How To Leave An Abusive Relationship Safely
You have a right to feel safe in your relationship and home. But it’s hard to know how to leave an abusive marriage or domestic partnership without being put in danger.
When you feel ready to remove yourself from a domestic violence situation, it’s critical to be conscious of the documents, belongings and resources you’ll need to protect yourself and your children moving forward. In other words, this extremely difficult decision takes courage, support and a personalised safety plan.
Rest assured you are not alone in this process. Below, we detail important measures that can support you in leaving an abusive relationship safely.
Why is it hard to leave an abusive relationship?
At Joplin Lawyers, we understand that deciding to leave your partner is far easier said than done. There are several complex reasons why it is so difficult to end an abusive relationship.
You may feel fear, upset or overwhelmed at the thought of how a violent partner may react. It’s important to understand that leaving can be the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship, with the announcement potentially provoking further violence.
That’s why it is essential to have a thorough safety plan to protect yourself and your loved ones. With careful preparation, you can journey towards leading a safe, happy life, free from your abusive partner.
Leaving an abusive relationship with no money
You might also feel dependent on your partner due to shared finances, living arrangements, relationships and assets. In fact, it’s common for an abusive partner to control all of your funds. Do not let this hinder you from leaving or take away your freedom.
If you don’t have access to any finances, you can seek assistance with transport, accommodation and support at your nearest women’s shelter by contacting the Domestic Violence Line on 1800 65 64 63.
Need further assistance? At Joplin Lawyers, we are here to put you in touch with the right support services and resources. You may be eligible for legal aid to assist you with legal fees when negotiating parenting and property issues.
What to take when leaving an abusive relationship
When leaving an abusive partner, your safety is paramount. Discreet planning will support your welfare by helping you to take key items that can protect and assist you in the future.
Our checklist details which items and actions to take when removing yourself from a domestic violence situation. Please remember to store this information somewhere safe and discreet.
How to leave an abusive relationship
1. Tell a trusted family member or friend
You do not have to go through this process alone.
Domestic violence often creates shame for the victim, and abusive partners can dictate who you communicate with. However, it’s still important to confide in someone you trust if you get the opportunity.
Know who you can reach out to for help and support, memorising their phone number so that you are able to contact them anywhere at any time. Have a safe word that you can text to your support person, which will trigger them to know you are unsafe or need assistance.
2. Seek legal support early
Early intervention is key. Expert legal support will ensure that you fully understand your rights, entitlements and what’s involved in the family law process.
At Joplin Lawyers, we help women all over Australia remove themselves from domestic violence situations by providing superior legal advice and assistance. We are here for you and with you, serving as your strong female voice every step of the way.
3. Speak with a support services worker
Discuss your domestic violence situation with a support services worker, who can help you to form a suitable safety plan, explain how to apply for a protection order, source emergency accommodation at a women’s shelter and secure long-term housing.
4. Document the abuse
Collecting proof of the abuse is a tough but important task, particularly if you’ve kept it to yourself. Store records of any physical injuries, damaged items and medical visits. Equipped with this evidence, you can support the allegations of abuse in the future.
Send these photos contemporaneously to a third party who can also store the evidence. You may not be ready to go to the police now, but this evidence may be critical down the line.
5. Devise a safety plan
A safety plan is a strategy to protect you and your children when considering leaving an abusive partner. It outlines the actions to take should you be faced with serious danger or the need to leave suddenly.
As part of this plan, hide an ’emergency bag’ filled with the items listed in our above checklist at a safe location, ideally at a friend or family member’s home.
Tell your trusted support system about this safety plan and remember that material belongings can be replaced.
6. If possible, set up access to alternative funds
Having access to your own finances can help you get through the period after you leave.
As well as keeping some cash or a credit card in your emergency bag, consider opening an online bank account if possible – just remember to send your statements to a PO box, work address or friend’s house. Alternatively, advise your bank of domestic violence when setting up your account and they will put protective measures in place for you.
You can also set up electronic statements to avoid mailouts all together. If you decide to do this, please ensure your partner does not have access to the specified email address.
Lastly, some financial institutions provide an assistance package to victims of domestic violence, so contact your bank to check if this is available. The Australian Government also offers crisis payments, which you may be eligible for.
7. Keep your online activity discreet
Your partner could be tracking your phone calls and website visits, so it’s important to take precautionary measures at all times.
Never use your personal computer or device to research anything to do with domestic violence or seeking support. Instead, save this activity for when you can use technology that the perpetrator doesn’t have access to, such as at work, a friend’s house or a public library. If this is not an option, please make sure to delete your history and clear your cache after each session.
We also recommend getting rid of your mobile phone as soon as you leave your partner, as they could install apps to trace your location through this device. If possible, purchase a prepaid mobile phone instead. Otherwise, reset your existing mobile phone to factory settings so that your partner cannot continue to track it.
8. If necessary, call the police before you leave
Contact the police and ask to talk with the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer, who can arrange to be on standby when you leave your home or at least be aware of your situation.
However, we strongly suggest that you minimise contact with your partner as much as possible whilst in the process of leaving.
9. Try to leave when your partner is out
Unless you have to escape violence in a hurry, we recommend leaving for good when your abuser is out of the house for at least a few hours. Get your emergency bag and go straight to a safe place.
If you don’t have access to a car, arrange transport in advance – be it with a friend, family member, taxi service or public transport.
10. Set yourself up in a safe space until you find another home
If you must leave in a hurry, call your closest women’s shelter to check whether beds are available. Many shelters can serve as a safe, secure place for you and your children, offering accommodation for up to several months.
Alternatively, organise to stay with a trusted friend or family member. Ideally, stay with someone your abusive partner doesn’t know or whose address they wouldn’t assume check.
There is light at the end of the tunnel
With a better understanding of how to leave an abusive marriage or domestic partnership, you’re one step closer to leading the safe, happy life you deserve. While you might not feel ready to leave today, having a safety plan in place will help protect you and your little ones when the time comes.
At Joplin Lawyers, we understand the bravery it takes to seek our help, taking the utmost care to provide support and protection throughout the entire legal process. For trusted advice on your unique situation, please get in touch with our team as soon as possible.