Leaving a violent relationship is an incredibly difficult and courageous step to take. In order to ensure your safety during this process, it’s important to have a well-thought-out safety plan in place. 

We’ll provide you with the steps involved in safely exiting a violent relationship. We’ll explore the reasons why having a safety plan is crucial, discuss important considerations before leaving, provide guidance on making a plan to leave, and offer information about what you can do after you leave. We’ll delve into how you can seek support, and understand what police and legal options exist. 

Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources available to help you navigate this process and create a safer future for yourself.

Why do I need a safety plan?

Having a safety plan in place is crucial when exiting a violent relationship. Leaving an abusive partner can be one of the most dangerous times for a survivor of domestic violence, as the abuser may escalate their abusive behaviours, including physical violence. Without a safety plan, the risk of harm or violence from the abuser increases significantly. 

A safety plan is a personalised and practical guide that outlines steps you can take to enhance your safety and the safety of your children, pets, and loved ones. It involves identifying a safe place to go, packing essential items, keeping important phone numbers and documents accessible, and informing someone you trust about your plan. 

Having a safety plan not only increases your chances of successfully leaving an abusive relationship but it also empowers you, and can reduce your  anxiety and stress levels leading up to exiting the relationship. 

Before you leave

Before you leave the relationship, there are certain steps you can take to ensure your safety. 

First, identify safe spaces in your home and neighbourhood where you can go to seek refuge if needed. It’s also helpful to talk to trusted neighbours who can provide support and assistance during this time. 

Teach your children how to get help and what to do in case of an emergency. Keep your car fueled and ready for a quick escape if necessary, and have an extra set of keys stored in a safe place. Document the abuse by taking photos, keeping police reports, maintaining a journal, and disclosing the abuse to your doctor as soon as possible after it happens. 

Acquiring job skills and setting money aside can help you become more financially independent. Locate and secure important documents, such as identification papers, birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, and financial records, and keep copies in a safe place outside of the home. 

By taking these precautions before leaving, you can increase your safety and be better prepared as you transition into a new and safer chapter of your life.

Making a plan to leave

When making a plan to leave, carefully think through possible scenarios and determine the best course of action. 

One important step is to tell trusted friends and family members about your situation, as their support can be invaluable during this challenging time. 

Seeking legal assistance can provide you with the guidance and protection you need. Speaking to a domestic violence worker can offer you additional resources and support tailored to your specific circumstances. 

Keep the plan as simple as possible. In times of danger, clear thinking can be difficult and an easy to follow plan will take the guesswork out of leaving. 

If you need a safe place to stay, don’t hesitate to reach out to Domestic Violence helplines. 

Consider obtaining a new phone and phone number, as well as changing passwords for all electronic and social media accounts to protect your privacy and security. 

After you leave

After leaving an abusive relationship, the focus shifts to ensuring your safety and well-being, as well as that of your children. 

Changing your phone number can help prevent unwanted contact and maintain your privacy. Altering your work hours, route to work, and regular routines can make it more challenging for the perpetrator to track your movements. Consider using different stores and social spots to further reduce the chances of running into your ex. Inform your children’s school about the situation, so they can take appropriate precautions and ensure their safety. Letting your coworkers know about your circumstances can help them protect you if your ex attempts to locate you at work. 

Make sure your new dwelling is secure with good doors, locks, and, if necessary, security cameras. Notify your family and friends about the situation, so they are aware not to share any information about you with your ex. 

When you’re on solid ground again, take the time to prioritise your self-care again by getting enough rest, eating healthily, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. This will help you rebuild your life and create a safer and more nurturing environment for yourself and your children. 

Seeking support

Seeking support when leaving an abusive relationship is essential for your well-being.

Start by reaching out to a health professional, such as your doctor, who can provide medical care and address any physical or emotional concerns. 

Consider speaking to a community worker, such as a counsellor or family support worker, who can guide you through the process of healing from the trauma and working through your emotions. They can offer valuable insights and tools to help you rebuild your life. 

It’s also beneficial to connect with specialist domestic violence services or organisations that provide a comprehensive range of support services. These can include counselling to help you process your experiences, support groups where you can connect with others who have had similar experiences, and legal assistance to navigate any legal matters associated with leaving the abusive relationship. 

You don’t have to face this journey alone, and seeking support is a sign of strength as you take steps towards reclaiming your life.

