later)
Consider getting a cheap prepaid phone
This one can literally be a sanity saver. If your partner is stalking, harassing or just generally annoying you via technology it’s a good idea to source a cheap pre-paid mobile phone with a new number just to get you through. If they don’t know the number, they can’t harass you via the phone! (Turn the other phone off!) Give this number to anyone you feel needs it but also don’t give it to ANYONE who doesn’t need it. Not only will this create distance between you and your partner it will also be your back up if your partner takes your other phone. The added bonus of buying a ‘dumb’ phone (as opposed to a ‘smart phone’) – there are no GPS functions that will allow your partner to follow your location.
Research – everything!
Again, I could write for days on this one. But generally, the more organised and informed you are, the easier the departure will be. You might want to consider researching;
- Where you might be able to work if you have to move areas
- Housing options and affordability
- What things will cost
- Where your kids will go to school (if they have to move)
- Legal fees
- Local community support services
- What worked and didn’t’ work for other women (blog articles, podcasts etc)
- Your rights and responsibilities
- How the Police may be able to help you
Remember, usually when you fail to plan you plan to fail. Now, I know in a domestic violence setting planning is not always possible. I know that. But what I’m saying is do WHATEVER you can do to give yourself a head start.
Every second you spend organising your life BEFORE you leave will give you back two or more AFTER you leave. This might include;
- Culling old documents then gathering and copying those that need to go with you (birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, visa papers, bank statements, business documents etc). Remember, it’s easier to shred documents you don’t need later than to go back and get what you DO need later
- Making as many phone calls as possible to gather information
- Keeping a diary to log partner behaviour if need be
- Closing any accounts you don’t need
- Getting any keys cut
- Obtaining and submitting a mail re-direction form with Australia Post
- Getting another diary to keep track of calls you need to make, outcomes of any appointments you attend, action steps you need to complete the next day/week etc. Consider it a ‘log book’ of sorts. One place you can go for ALL your information
Work out a safety plan
Again, this one will depend so much on who your partner is and what risk factors may be at play. REMEMBER: LEAVING IS OFTEN THE MOST DANGEROUS TIME. Never assume your partner “wouldn’t do that”. You think you know someone and then you flee and discover what they are REALLY capable of. Anything could happen and anything WILL happen.
- Which family members will be on board this plan?
- What will you take when you leave?
- Where will you go?
- What if your car keys are stolen by him/her?
- What if your phone is stolen by him/her?
- What will you do with your pets and children?
- What time of day is best for you to leave?
- What are the various routes out of your area?
- What will be your ‘secret’ word to let people know you are in trouble?
- What if he/she finds you?
As you can see there are PLENTY of things you need to plan for. Remember: no amount of planning will leave you 100% safe so be alert and be confident. Be prepared to ASK FOR HELP because no one can help if they don’t know what’s going on for you. Be selective about who you speak to and what information you share.
So there you have it. 5 things to do before fleeing a violent relationship.
I hope these tips really help you prepare for what will no doubt be one of the most stressful events of your life. I want this list to make you feel EMPOWERED, not alarmed. It was written with the intention of supporting and encouraging you, not terrifying and overwhelming you into staying somewhere unsafe.
If you need some support, I’m here for you. My services are available locally in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales but I do also offer phone and online therapy sessions Australia wide. You can reach out to me here or find out more about how I might be able to help you with domestic violence here.
In the mean time you may also like to check out these articles of mine;
Until next week…
Yours in better mental health,
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!