Getting out of a domestic violence relationship is one of the hardest things one might ever face. Besides being beaten down emotionally, and having little to no self esteem left; there's often serious financial issues with the choice to leave. There's also the belief that the abuser can change; but the chances of the person changing while in a relationship with the abused, are less likely than them getting hit by lightning five times.
Having lived through this process myself, spending 2 years in the domestic violence self help group, and helping many women to finally leave for good, I felt this node could help someone else. I definitely understand that not all abusers are male, but since the majority are, it's just easier for me to write this from the perspective of a male abuser / female victim. It can be applied to any other gender combination as well.
It's essential to note, in the case of the dangerous abuser, that the greatest risk is when the abuser thinks it's really over forever. In most cases you are safe until then, the abuser does not want to kill you when they think they know what it will take to get you back. When your partner's sure he can't get you back, you really need to take your safety seriously - not doing so could be deadly I'm sorry to say, but it's the truth - when that time comes your safety has to be protected at all cost.
Wrapping up loose ends:
It's very important to start thinking now of what you will need when you do leave for good. The reason so many end up back with their abusers is because they make excuses to continue to contact the abuser, which gives him the opportunity to get you back while you are still vulnerable. Keep in mind, the abuse usually gets worse each time you do come back because they become more confident that they can get you back the next time.
It's very important to stop and think - think - think. Material things do not matter. Any material things you absolutely must have, you should get immediately with a police escort. Begin making a list now, look through your house, look at everything there. Decide which items are so important to you that you'd take a chance of putting yourself through another few years of abuse. Write that list down and put it in a secure location (your mother's house, or sisters house, etc.)
You should put as many of these items as possible in one part of the house so they can all be easy to grab at a moments notice when you leave, or when you return with a police escort to retrieve them.
Some suggestions of things to consolidate to one area of the house are:
- Medical records
- Address book
- Insurance policies
- Birth Certificates
- Kids school and immunization records
- ATM, and Credit Cards
- Social Security Card
- Passport or Green Card
- Eye Glasses and Medications
- Baby books and negatives of photos
- Irreplaceable items, family heirlooms
- Auto title and registration
- Evidence of past abuse - police reports - restraining orders
What I'd like you to do, is imagine if your house were to burn down tomorrow and the abuser with it, clearly then you could not contact him could you? So there should be no reason to absolutely have to contact him when you leave.
If at all possible try to stash some money aside that the abuser is not aware of - he may close the bank accounts when you leave - and try to hurt you financially so you'll need him and come back. I know in many cases it's not possible to stash money, but if you can do so - if you have your own money start making getting out of this situation a priority over other things that don't mean as much to your future. If it's possible to set up your own checking account without him having access, do that as well.
I realize I'm giving you a lot of 'work' to do here, but we both know that walking on eggshells 90% of the time, is a lot more work. I'd like you to find the time to gather up as much information as you can on help available in your area, if there's a YWCA in your area they will be able to point you in the right direction. If there's not one of those in your area check the local government section of the phone for leads. The US National Domestic Violence Hotline's phone number is 1-800-799-SAFE, please memorize that now if you're in the USA, they can lead you to local help available.
Have confidence in yourself:
It's crucial to realize that others may not have confidence that your 'really leaving for good this time' - especially if this is your third or forth attempt. Do not let this get you down. Please remember you've at least attempted it 2 or 3 times, is this not better than not even trying? It's the hardest thing in the world to do, so do not beat yourself up for your past 'failed attempts' and don't let those convince you that you cannot succeed. You can. Those putting you down "Here she goes again" - are playing into your abusers hand - don't let them discourage you. Don't! They haven't been there, and even if they have - their situation was different.
It takes more then they will ever know to get out, but you can do it. This may be your fourth attempt, or your 10th, at least you are trying... and you CAN succeed, trust me on that. It won't be easy and you really do have to make it your job - but you can do it. You deserve better, you know you do... and you can get there.
For some, having 'empowering music' is helpful. If you know someone with a CD burner, you can ask them to make you a CD, one you can listen to when your feeling ready to make the final move on to a new life free of abuse. Here are some songs that may work for you:
Keep a journal:
One of the most important things you need to do, if you really have the desire to succeed in leaving, is start keeping a journal right now. Today. Whenever you are alone and have the time, start writing down prior abuses and how they made you feel. Whenever a new case of abuse happens, as soon as you are alone you need to write, write, write. Write everything down, every detail you can. How you feel. Write down the promises the abuser made, and the attempts your partner's made to actually keep them once he's not feeling vulnerable anymore.
If possible, you should also get a voice activated tape recorder and record the abuse. You need the journal and the tapes (if you can make them) to help you avoid contacting him once you've left.
If you have access to the internet you can keep an online journal until you move out - just be sure not to 'save the password' - manually type it in each time. Once you've left you can print it out, or find someone who can do so for you.
