Leaving an abusive relationship is probably the most difficult challenge you will ever face. However, it’s also the most important one. Careful strategies can safely help you on your journey.
Your decision to leave isn’t one you take lightly, but after living under duress you know you need to go for your own well-being. You may feel trapped, worried your children will face retaliation, or you may feel dependent upon your abuser financially. How do you escape? Cover your bases carefully with this checklist for leaving an abuser:
- Set aside paperwork. You’ll want to slip all your important documents into a discreet place where you can access them quickly. Try a zippered Bible case or the bottom of a cosmetic bag. Get originals if you can, but if nothing else get copies of birth certificates, Social Security cards, and passports. Include your marriage certificate, mortgage and home insurance information, vehicle title and proof of car insurance, and any immigration-related paperwork.
- Set aside money. If at all possible, open your own bank account before you escape. Pool at least $500 in emergency money, even if it means setting aside pennies here and there. You can stow them in the pockets of a garment in the back of your closet if necessary. If you own things you can sell, gather them together to take along. Use a public computer at a library to apply for jobs, and connect with someone trustworthy to use as a reference. Open an email account and a post office box only you will be able to access and use those on your job applications.
- Find shelter. Purchase a prepaid calling card or cell phone to make arrangements with a shelter. Ask if you need to provide your own clothing and other essentials. If they are available through the shelter you won’t need to prepare yours, drawing attention to your plan. Find out if the shelter will welcome any pets you own and if not, see if the shelter can help you secure a place for them. Set aside a full month’s worth of any medications you, your children or your pets need. Retain any photos you have that are evidence of abuse.
In time you’ll be ready to relocate. After enduring so much, your first priority will be your safety. Domestic Shelters recommends these considerations when deciding where you want to live:
- Find out about any legal restrictions regarding your move, especially if you have children.
- Research area shelters and how accessible they are.
- Research costs. This is especially important if you are planning to buy a home. You’ll want to research the best prices and neighborhoods in your region. For instance, the average listing price for a home in Mesquite, TX, is $196,000. Purchasing a home requires a down payment, and you will need to budget for moving expenses and other monthly obligations in addition to a mortgage, insurance and utilities.
- If you have children, you will want to know about school districts wherever you choose to live.
Once you move on, you will be able to reframe your life and make choices again. You will be free to choose who you are and what you do. You can rediscover your interests and engage in new hobbies! Many women told HealthTalk they felt free after leaving abusive husbands, but it took a while to heal. Be patient with yourself. There are many hidden issues in repairing life after abuse and change won’t come overnight. Chances are you have unhealthy coping skills, and you may have other broken relationships to mend. In time, you can tend the collateral damage. For now, rest in knowing you are making a wise, healthy and brave decision.
With careful strategies, you can escape. Make your preparations, and when the time comes, you will be able to move on safely. You’ll be able to make a fresh start and reinvent your life, free of fear.