Leaving an Abusive Relationship: 5 Must Have Steps to be Safe


Leaving an abusive relationship is a dangerous time for abuse survivors. 5 steps to be leave safely

Way too many people are abused in the United States. While we represent ourselves as a country of free people, unfortunately, the numbers of people who are essentially enslaved in unhealthy, abusive relationships are staggering. The American Psychological Association and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) say 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, sexual assault, physical assault or stalking. The Coalition says that more than 10,000,000 people are physically abused each year. That number does not even include psychological violence. That is not freedom.

Dealing with people who have been emotionally, physically, sexually abused is difficult. After working for over 30 years with abused women (85% are women), I get tired of hearing the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Statistically, the national average is that it takes leaving 7 times before being able to stay away for good.

Why? Because leaving is the #1 most dangerous time for the victim. NCADV tells us that 1 of 3 homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within 1 month of leaving. Restraining Orders are not bullet proof and safety needs to be the #1 concern when exiting an abusive relationship. To minimize the danger someone is facing is foolhardy and dangerous. Well-meaning people who say, “just leave,” may be putting their loved one in danger.

It’s difficult for someone to leave without support, so I hope people who love those who are abused take this advice seriously. Here are 5 must haves before leaving an abusive relationship:

  1. Get support from a friend or family member, or from a battered women’s shelter. Do not do this alone. Friends must understand that even if they do not see the abuser as all powerful, the victim definitely does. Her fear is real enough.
  2. Plan carefully an exit strategy that will give you enough time to get to and stay in safety. This includes medications, prescriptions, identification cards, bank information, child’s vaccine records, school records, all important papers and documents. If you can, take as much cash as you can, because the abuser will certainly cut you off financially to lure you back into the home.  Additionally, make sure you have someone who would care for your family pet for at least a month until you get settled. You won’t leave if you are worried about your pet.
  3. Do NOT tell your children or common friends the plan ahead of time unless they are old enough to understand the ramifications of giving away your secret. Be very careful who knows your plan.
  4. Commit to knowing that you are afraid, will be afraid, and can do it anyway. Make an agreement with yourself to stick it out AWAY from the abuser permanently as it gets more and more difficult to leave if you go back.
  5. Do not fall for the abuser’s manipulation and coercion tactics. Know that your abuser is skilled at keeping you in his clutches. There will be financial threats, and certainly the threat to take your children away from you. These threats make women go back over and over again. Know that you can ask for custody as part of your Restraining Order and this is imperative as most states have a “status quo” provision in their custody statutes that children are to stay where they’ve lived the last 6 months. This action should be one of the first things you do if you plan on leaving.

I am awed by the strength of women to stay in an abusive relationship for the sake of the family, and the strength it takes to leave.  No one falls in love with a batterer, they love the other parts and it's important to remember there might also be a loving relationship there. The battles being fought daily are scary and their self-esteem eventually is destroyed. Yet, somehow they still manage to leave! 

As a country, we should be asking the question, “why does a man who supposedly loves his wife abuse her?” I never understood why a man convicted of domestic violence assault would get less time (if convicted at all) than an assault by a stranger. Shouldn’t spouses have a duty to take care of and protect each other? Isn’t the duty of members of your own household greater than strangers to you?

If you know someone who is being abused, have a courageous conversation with them about what it would take for them to leave. Get more information before you leave or help someone to leave at https://www.domesticshelters.org/ and don’t forget to clear your browser and cookies after you exit the site.

Lori S. Rubenstein, JD, PCC spent 18 years as a divorce attorney-mediator, however, her passion for helping others led her down the path of divorce, relationship and forgiveness coaching. She is the author of three transformational books, including Freedom From Abuse: Finding Yourself Again. Lori has a special gift of helping people transcend their “stories” and step into a new, more empowering life. Contact Lori now to set up a 15 minute consultation to learn how you can start to mend your own relationship hurts.