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How to Leave an Abusive Relationship

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In our domestic violence awareness gallery featuring tips to minimize becoming a victim, we were excited to hear of the many women who had successfully left an abusive relationship - and saddened to hear of one woman's story of feeling trapped with her abusive husband. To "Scared" and women who feel they are trapped in an abusive relationship, you CAN get out and go on to live a happy and healthy life. We debunk the reasons often used for staying and tips for planning your escape.

If you are afraid . . .
The reality is a woman is at the most danger when she decides to leave an abusive relationship, so planning is key to a successful transition to your new life. "Many women I have worked with say their lives are much better after leaving," says Dr. Oliver J. Williams, Institute on Domestic Violence in The African American Community.

If you aren't working or don't have money . . .
There is help for you! Begin now to save what you can, without being noticed by your abuser. Many shelters offer assistance for job placement and teaching skills to help you get sturdy and safe on your feet.

If you are an immigrant . . .
Many men twist the rules of immigration in this country, to make women from other countries think they must stay with an abuser to retain citizenship. "There is protection for women who are being abused and from other countries, but many women don't know this," Williams says. Some women also come to America to get away from abusers in other countries. The law is on your side.

If you have children . . .
Remember children who witness abuse, are much more likely to be abused and abusers. The decision isn't easy to remove children from the care of their other parent, but in the long run they are better for it. "Women are not alone who start out staying for the kids, but at the end many leave for the kids," Williams says. "When you realize that no matter what you do, you will beat up, women decide to leave."

Explain to your children what is going on, that they are loved, and that their lives and yours will be happier with a new start. Also teach your children how to use the telephone to make a collect call to you and to people who you trust (friend/minister/godparents) in the event that your partner takes the children.

Staying for the kids can also put them at risk for abuse. Children have been harmed when they begin to want to protect their mother, and are abused in the process

If you're thinking of getting a weapon . . .
Use your best judgment and intuition. A professional who has experience assisting women in similar situations can best advise you on the best option(s) here. One valuable piece of information from My Sister's Place in Washington, D.C. to commit to memory should violence be unavoidable: try to make yourself a small target. Get into a corner and curl up into a ball. (Protect your face and put your arms around your head, with your fingers entwined in back.)

Also, when you expect there is going to be an explosion, try to move to a space that is lower risk, such as the front yard or a public place with high traffic. (Avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, kitchen, near weapons or in rooms without access to an outside door. In addition, try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that can be used to grab and strangle you.)

If you're wondering what contact information to take . . .
Always make sure that important phone numbers are accessible to you and your children.
Police 911

My Sister's Place Hotline 202-529-5991 (For those in the DC/MD and northern VA areas)
Trusted family and friends

Ask your telephone company about Caller ID to have your phone blocked. (This is so you can call out but neither your abuser nor anyone else will be able to get your new unlisted number).

If you're wondering how to get documentation of abuse and what to do when you get it . . .
Obtain a protective order from the appropriate local court and keep it at home, in your car or near you at all times. Leave a copy with parents/best friend/siblings and your children's schools. Should you call the police to arrest your abuser, it is helpful to have a copy of the restraining order with you.

If your partner violates the protection order, call the police and report it, along with your attorney or advisory. If the police are not responsive, contact the supervising officer in your police district.

If you are getting a restraining order and leaving home, rent a post office box for your mail or use the address of a trusted friend. (Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports.)

Leaving is the first step to reclaiming your life. No one can tell a woman when it's time to go, and when the realization comes, a plan is key.