When You’ve Had Enough: How to Leave a Violent Home Behind
Excellent and vital guest post by Nora Hood.
One in four women and one in seven men will be a victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to HuffPost. Many others will be sexually or physically abused by a family member, such as a parent, sibling, or aunt or uncle. Regardless of the abuser, everyone has the right to leave and go somewhere they feel safe. However, fear and the very real possibility of being “punished” by the abuser for trying to escape leaves far too many people in dangerous situations. If you or someone you love is ready to break the cycle of abuse, keep reading for tips on how to do so safely.
Acknowledge That the Abuse Exists
It’s not uncommon for abuse victims to downplay the situation. Psych Central explains that there are many forms of abuse, including emotional and psychological. Just because you haven’t landed in the hospital doesn’t mean you aren’t being abused.
Ask for Help
As the victim of domestic violence, physical abuse, or sexual assault, you have rights, and even if you’ve been forced to ostracize your friends and family, there is a network of people who are willing, ready, and able to help you make your exit. Pewitt Law, a Washington-based legal firm that specializes in domestic violence, notes that most law enforcement agencies provide civil standby. This is a process by which one or more officers arrive to deter violence and keep the peace. These officers can be there to protect you as you leave the home.
Other forms of assistance include crime victim compensation. Some states provide financial advisory services as well as benefits to help pay for medical expenses, food and shelter, and counseling for domestic abuse survivors.
While you are not to blame for your situation, there are certain actions you should avoid when you’re planning to leave, as they could trigger a violent reaction from your abuser. Try to act as normal as possible while you make your exit strategy. Do not tell your abuser that you plan to leave. When researching your assistance options, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, take steps to ensure your internet history remains private. You can do this by opening up an “incognito” or “private” tab through your browser. Popular Science cautions, however, that even in private browsing mode, you may leave digital clues behind, which a tech-savvy (and paranoid) abuser may be able to trace. A better option is to use a prepaid smart device, paid with cash, which can be turned off and hidden. These “burner phones” can be picked up anywhere, from Walmart to your local gas station.
Safety at Your New Home
When you finally have plans and make preparations to leave, keep yourself safe by maintaining a comfortable distance from your abuser. You should be able to utilize a civil standby when you collect your personal belongings. Other ways to keep yourself safe during and after your relocation include:
- Hire a moving company to enter and exit your abuser’s home with you; request a rental truck, if possible, and that your movers do not wear clothing that would identify the service you are using.
- Do not list your new address or telephone number on social media.
- Outfit your new home with an alarm system, deadbolts on the front and back doors, and peepholes where you can see who is knocking before you unlock the door (HomeAdvisor offers more home security tips).
- Change your work hours.
Don’t leave your safety to chance. Get help, get out, and get your life back on track. You are better than your abuse and don’t deserve to suffer.