Exit Tactics: How to Safely Skip out on Your Abuser
October is a lot of things – among them Domestic Violence Awareness Month. So it’s time to remind you of some important info on how to leave an abuser and still stay safe, because that is indeed a dangerous time.
That's when the violent partner is most enraged, feels there’s nothing to lose, and is at his or her most murderous. In fact, more than 70% of the killings that happen in these relationships are going to happen then.
So your exit must be carefully planned in advance in the most sneaky, tactical, top-secret way possible. This advice may seem completely paranoid, but when your partner believes he or she owns you and has the right to repo and punish you for the outrageous crime of acting like an autonomous human being – this is simple common sense, just like “Look both ways before you cross the street”.
So, here are some pre-escape strategies:
- Get some support in place. Tell a trusted, tight-lipped relative or friend, what's going on and enlist their help. You can also get help planning your exit at a local shelter; or call a trained advisor at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. (If you think your computer is under surveillance, best to call them at 800−799−7233, but right after the call, be sure to call someone or something else, so when your abuser hits the redial button, he won’t be any the wiser.
- Prearrange a plan with your designated ally for when you're in danger, using a code word you can innocently say or text, to signal you're in trouble; or you can leave a porch light on or a shade up or some other predetermined sign that something is wrong.
- Set up a secret account and start stashing away money whenever you can. You’ll need a post office box so the bank statements can come there instead of your house. If it's cash, hide it in a locker at work or at your ally's house, or in a safe deposit box.
- Get an emergency bag ready in case you have to leave quickly. It should have an extra set of keys, your ID, cash, credit cards, title to the car, a spare cell phone, clothes and shoes for you and the kids, their immunization records, a list of phone numbers for your friends, family, schools, MD’s, and the local shelter.
- Keep an extra car key with you, and start making a habit of backing into your driveway, locking all doors except the driver’s.
- Start recording in a journal to document the dates and nature of the abuse, including emails, threats by text and photos that serve as evidence. This must be stashed in a safe place.
- Track your abuser's patterns and schedule, so you know the safest times to leave, choosing a time when he won’t realize you're gone for a while.
- Know ahead of time where to go if you have to leave quickly. If it’s the house of a relative or friend, make sure you have the key. If you go to a shelter, they can provide you with supplies, services, resources and planning.
Next week I’ll cover some post-exit tactics – equally critical to your safety!
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