When you do finally leave, I want you to make yourself a promise and keep it, for your sake, or the sake of those who love you. Before you 'have to call him' for this reason or that reason, or see him for any legitimate reason, I want you to read as many pages of that journal as you can, listen to the tapes if you've made them. If you're going to get in your car and meet him somewhere (you know you shouldn't!) but if you are, spend at least an hour reading the journal... reminding yourself of what this man is really like when he's not forced to be nice to you to 'get you back'. This is a tried and true method - when someones really ready to end things and will take this step.
Take the first step:
I wrote a saying once
I Will Strive
To improve my life
One step at a time
One step a day,
What will be my step today?
You can spend the next year, two, or five deciding to get out of this - or you can start with a single simple step. Take one a day, no matter how small towards your goal. You'll need a lot of things to get yourself out of this, the biggest being the ability to believe you can 'make it' without your partner. You can. But you need to know and believe that. Start taking them, one tiny step at a time. Of course I'd like you to leave today - but if that's not possible, or if you try and end up back... start taking those tiny steps. GED? Think you need one? Then start working on it. A resume? You may need one, often times there's a way to get one done for free, talk to your local college. A license? Creditors a problem? Just start working on the steps you need to take, one small step a day. You can do it. You are worth it.
Be prepared for the lies:
It's vital to realize that he is going to have a plan...they always do. He's going to make even bigger promises, like he'll go to counseling, or he'll start going to AA, or of course the old standby that he'll kill himself. He will have a new weapon in his attempt to get you back this time. If you're prepared for this it will help. If you've left before, remember how long he followed through with the promises he'd made that time? He would follow through even less this time, because each time he 'gets you back' - it gives him more confidence that he won't really lose you. He'll just have to make bigger promises the next time.
When you're ready to make the final steps to leaving for good - you need to commit to it like you committed to the abuser. Leaving for good hasn't made false promises, hasn't abused you, so you need to give it the time, devotion and energy you once gave the relationship.
Join a self help group:
It's important, if you can find one, to commit yourself to going to a domestic violence self help group in your area until you think you are safe from going back. Many people have problems with going to these meetings for various reasons - but none of those reasons are as important as getting out, especially if you have children. Their needs at this point need to come before pride, inconvenience or whatever might keep you away from the meetings. The meetings serve a number of purposes, as you hear the ladies talk (and no you won't be forced to talk - it's your choice!) but as you hear them talk you start to see things much more clearly and emerge from the fog you've been living in. You will realize you are not alone, and realize you are not worthless like he's lead you to believe. You will gain self confidence and be much less at risk of ending up back in that relationship or ending up in yet another abusive relationship.
Women leaving an abusive relationship are very likely, because they are so vulnerable, to end up in another abusive relationship. That's why being a part of a domestic violence program is so important. The abusers are like cookie cutters in the things they say and the ways they approach things - it's like they all read the same abusers-handbook. Staying involved in these meetings and hearing all those things they say will help you recognize the signs if the next guy you meet has those signs of abuse.
Once you've left for good, depending on the abuser, you could be at serious risk. It's at this point you need to seriously think about your safety. You should have a cell phone to call 911. The phone company may provide you with one for free if your circumstances warrant it (they did for me). If the phone company won't provide you with one - your local domestic violence shelter may be able to supply you with one that's programmed only to dial 911. If he's been seriously abusive in the past, or threatened to kill you if you ever leave - this is the time to take those threats seriously. Hundreds of women die every year because they did not take these threats seriously, and that's because 'he didn't hurt me the last time I left' - that's because as I've said till they think they lost you for good, their goal is to win you back. The abuser is a much different animal once they believe there's no hope to get you back. At this point you must be very careful. MY own escape from this - made the movie "War of the roses" (out that year ironically) look tame.. I'm alive to write this node for one reason only, I took my safety (for my son's sake) very very seriously. You need to too. There's nothing more dangerous than a wounded bear, except an abuser who thinks he's lost you 'for good'. Please don't ever put material things, or belief in his lies, over your safety.
Once you've left you'll need to reduce the chances of him contacting you. Child visits should be done through a neutral third party. Or you can meet in front of the local fire station, police station, or some other similiar place (if you don't have a restraining order against him) Don't let him use this as an excuse to harass you, any discussions about the kids should be done via writing for the first few months. If you're still vulnerable you should have a friend read the notes re the kids for you and share any "need to know" information.
You should change your cell phone number if he knows it. You can get that done free in most cases if you have a restraining order against him - the phone company will often do this for you.
Have your mail forwarded the day you move out.
If you're staying with family or friends utilize call blocking if it's available in your area (any number he calls from will no longer be able to call your # after the first call) Sooner or later he will run out of convenient places to call from.
Document everything once you leave, any harassing calls he makes, any threats made, and so on. There are stalking laws in most states now and everything you write down will help you with the legal process.
If you have the financial resources, join a self-defense course the day you leave. If you explain the circumstances the instructor may offer a sharp discount.
If your ex is dangerous and knows where you live, one thing you might consider is calling up a friend who's a light sleeper each night before bedtime and leaving the line open, if your line gets cut - they will get the 'obnoxious' hang up and dial again signal, and be alerted that something may be wrong.
Note: This node is a work in progress, if you know someone who can use this information please check it again later as I hope to be able to add many more important details. If you have any suggestions for this node please /msg me.