When it’s Time to Leave: Getting Out of an Abusive Relationship Safely
By Maureen Pollard,
Emotional Health Editor
Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered
social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario.
Ending a relationship is difficult any time it has to happen. Ending an abusive relationship isn’t easy, and it can be dangerous. Research tells us that the risk of death by an intimate partner is highest at the time when the victim leaves the relationship. Most statistics about intimate partner violence documents abuse by the male partner against the female partner in heterosexual relationships. More research is needed about intimate partner violence in diverse relationships and when a male partner is abused by a female partner.
If you are in an abusive relationship and you’re thinking about leaving, there are some things you can do to increase your safety when you’re ready.
Know that it’s normal to feel conflicted.
Your partner can be charming and there’s a reason you fell in love. If there was no abuse or violence, it would be a good relationship. You might feel that the problems are somehow your fault.These are all common thoughts to have when you’re trying to decide whether or not to leave. There is nothing wrong with you for thinking them.
Get professional support.
Contact a domestic violence program in your region to ask for suggestions and to have support as you think about how to safely leave this dangerous situation.
Stay alert for your partner’s red flags. Try to leave before abuse starts if you sense trouble brewing. Think ahead so you are prepared with some possible reasons you would have to leave the house.
"Remember, it’s not your fault. No matter what you do or how you are, no one should ever be abused. You did not cause your partner’s problems, and you can’t solve your partner’s problems."
Know the safe areas in your house.
If possible, head for a room with a phone and a window or door to the outside. Avoid small spaces with no exit and rooms with weapons readily available. If you can, keep a second phone your partner doesn’t know about so you can call for help even if they have taken or broken your phone.
Take photos of broken objects and injuries. Keep items that are evidence and keep documents related to any medical treatment required due to abuse.
Have a code word.
Let your family members or friends know that when you use this word or phrase that you’re in danger and they should call the police.
Have an exit plan.
Keep a bag packed and stored in a safe place, with important documents and items you will need. Keep your cell phone charged, hide a spare key to the car and put some cash where you can access it quickly. Make a plan for your pets.
After you leave:
Stay someplace safe and secure. When the risk is very high, a stay at a shelter might be safest. Get medical help, if needed. Change your routines and protect your privacy. Get therapy to help you recover from the damage the abuse has done to your self-esteem and self-confidence.
It’s not your fault. No matter what you do or how you are, no one should ever be abused. You did not cause your partner’s problems, and you can’t solve your partner’s problems. You deserve a safe and happy life. There are people waiting to help you when you are ready.
Ontario & Northumberland County