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A very good friend of mine recently got out of an incredibly abusive relationship and I am very lucky that she trusts me enough to open up to me when she is having a bad day.
I don’t want to go into too many details but her then partner is now serving 36 months in jail for putting her through a 2 hour beating with a bat. This was just one attack of many that he did to my friend and I truly believe that 36 months is nothing compared to the lifetime of trust issues and darkness that she now faces.
I wanted to write today’s post to help others that may be in the same situation and that needs to know how to safely escape an abusive relationship. No woman should ever have to live in fear or be controlled and made to feel powerless.
What is Domestic Abuse?
It is a common misconception that domestic abuse only relates to being physically abused. This is not the case at all and domestic abuse can be broken down into several categories.
- Physical Abuse – This category covers everything from slaps to cuts and bruises, burns and in some cases, even death. It does not necessarily have to leave marks as even hair pulling is classed as physical abuse.
- Emotional Abuse – Not all cases of emotional abuse lead to women also receiving physical abuse. Because of this, victims often convince themselves that they are not being abused or worry that they will not be taken seriously if they speak out. This type of abuse is used to grind down the victim’s confidence and alter their personality so that they can be easily controlled or coerced. They may be constantly critisized, isolated from their family and friends, humiliated in front of people or talked down to.
- Financial Abuse – This form of abuse can be incredibly powerful and is often a reason why victims feel there is no way out of the situation. The abuser may take control of their partner’s finances, prevent them from working, or monitor their spending.
- Sexual Abuse – Women should never feel forced into sexual activity. Being in a relationship or married does not permit automatic consent. If a victim is made to feel threatened or forced into sexual activity, that is sexual abuse.
How to Safely Escape an Abusive Relationship
It is a huge step when you finally decide to escape an abusive relationship but no matter how long it has been, it is never too late to leave. Whether it is the first instance of domestic abuse or the fiftieth, there is a way out once you have decided that you are ready to do so, and you will not be penalised for having stayed in the relationship after the first instance of abuse.
Take the following steps that will help to build a strong case against your abuser.
Evidence – Log Everything
In order to build a strong case, you need evidence and this can be done in many forms such as the following:
- Photographs of physical harm
- Logs of GP or hospital appointments
- Abusive text messages received
- Witness accounts from friends and family
Basically, anything that happens to you, should be recorded to build a picture of the abuser’s behavior and actions. I understand that you may be worried about storing the evidence in case it is found by the abuser but there is always a way.
Consider keeping a file and leaving it at a friends or sending the photos to a friend for safe keeping. You could also consider storing it all digitally on a password-protected USB which is small enough that you can hide it. If you start to record abuse after an instance occurs, make sure you can date and recall it accurately.
You need to leave the relationship as safely as possible and this means that you need to plan ahead. You are going to need somewhere safe to go and enough money to get by until you find your feet. Consider the following:
- Research what financial options are open to you. A simple online search for ‘domestic abuse help’ will bring up lots of different charities that detail such information on their website, however it is unlikely to be reflective of your specific situation so you should just use this as a starting point and do not be disheartened if you cannot find the information online.
- Refuge and Women’s Aid both offer 24-hour advice lines which you can call and seek advice specific to your situation. I would recommend contacting them and thoroughly explaining your situation and they will advise on you on the best course of action to take.
- The Citizen’s Advice Bureau can offer practical advice to victims. This is particularly useful if you are in the UK on your partner’s visa but want to escape an abusive relationship, as they can advise you on how to stay in the UK to escape domestic violence.
- When you are ready to report the abuser to the police you should also contact an experienced family law solicitor as they will help you to build a case against your partner and resolve the situation safely for you and other family members.
Cover Your Tracks
Many women that are in an abusive relationship are too scared to research their options online in case their abuser finds out. You can better avoid this by making sure that you always avoid researching the topic on personal devices, as web history is often easily accessible, particularly if your partner knows their way around a computer. When possible use public PCs at the library, or a friend’s laptop, for instance, and create a new email account using a fake name, that you never access on your own devices.
Google Chrome also has an ‘Incognito’ mode which will allow you to use the search engine and browser anonymously. This can be used on smartphones and tablets by installing the ‘Google Chrome’ app or by installing the browser on laptops and PCs . If you use an Android device, you will most probably already have Chrome pre-installed.
If you do need to do some research at home, practice closing the webpage you are on by pressing Alt+F4. This keyboard shortcut will help you to close a webpage much quicker than trying to reach the ‘close’ button with your mouse, and is less likely to make your abuser suspicious. Always check your internet history after you have finished researching in case you need to clear it.
Always remember: you are not alone, and there is a safe way out.