What Can I Do If I Am in an Abusive Relationship?
If you think you are in an abusive relationship, seek help. There are a number of things you can do, but you will need the support of friends, professionals and others to take action.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you have two choices. You can stay in the relationship and try to stop the violence or you may need to leave the relationship. Either way, don’t do it alone. Don’t try to confront your abuser by yourself or try to leave without a well-established plan and help from others. It is important to carefully plan the right time to safely leave. Without help, your plan will probably fail, and you will probably receive more abuse from an angered partner.
There are many places for you to seek help:
- friends and family
- 24-hour hotlines for advice and guidance
- shelters where you and your children can stay temporarily
- support groups where you can talk to other people in the same situation
- legal advice to guide you if wish to separate or to get a restraining order
- medical and mental health professionals who can care for your physical and emotional wounds
- religious leaders who can support and counsel you
These people can give you emotional support if you decide to stay in the relationship. If you decide to leave, they can give you practical advice and assistance.
Forming a safety plan
If you decide that you need to leave the relationship, it is very important that you have a safety plan. Being prepared and having a set plan will help you successfully and safely escape the abusive relationship. To develop your safety plan, you should:
1. Memorize these important phone numbers (or keep a list in a safe place, or write them on the bottom of your shoe):
- domestic violence hotline
- local battered women’s shelter
2. Tell a neighbor you trust about the abuse in your home. Ask them to call the police if she hears suspicious noises coming from your home or if she has not heard from you or seen you in a certain amount of time.
3. If you still live with your abuser, find a safe room in your home where you and your children can hide. Then:
- Install a deadbolt lock in that room that can only be locked from the inside.
- Get a cell phone and carry it with you all the time. Enter 911 into your speed dial.
4. Think of at least four safe places you can go if you leave your home. You might:
- stay with a friend or family member
- go to a battered women’s shelter
- call 911; they can help you find a safe place
If you are woman, do not stay with a man unless he is a blood relative. Moving in with another man may hurt your ability to get custody of your children. It may also cause conflict with your abuser.
5. Always have spare change for a phone call.
6. Consider opening a savings account, so you will have access to money when you leave.
7. Review your escape plan and regularly rehearse your escape route with a support person.
8. Take special care. If you feel that your partner may stalk you, do not to leave a trail.
9. Put together an escape bag that contains important items, and leave it at a friend’s house or in a safe place (perhaps a locker at the bus station). If possible, try to include the following things in your bag:
- address book
- birth certificates for you and your children
- change of clothing
- children’s favorite toys, blankets, etc.
- divorce papers, custody agreements
- drivers license and registration
- insurance papers
- keys—car, house, office
- lease/rental agreements
- money, bank books, credit cards
- mortgage payment book, current unpaid bills
- passport, green card, work permits
- personal Protection Order
- school and medical records
- Social Security cards
- welfare identification
Remember, get help putting together, and if need be, carrying out your escape plan. Your attempt to leave will anger your abuser. If you don’t successfully get away, your partner may take it out on you.
By Maria Vera, PhD, Toby D. Goldsmith, MD
© 2000-2004 University of Florida McKnight Brain Institute