Did you know that nearly 60 percent of young women have experienced some type of abuse in a relationship? Did you know that men can also be part of an abusive relationship?
There is never a time when abuse in a relationship is a good thing. If you have gone through this in the past, you know that it can have a negative impact on your life. Just the same, if you are currently in an abusive relationship it’s important to realize that you don’t have to live your life this way.
Here’s the problem: As strange as it sounds, many people don’t know how to get out of an abusive relationship.
Although it sounds simple to walk away, this is easier said than done.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to get out of an abusive relationship and to live a better life in the future.
Here is a step by step guide that will put you on the right track:
This is the most important step because you need to realize that you are not alone. There are people out there who can help, so don’t hesitate to seek assistance.
In addition to friends and family, you can always contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline. By making this call, you can speak with somebody who can help you formulate a plan for leaving your abusive relationship in the past.
It can be difficult to let others know that you are in an abusive relationship, but don’t let this stop you from reaching out for help. You may be surprised to find that many people can help and that some have been in the same position as you.
Recognize the Abuse
Many people believe that physical abuse is the only type of abuse, however, nothing could be further from the truth.
While physical abuse may be the easiest to pinpoint, there are many other types to become familiar with.
- Emotional abuse. This can include a variety of things, such as controlling behavior, making threats, intimidation, and degradation among others.
- Financial abuse. This comes into play when a person attempts to control you by controlling your finances. For example, this often happens when your partner takes away the money you earn or prohibits access to joint funds.
- Sexual abuse. Unfortunately, this is often part of an abusive relationship. Here’s what you need to remember: Just because you have consented to sexual relations in the past does not mean you are doing so at all times in the future. You should never feel pressured into having any form of sexual relationship.
It can be a challenge to recognize abuse, so don’t hesitate to keep a log of what’s happening and your feelings at those times. This can help you better spot trends and give you the knowledge you need to make more informed decisions in the future.
Don’t Ignore Abusive Behavior
If you want your relationship to work, it’s easy to overlook abusive behavior. It’s easy to believe that this is a “one-time deal” and that it will never happen again.
While everyone makes mistakes, there is no excuse for abusive behavior. You should never ignore any form of abuse, as it only takes one instance in order for a trend to develop.
Your relationship can be abusive even if your partner doesn’t physically strike you. Here are some things to remember:
- Future abuse may not be as bad as the past, but it is abuse nonetheless
- Any type of abuse may be a sign of what’s to come in the future
- Your partner may be using abusive behavior to control you
Even if you want things to work out with your partner, you don’t want to remain part of an abusive relationship. If you do, you are telling this person that it’s okay to abuse you – and that is exactly what will continue to happen in the future.
Keep Track of the Abuse
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as:
“Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse.”
Depending on your situation, domestic violence can lead to a situation in which you face your abuser in court.
If you’re seeking a restraining order, for instance, documentation of past abuse can go a long way in helping you come out on top.
There are many ways to document your abuse, including but not limited to:
- Take photos of your body if you have been the victim of physical abuse
- Record audio of your abuser threatening you
- Save conversations, such as text messages and emails, in which your abuser threatens you or admits to his or her abuse
It’s not always easy to document your abuse, as you don’t want to make matters worse, but you need to consider how this could help you in the future.
When you keep track of the abuse, you’ll find yourself in much better position if you find yourself in court in the future.
Know Who to Contact for Emergency Help
Leaving an abusive relationship is a big step in the right direction, but this can often anger the other person.
For example, if you are married and tell your spouse you are moving out, he or she may attempt to stop you by using physical force.
You need to know who you can contact for emergency help. While it’s always best to call 911 if you are in immediate danger, there are other people you can alert if something is going wrong.
Maybe you have a neighbor you can contact in an emergency, knowing that this person can then call the police for help. Or maybe you can contact a family member who will know what to do.
Tip: You should share a “code word” with your emergency contacts so that you can alert them of what is happening without actually saying it.
Review Your Finances
Once you know that you are going to leave your abusive relationship in the past, it’s time to plan for the future. This means many things, some of which will be based largely on your finances.
One of the best things you can do is apply for your own credit card and open your own bank account.
When you put money aside, you can use this to remain stable once you leave your relationship.
Tip: Since you want to keep this a secret from your partner, don’t use your home address. Instead, open a PO box to receive correspondence related to your new credit card and bank account.
While it’s always a good idea to think about your finances, don’t stay in an abusive relationship because you don’t believe you have the money to make it on your own.
Pack Your Bags
For many people, the most difficult part of leaving an abusive relationship is actually moving out. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that your partner may be watching your every move.
The best thing you can do is pack and hide an overnight bag, giving you the opportunity to hit the road without delay. Hide your bag out of sight, in a place your abuser will never look.
You can include many items in your overnight bag, such as clothing, identification, financial information, medications, toiletries, and some cash.
Tip: If you’re concerned that your abuser will find your bag, you may want to keep it at someone else’s house, such as a friend. You can then visit their home after leaving.
Plan for Your Children
If you don’t have children, it can be easier to leave an abusive relationship quickly. With at least one child, it takes a bit more planning.
For instance, if your child is in danger, you can’t afford to stay in the home for another minute.
Since you are caring for another person (or more than one), you need to know where you are going. Maybe you can stay with a family member or friend, or maybe there is a local shelter that can provide you a place to live for the time being.
You always need to do what is best for your children, so make sure you plan in advance.
Consider How You’ll Make Your Break
You know that you want to end your relationship as soon as possible, but actually doing so can be a challenge.
