What to do if you are being abused

Leaving an abusive relationship can be quite difficult. Victims of abuse often do not realize that they are being abused or they are led to believe that they are the cause of their own abuse. Once you realize that you are being abused and you are ready to leave, you should do so quickly and carefully to avoid potential escalation in violence that could endanger your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, use all resources available to you, and get out safely.

Step one

Getting help
Contact an organization that can help. Most areas have local resources to help victims of abuse. If you are not sure where to start or if you want to talk to someone about planning to leave an abusive relationship

Step two

Find a Shelter who will be able to assist you
If you are a woman who is a victim of abuse, find a battered women’s shelter in your area (or a nearby town). Be aware that the physical location of such shelters is usually kept secret for the protection of the women in the shelter, but you should be able to call a hotline or go through a screening in a physical location. Then you will be referred to the shelter.

  • Most shelters allow for a safe place to live for both women and children. They are designed to offer safety and support while you get back on your feet, but your stay there will be for a limited amount of time.

Step Three

Talk to Family or Friends
Unfortunately, many victims of abuse withdraw or are forced to become isolated. This often leads victims to believe that they have no one to help them escape their abuser. However, friends and family, even if you have been out of touch, may pull through and help you get out of a bad situation. Reach out to someone you trust and ask for help.

  • Try to be specific with what you would like for them to do for you (such as let you stay with them, keep your “escape bag,” call the police for you if you give them a “code word,” etc.)

Step Four

Establish Emergency funds or credit
If your abuser keeps money tightly controlled, withholds money from you, or does not allow you to earn your own money, it can be difficult to establish an emergency fund. Keep any change you can keep, return items to a store for cash back, hide any money given to you as a gift, or find other ways to build some emergency cash. If you can’t get emergency cash, try applying for a credit card in your name, but be sure that you have statements sent to a PO Box, a work address, or even to a friend’s house so that your abuser does not find out. Do not access your credit card account from your home computer.

Step Five

Make an escape plan
Pack and hide a “getaway bag.” You should have an emergency bag with necessities in it. Be sure that you hide the bag very well (you may even want to leave it at someone else’s house.) You pack light, but include the following in your bag:

  • Changes of clothing for you and any children
  • Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, driver’s license, bank or credit card account information, etc)
  • Medications for you or your children
  • Special personal items like photographs or jewelry
  • Non-perishable snacks

Step Six

You should certainly not provoke instances of abuse solely to gather evidence, but it may help you take legal action in the future if you do collect evidence of abuse. Take pictures of injuries, destroyed objects, or a room that was trashed during a violent episode, keep bloodied clothing or towels, and collect any documentation about hospital visits due to abuse.

Whenever you are injured in an episode of violence, you should seek medical treatment in the emergency room and keep the records. This could be key to being awarded an order of protection, custody or your children, or a contested divorce.