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Steps to leave an abusive relationship

A necessary exit – steps to leave an abusive relationship

Planning a safe exit from an abusive relationship is a necessary and important step. Putting the emotional trauma of leaving an abusive relationship aside, legally, a number of steps need to be taken to ensure long-term safety; protection orders, divorce settlements and maintenance payments, will need to be considered and properly managed.

Legal Services Advisor at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, Charmaine Morris, offers some tips on how to safely leave an abusive relationship.

The necessary steps:

  • Know your abuser’s schedule and safe times to leave.
  • Let a trusted family member, friend, co-worker or neighbour know about your situation. Develop a plan for when you need help; have code words that you can SMS if you are in trouble, agree on a visual signal like a patio light – on equals no danger, off equals trouble.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room; report what happened to you and ask that your visits are documented.
  • Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made.
  • Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.
  • Identify a place of safety for your children.
  • If you need to sneak away, be prepared. Make a plan for how and where you will escape.
  • Set money aside; ask trusted friends or family members to hold money for you.
  • Pack a bag. Include an extra set of keys, your ID book, birth certificates, bank cards, marriage license, clothes for yourself and your children, shoes, medications, banking information, money – anything that is important to you. Store them at a friend or neighbour’s house.
  • Keep a list of important numbers; friends, relatives, your doctor and an emergency shelter near you.
  • Be careful when reaching out for help. Erase your Internet browsing history, websites visited for resources and e-mails sent to friends and family asking for help. If you called for help, dial another number immediately after, in case your abuser hits redial.

After leaving the abusive relationship

  • Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number.
  • Ask your service provider to block your phone number so that if you call anyone, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.
  • Alert school authorities of the situation. Give your child’s day care / school a list of names that are authorised to collect your child.
  • Consider changing your child’s school.
  • Change your work hours, if possible.
  • Reschedule appointments if the offender is aware of them.
  • Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
  • Alert neighbours, and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
  • If possible, replace wooden doors with steel or metal doors, install a security system and motion sensitive lights.
  • Tell people you work with about the situation and if possible have your calls screened.
  • Talk to trusted people about the violence; seek trauma counselling and legal counsel.

If you get a protection order:

  • Change your locks and phone number.
  • Change your work hours and route taken to work.
  • Change the route taken to transport your children to school.
  • Keep a certified copy of your protection order with you at all times.
  • Inform friends, neighbours and employers that you have a protrection order in effect.
  • Give copies of the protection order to employers, neighbours and schools along with a picture of the offender.
  • If you suspect that the protection order has been broken, alert your local police station, call your legal advisor or seek safety at your closest emergency shelter.

Established 15-years ago, the Saartjie Baartman Centre has assisted more than 100 000 victims of crime and violence. Over the past few years, the organisation has seen a 65% increase in the number of women and children seeking assistance. A number of services, including short and long-term accommodation, legal assistance, skills training and counseling for adults and children are offered by the Centre. For more informaition or to seek assistance visit call 021 633 5287.

Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
Beverley Houston
021 447 1082 / 082 824 8617

On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:
Director: Shaheema McLeod