The status of your relationship – such as if you are married and/or have children together – will have a lot to do with when and how you make your break.
If you feel that you can simply walk away, maybe because you are in a new relationship, it’s best to gather all your stuff as quickly as possible.
For someone who is married, the way you make your break is not nearly as cut and dry.
You may need to contact police for assistance in gathering your items and safely moving out of the home. This may sound like overkill, but it’s the best way to ensure your safety and show the other person that you are serious.
Note: Don’t procrastinate, as this will typically make your situation worse. It’s not likely that your partner will change his or her ways, so you need to make a break as quickly as possible.
Know When it Makes Sense to Leave
If you know that your abuser will become angry if he or she sees you leaving, you should wait until a safe time to make your move.
It is typically best to leave an abusive relationship when your abuser is not at home. This helps avoid a situation that will only make things worse, such as the person physically restraining you from leaving.
Once you know when your abuser will be out of the home, as well as for how long, gather all your stuff (or as much of it as you can) and get away quickly.
While some people feel compelled to leave a note regarding their whereabouts, you don’t have to do this. The person does not need to know why you left or where you went. If you are married, you can use the legal system to file for a divorce and work through the finer details.
Note: Don’t take your cell phone with you, as it’s possible that your abuser has set it up to track your location. If you have important numbers stored, write them down before you leave. Another thing to think about is buying a prepaid cell phone and storing it in your overnight bag.
Learn More About a Personal Protection Order
Also known as a PPO, a personal protection order can go a long way in keeping you safe after you leave your relationship.
The Michigan Legal Help website shares the following definition of a personal protection order:
“A Personal Protection Order (PPO) is a court order to stop threats or violence against you. A PPO can help protect you from someone who is threatening, hurting or harassing you. You can get a PPO if you have a reasonable fear for your personal liberty or safety.”
Just because you leave an abusive relationship does not mean your former partner will let things go. There is always the chance that this person could come to look for you, wanting to talk things over in an attempt to lure you back.
This is where a personal protection order can help. With this, the court issues an order against your abuser. If the person does not comply, such as by stalking you or attempting to get in touch in any way, they can be subject to legal action.
Protect Your Personal Information
There are many ways to do this, and you don’t want to make any mistakes. Here are some of the things you may need to do:
- Change your locks. If your abuser has access to your home, make sure you change the locks and take full advantage of a modern security system. You don’t want to make it easy for this person to enter your home in the future.
- Change your passwords. Does the person know your email password? How about those associated with your social media accounts? You should change all your passwords to something the person will never be able to guess.
- Review your banking information. For example, you’ll want to change passwords associated with online banking accounts, while also updating your contact information.
Your personal information is just that: personal. You should not feel guilty about anything you do to protect yourself. Your relationship is over, and you need to do whatever it takes to keep your abuser out of your life.
Block the Abuser from Contacting You
Even if your abuser does not know your physical location, he or she may still be able to track you down.
To protect against this, block the abuser on your phone, social media accounts, and email. When you do this, you never have to concern yourself with the person getting in touch with you.
In the event that your abuser finds another way to harass you, such as by sending email from a new address, you should change all your contact information. Yes, this can be a pain. And yes, it may be unfair that you have to take these measures. Even so, it’s something you need to do if you want to keep your abuser out of your life.
Move On With Your Life
An abusive relationship has a way of dragging you down. You hope that things will get better in the future. You believe that the person may change. You may even shut other people out of your life.
Now that you have moved past your relationship, it’s important that you look towards the future.
There are many things you can do to get your life back on track:
- Reconnect with the people who mean the most to you, such as your family and friends. These people don’t care about what happened in the past. They simply want to see you in a better place in the future.
- Try to make new friends. If you don’t have any friends, don’t hesitate to search for people with common interests. An example of this would be joining coworkers for dinner.
- Attend a support group. Even though you may feel good about putting your abusive relationship in the past, it may still have an impact on your life. In this case, you don’t want to hope that things get better on their own. You should attend a support group, as this will help you deal with the aftermath of your relationship. There are many ways to find a support group, such as by contacting a local shelter (here is an example).
You are now in a better place, so make sure you are devoted to moving on with your life.
Don’t Look Back (and Take Action)
It’s not uncommon to look back at your relationship and wonder what went wrong. You may even feel poorly about the way things ended.
While it’s okay to review the past, you never want to make the mistake of contacting your abuser. Once you do this, all of the work that you put in to start your new life will be thrown out the window.
Rather than focus on the past, find things that can make you happy in the future. Try the following:
- Move to a new place as to give yourself a fresh start
- Pick up a hobby or activity that you can do in your spare time
- Reconnect with activities that you enjoyed in the past
If you sit around and dwell on the past, you may be tempted to contact your abuser. However, if you remain busy and looking towards the future, you’ll always know that you are in a better place.
With the help of the 15 steps above, you should find it easier to get out of an abusive relationship.
The biggest mistake you can make is sticking around for too long, thinking that you can make things work and that the abuser will change his or her ways in the future.
You need to take immediate action if you find yourself part of an abusive relationship. It’s not okay to sit around, ask the person to change, and hope that things work out. Even if the person changes for the meantime, there is a good chance that he or she will relapse in the near future.
When you take immediate action, such as by following the steps above, you will feel relieved. You will feel that you are once again in full control of your life.
In the United States, an average of 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute of every day.
Not only does this impact the people who are being abused, but it costs the country more than $8 billion every year.
You should never assume that living in an abusive relationship is normal. By taking the right steps, you can escape your relationship and live a better life.