Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but you have to do it. As scary as it is, leaving is the first step in creating a life free from violence and fear. But before you pack your bags, you need to have a plan. Here’s what to do, presented by Literally Darling.
Prepare in Secret
As The Guardian discusses, leaving is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship, so it’s important to hide your plans from your abuser. Once you decide to leave, start making preparations in secret. Set up a bank account in your own name and set aside as much money as you can without your abuser noticing. Open a P.O. box so mail related to the account doesn’t come to your home. Start collecting necessities in a place where your abuser won’t find them. Necessities include identity and financial documents, prescription medications, contact numbers, car keys, and a cell phone. Make a spare set of keys and purchase a prepaid cell phone so your abuser doesn’t notice the originals missing. Consider storing these necessities at the home of a trusted friend or family member so you can leave quickly in an emergency.
Identify a safe place you can go after leaving your abuser. This may be a relative or friend’s home, a monthly apartment rental (online rental directories can help you find an apartment within your price range), or a domestic violence shelter. Don’t be afraid to turn to a shelter; often, they’re the best place to get connected with the resources you need to get back on your feet. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you find shelters in your area.
When you’re ready to leave, wait until your abuser is out of the home for several hours. Make sure the car is gassed up or arrange for someone you trust to pick you up. If you’re worried about your safety, call the police for an escort.
If you’re able to take more than the bare necessities, hire movers to pack your things and transport them to a new location. Hiring movers is important because it lets you leave quickly, whereas trying to pack and load alone makes you vulnerable if your abuser comes home. If you’re heading to a shelter or another temporary location, rent a storage locker to hold your things until you’ve found a permanent residence.
Keep your location secret from everyone but the people closest to you. The fewer people who know where you are, the less likely your abuser is to find you.
The weeks after leaving an abusive relationship are a transitional period. You may alternate between feeling empowered and feeling afraid and tempted to return. Lean on your support system during this time for help staying away and healing yourself.
Eventually, you’ll be ready to begin to rebuild your life. The first step is finding a place to live. However, because domestic abuse often comes with financial abuse, you may not be sure how much home — if any — you can afford. Rather than assuming you’re stuck, calculate your home affordability by assessing your annual income, down payment savings, and monthly spending. Then, look at loan options and current average APR. These numbers will give you an idea of how much home you can afford. If buying a home isn’t an option right now, that’s fine too. It can take time to rebuild your financial life after an abusive relationship. Consider renting while you save up and repair your credit in order to buy a home.
Abuse isn’t normal, it’s not okay, and you don’t have to accept it. After you leave, your abuser may apologize, love bomb you, and promise to be better. But the thing about abuse is, it doesn’t stop and you can’t fix an abuser. The only way to protect yourself from your abuser is to leave safely and stay gone.
Article by Cindy Aldridge
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