How to Survive Domestic Abuse

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that women account for 95% of victims of assault by an intimate partner. This unsafe situation is devastating and dangerous. If you are facing this crisis, how can you find help to get free?

How To Get Help

First and foremost, you should remember that this abuse is not your fault. Your abuser most likely wants you to think that, but you are not the cause of his violence.

Second, remember that you are not alone but you do need support. Who can you contact that you trust? If family and friends are not available, talk to your doctor or therapist for help. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE, where trained staff can help you plan your next steps.

In addition to seeking support and assistance from doctors, mental health professionals, and your local domestic violence agency, reach out to friends, family members, and co-workers for psychological support and encouragement. Ask them to lend a non-judgemental ear and listen to what you are saying.

You may find that some simply can’t comprehend what you are experiencing, and that’s okay. Aside from being your confidants, your loved ones and friends can provide you with a temporary safe place to stay, offer rides to a safe place, or help you connect with the appropriate resources if you are unable to do so due to your living situation. You don’t have to go through this alone, so lean on others.

How To Leave

There are several things to consider when you are leaving to ensure your safety. It’s important to remember that this process may take time. Here are important things to plan for:

Temporary Relocation
 – The first step in your research is to find where you can temporarily relocate until you can make long-term plans. This can be with a supportive friend or a family member. Otherwise, you can find a domestic abuse shelter or a temporary residential center as a transitional home. For more information on what to do and specific questions about staying at a shelter, read this article from
Long-Term Relocation – 
Next, you want to think about where you want to live. Are you staying local or do you want to move farther away and start fresh? You’ll need to find areas that are safe, have affordable housing, and where you can find a job that fits your skills and experience. If you have children, you’ll need to research school districts too.
Domestic Abuse Advocacy Groups
 – Many support and advocacy groups exist that can provide you help, advice, and possibly even funding. Find local organizations from a hotline, your doctor, or your therapist.
Finances – Many women feel stuck because they don’t have access to their own money. Do you know what’s in your bank account or whose name is on the mortgage? As you begin researching how to extricate yourself, be sure to get a copy of your credit report, establish a new credit card under your name only, make copies of birth certificates, your marriage certificate and statements on shared assets.
Children – 
If you have children with your abuser, you need to provide for their safety first. Remember that he can use your children as a way to control you. Make sure they have trusted friends or family they can stay with in an emergency. So that you know your rights and what you’re up against, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer if you are planning to leave. Your lawyer can also help you connect with local programs and support groups.

Relocation and Moving

When planning where to relocate, avoid secluded locations. Try to move to a busy area, with safe resources nearby like a police station or hospital.

Once you’ve settled on a neighborhood and home, it’s time to research moving companies. You want to make sure you’re getting reliable and reasonable service that fits your budget and timeline. If you can’t get a recommendation from someone you know, find out if your mover has a good reputation, especially if you’re moving across state lines.

As you get settled into your new home, look into installing an alarm system for added security, and connect with the local police so they understand that situation. It’s also important to make sure you have an unlisted address and phone number as another layer of protection.

Finding your way after such a traumatic experience can take time. Stay vigilant in protecting yourself and be sure to boost your support system as much as possible.

It may take time to regain your confidence, but you can feel good about starting your life over safely.

Guest Editor: Jackie Waters

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