If caught in an abusive relationship, there comes a time where the abuse is either no longer safe or tolerable for the person being targeted, and the choice to leave becomes the best one.
Before leaving, it is important to know that leaving is a risk factor for an escalation of abuse. When one seeks to leave, it is common for the abusive partner to escalate their abusive tactics to get the other person to stay, or alternately, to punish them for departing. Whatever level of abuse took place prior to leaving, it could get even worse when trying to leave and/or for a period of time after leaving. Still, it is typically safer to leave then to remain in an abusive relationship, so it is best to plan in advance and be prepared in the event of an escalation of abuse.
The preparation for leaving and managing on one’s own is called safety planning.
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Safety planning is more that just determining when to leave the home. Safety planning includes taking measures to maintain your physical, emotional, financial and residential needs and security.
To that end, it is best to have all of your important documents, bank records, medications, clothing and whatever other materials you need, gathered and available to you before or upon departure – or already at a place of safety. If children are included in your plan to leave, you must have access to their documents too. It is also important to secure a place to live, and to know of any restrictions on your living arrangements.
The objective is be able to take care of as many of your needs as possible when you depart. You do not want to have to be reliant on the abusive person for access to anything you may require after you leave. Those things can be used as bargaining chips to hold you hostage in any negotiation towards a settlement, whether you choose to return or choose to leave permanently.
Key to the safety plan is a consultation with a counsellor whose expertise includes working with abused persons. These counsellors are available at women’s shelters. Virtually every woman’s shelter offers counselling, and many have services available in the community where you can meet safely before leaving your residence, without having to reside in the shelter.
Another important part of the safety plan process is a consultation with a family law lawyer. It is common for many abused persons to be given an interpretation of family law by the abuser that meets his or her own interest over the abused. Indeed, some abusers threaten their own legal action as a form of intimidation. As such, to truly know your rights and obligations, it is best to meet with a lawyer who is there to only represent your interests and provide you with accurate information.
Leaving an abusive relationship should be a good thing.
Leaving safer is better. Do so with a plan.