When someone who is being abused has decided it is time to escape, it can be empowering. But it can also be frightening.
Their abuser may have told them that if they leave they will be harmed; the abuser may have even threatened to hurt the victim's children, family members, or pets. A vital step to take before leaving an abuser is to develop a safety plan.
Items to Take When Leaving Abusive Relationship
- Spare car keys and your driver’s license
- Credit cards, money and checkbook
- Phone numbers for friends, relatives, doctors, schools, taxi services and your local domestic violence organization
- A change of clothing
- Any medication you typically take
- Important documents, or copies of them for both you and your children (birth certificates, social security cards, school records and immunizations, pay stubs, bank account information, marriage license, will)
- Any evidence you’ve been collecting to show you’ve been abused (photos of injuries, police records, medical records, a journal or log)
- A few personal items you want to keep (photo albums, jewelry, etc.)
Keep this bag in a place where the abuser cannot find it, such as at a trusted friend’s or neighbor’s house. Also, if you are able to, hide an extra set of car keys somewhere that you can easily access them, in case the abuser takes the car keys to prevent you from leaving. If you have pets and are worried about their safety, think about someone you trust who could take them before or when you leave. If you are escaping to a domestic violence shelter, some shelters (including the FSS domestic violence shelter) will house pets on site, or arrange for them to be cared for through a local kennel.
How to get out of your home safely
Practice different ways to get out if you have to leave in a hurry, or if you have to leave while your abusive partner is at home. DomesticViolence.org recommends also thinking about any weapons in the house and ways you could possibly get them out of the house before you leave. If you can leave when your abuser is not at home, this is the safest option. If you can’t, then think about alternative times to leave, such as when you’re taking out the trash, walking the family pet or going to the store. Again, practice these scenarios if possible.
Safety Plan: Location, Location, Location
Think about four places you could go. These may include the Family Support Services domestic violence shelter or a shelter near you, a trusted friend’s house that the abuser does not know the location of, or another safe location in a different city. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests that if a survivor has time after escaping the situation, they may consider creating a false trail. To do this, you can call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town that’s at least six hours away from where you’re planning to go. Ask questions that require these places to call you back at your house so that your abuser may believe this is where you’re going.
Abusers are intent on controlling survivor’s lives. When abusers feel a loss of control, such as when the abuser learns their victim is going to leave, the abuse can increase. This is why it’s especially important to take extreme cautions not only before you leave and during your escape, but also after leaving. Make sure you acquire a new cell phone so that your calls cannot be traced. Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number to. If you haven’t already, secure a personal protection order. Consider changing your children’s schools and, if you can, change your work hours. If you’re staying in the same city, use different stores and frequent different social spots.
Finally, don’t hesitate to call 911 if you feel you are in danger at any point before, during or after you leave. You can find emotional support by calling Family Support Services on our 24 Hour Crisis Line at 806.374.5433, Spanish: 800-799-723, Toll Free 800.749.9026, or by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Family Support Services
Note: Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger. You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.