We never expect to find ourselves in these situations, but the unfortunate reality is that domestic violence is far more common than we think. As per the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the U.S. alone:
Annually, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced physical abuse from an intimate partner.
On average, nearly 20 people experience physical abuse by an intimate partner each minute.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, know that you are not alone. And know that you have options. At Punk Rock Saves Lives, we know that leaving isn’t always easy. Your safety is the top priority, so if you CAN get out right away, please do! But we know that this isn’t always possible.
That being said, here are some steps to take to prepare to leave your abusive relationship when you can’t just pack a bag and walk out the door right away.
Know Your Resources.
Do your research. Find out what shelters are near you, find out what financial options are available to you, and what arrangements can be made for you and others in your care (like children and pets) when the time comes. Find out if there’s a way to relocate, and what legal assistance there is in place to help keep you safe from your abuser.
Keep a list of numbers stashed somewhere safe, or under false names in your contacts. Have at least one or two emergency resource contacts memorized.
Make a Plan.
When leaving immediately isn’t an option, it’s important to create an exit plan. Make note of your abuser’s schedule. Know when it will be safe for you to leave. Pack a bag of essentials and keep it somewhere safe so that it’s ready for you to go at the drop of a hat. If you have a car, keep the gas tank filled. Know where you’re going when you leave and who you will call for assistance. Ensure your safety and security from tracking; gain access to devices that can’t be tracked by your abuser. Be prepared to go when the date of your departure comes.
Create a Nest Egg.
Finances can be difficult for victims of domestic abuse. If you can, create a second bank account your abuser doesn’t know about to funnel cash into or even find a safe place to store cash itself. Even if you only save a few dollars a week, you will have even a small fund to help you when you make your escape.
Ask for Help.
This step is so important. Even if your abuser has worked to isolate you, look for the helpers. Your local librarian, your doctor, the store clerk. Your neighbor. An old friend. A family member your abuser made you stop contacting. People working a hotline. Your local police department and domestic violence organizations. Even a stranger on the street if need be.
Let someone know you need help. Make sure someone else knows your plans. Create a codeword, have regular check-ins. If you use the codeword or don’t show up for your check-in, they should know you are in danger and need emergency intervention immediately.
Domestic violence takes more than just a toll on your body; it also heavily impacts your mental health. You have probably experienced gaslighting and other forms of mental and emotional abuse throughout your relationship, making leaving that much harder. And maybe the person that abuses you is someone you think you still love, because of who they were in the past.
It’s okay to feel all these things, but it is still so important that you put your safety first and get away from your abuser.
Forgive yourself for leaving. You may feel like you are betraying someone you love, or that you are failing yourself or your relationship or a million other things…but you are not. You’re doing the most important thing: taking care of yourself and your future.
If you’re still struggling with the decision to leave and want more detailed steps to navigate this difficult time, this article from HelpGuide may give you the answers that you seek.
The team at Punk Rock Saves Lives understands how nuanced domestic violence can be. We are here to provide you with resources and support where we can, but we are not professionals trained for domestic violence response.
If you or someone you love are experiencing domestic violence, know that you are not alone. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline today at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) for free, confidential support 24/7.
Please be safe. You are more important than you know.