Understanding and using the legal and police options can help you secure your safety by providing an added layer of protection, helping your move forward towards a life free from abuse.

One option is to seek assistance from the police in applying for a family violence order. This court order sets out specific conditions for the abusive person, aiming to prevent them or anyone associated with them from further abusing you. Note that applying for such an order does not result in the perpetrator having a criminal record. However, if they violate the order or any of its conditions, they can be charged with a crime. To apply for a protection order, you can visit a police station and provide a statement detailing the events that have been taking place. Alternatively, you can choose to apply for a protection order privately, either on your own or with the assistance of a legal advisor. 

In cases involving children, you may need to navigate family law to obtain orders that protect the children and yourself. If you’re not an Australian citizen, immigration law may offer relief options, such as applying for a Partner Visa or a Protection Visa. 

Taking care of yourself

When leaving an abusive relationship, taking care of yourself becomes essential. 

Seek emotional support from trusted friends, family, or professionals through counselling or therapy. Prioritise self-care by engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and ensuring sufficient rest. Work with a domestic violence organisation to develop a safety plan tailored to your needs. Connect with a support group of fellow survivors to find understanding and encouragement. 

Above all, be patient with yourself and remember that healing from trauma takes time. You deserve a life filled with safety, happiness, and love.

FAQs

How do you know when it’s time to leave an abusive relationship?

If you’re in an abusive relationship, it can be difficult to know when it’s time to leave. Here are some signs that may indicate it’s time to leave an abusive relationship:

You fear for your safety: if you fear that you or your children may be harmed by your partner, it’s important to prioritise your safety and consider leaving the relationship.

You’ve tried to make the relationship work, but nothing has changed: if you’ve tried counselling or other interventions to address the abuse, but your partner continues to be abusive, it may be time to leave.

Your partner has threatened you or your children: if your partner has made threats of violence, it’s important to take those threats seriously and consider leaving the relationship.

You feel isolated and alone: if your partner has isolated you from friends and family, and you feel like you have no one to turn to for support, it may be time to leave.

Your mental or physical health is suffering: if the abuse is taking a toll on your mental or physical health, and you’re unable to find relief, it may be time to leave.

If you’re unsure about whether it’s time to leave an abusive relationship, consider seeking the guidance of a trusted friend, family member, or professional counsellor. Remember, leaving an abusive relationship can be a difficult and emotional process, but it’s important to prioritise your safety and well-being. There are resources and support available to help you leave and begin the healing process.

Where could I go if where I am staying does not feel safe and how would I get there?

If you’re in an abusive relationship and you don’t feel safe where you are staying, there are resources available to help you find a safe place to stay. Here are some options:

Reach out to a domestic violence hotline: domestic violence hotlines can provide you with support, resources, and information on local shelters or safe houses where you can stay. They can also help you develop a safety plan for leaving the abusive relationship.

Stay with a trusted friend or family member: if you have a friend or family member who you trust and who can provide you with a safe place to stay, reach out to them for help.

Contact a local emergency shelter: emergency shelters provide temporary housing for people who are fleeing abuse. They can also provide you with counselling, legal assistance, and other support services.

When leaving an abusive relationship, it’s important to have a safety plan in place. This may involve leaving when your partner is not home, or with the help of a domestic violence advocate. If you’re concerned about your safety, consider contacting the police for assistance.

How can I help protect my children in this situation?

If you’re leaving an abusive relationship and you have children, it’s important to prioritise their safety and well-being. Here are some steps you can take to protect your children:

Create a safety plan: work with a domestic violence advocate or counsellor to develop a safety plan that includes specific steps to keep your children safe during and after leaving the abusive relationship. This may include identifying safe places to go, developing a code word with your children to signal danger, and teaching your children how to call for help.

Talk to your children: talk to your children about what’s happening and why you’re leaving. Use age-appropriate language and be honest with them. Assure them that they are not to blame for the abuse and that you love them and will do everything you can to keep them safe.

Seek legal help: work with a family law attorney to obtain custody of your children and to get a restraining order against your abuser, if necessary. This can help protect your children from further abuse and ensure that they are able to stay with you.

Get a support system: surround yourself and your children with people who love and support you. This may include family members, friends, and support groups for survivors of domestic violence. Having a strong support system can help you and your children heal from the trauma of the abuse and rebuild your lives.

Get counselling: consider getting counselling for yourself and your children to help you cope with the trauma of the abuse and to help your children process their feelings.