I will never forget May 27, 2020. It was the day we finally escaped safely from the living hell of my ex. It started as the scariest day of my life. Thankfully, it went smoothly. The feeling of liberation when the last truck pulled out and headed to our new, safe home made all my anxiety disappear. I hope you find the courage and strength to get out too. Here are tips and suggestions based on my experience about how to leave an abusive relationship safely.
How to Leave an Abusive Relationship Safely
Leaving any relationship is hard. It is well known that when a woman is trying to escape from an abusive relationship, domestic violence tends to escalate. The chances of a woman being murdered by her ex partner are the highest just before and immediately after leaving. If your partner has made threats towards you, your children and/or your pets you feel very real fear. To lessen your stress, I want to share with you what I learned and what worked for me. Being as organized as possible really DID help my stress and help me feel like I was taking control of our lives back.
FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT: LISTEN TO YOUR GUT! If you feel you or your loved ones safety is in imminent danger LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. Go to the police, call your local church or womens shelter to get support and a safe house to stay at temporarily. Your stuff can be replaced or retrieved later with police escort, you and your kids safety IS PRIORITY.
In my case, my ex had been controlling and emotionally abusive for several years. The first time he got physically violent I made the decision to leave, and started planning. It is well known that a pattern of violence escalates over time. To avoid exposing my children and I to further danger, I made a safety plan to leave as soon as practical. We got out 8 months after his first violent attack. He had been physically aggressive (a form of domestic abuse that is a precursor to physical violence) and bullying for the majority of the 4 year relationship.
The first and most important thing to do, is develop a support network. Tell trustworthy people of your plan to leave your abusive relationship. I do recommend calling your local police, finding a good lawyer who specializes in family law and domestic violence, getting a counsellor (most womens services offer out patient counselling support for domestic abuse survivors), and calling your local church.
Next, make a plan if possible to move on a weekday, when your children would normally be in school or daycare and your partner at work. Only, DO NOT send them to school/daycare on move day. When you call to excuse your children from school for the day, speak to the principal and explain what is happening. Tell them to call the authorities if your ex arrives on school grounds and that you have a lawyer and will provide them with court documents as soon as you have them. Provide the school with a good headshot picture of your abuser.
Have your kids and pets stay with a trusted friend, preferably someone local your ex does NOT know. If he does know that person, have your friend take your children out for the day for an activity. BE CERTAIN that on move day, if your abusive partner discovers you are leaving that he can NOT find your kids or furbabies. You can expect your ex to be highly agitated. DO NOT bring your children and pets to your new home until the move is over safely and confrontation, if any, is over.
When we moved out the courts were closed due to covid. My local police said they were not able to do anything as custody is a civil matter. My lawyer filed for a safeguard order as soon as it was possible. Just make your calls and cover your basis. Preparation, where possible is key to having your freedom day running as smoothly as possible.
Try not to have friends and family present to help you on moving day. Abusive partners are more likely to be better behaved around strangers. Invite only one or two good friends to direct traffic and provide you with emotional support. Ideally hire big, scary looking moving men.
DO advise your local police of your moving plans. Ask the police be in your area that day or on site if your ex is present.
Next, if your controlling ex has access to your internet accounts- banking, social media etc, change all your passwords when your moving crew arrives. When that task is complete, turn OFF location services on your phone and other devices. Ideally purchase a cheap throwaway temporary phone to use until the dust settles on your partners vindictive traits. If your ex has not been tracking you to date- be aware that there are SEVERAL online services that will track locations just with cell phone numbers IF location services are active. You absolutely do not want to be found by your enraged ex. My ex was tracking me, and I do have proof.
Make sure your hydro and internet is connected at your new home. Name your new wifi network something he can never guess, in case he tries driving around scanning networks to find you.
The first thing I recommend you do when you arrive before you start unpacking is get your internet running and set up one of the new wireless digital alarm systems. I recommend checking Amazon for reviews and competitive pricing of off brands.
Have anything you need for your new home delivered to a trusted friend or family member. At my house, we have sensors on all doors and windows, motion detectors, a video doorbell, and cameras on all areas outside our home. We also have a several panic buttons indoors. It took less than 45 minutes, and required no drilling to install everything. Total cost about $200. Peace of mind? PRICELESS
Trust me, if are so nervous you can’t sleep days before your move, having an alarm will help you sleep soundly the first few days in your new home. Especially if you are confident your ex doesn’t know where you are.
DO NOT speak to your ex after you leave. That is your lawyers job. Your children should not be speaking to their father either as he will likely attempt to bleed them for information, until court orders are in place. I also recommend using a secure service like talkingparents.com (free for abusive situations). Chances are your ex will behave if he knows he is being recorded. He will not be able to get your new phone number or address with a secure anonymous system like that.
Once you have decided firmly to leave and started putting your plans in place, do everything you can to keep things QUIET at home. I realize the problem is your partners and not yours, but try not to arouse suspicions. Start or intensify grey rocking your ex. Grey rocking is very helpful, if he is controlling, manipulative, narcissistic and a gas-lighter like my ex.
When you find your new home, I am sure you will feel overjoyed to have hope of peace. If you are anything like me, I will bet you can hardly wait to unpack and start decorating! NO MATTER WHAT do not tell your abuser that you are leaving. Do not arouse his suspicions by packing! Instead “spring clean” or tell him you have decided to go “minimalist” and have a “french 10 item wardrobe”.
Start organizing you and your kids personal belongings, deep cleaning furniture, organizing your kitchen and bathroom storage areas. Slim the areas down to minimal. Try to make “his and hers” areas so your items are clearly in a different area/shelf then your exes.
In most jurisdictions, you can NOT take anything that is not a personal belonging (clothing, personal care items, children’s toys, gifts) or that was not your article before the relationship. Household items acquired DURING your relationship is “community property”, and must be divided and decided upon via the lawyers.
If while unpacking you find that mistakenly you have items that belong to your ex, tell your lawyer immediately and s/he will make arrangements for return of the belongings. ALWAYS do the right thing, even though you have been wronged.
Be aware that you may need to acquire appliances, beds, linens, dishes etc. Thankfully, used furniture and household items can be found for free or close to it. Ask if you can take possession of your new property a week or so before you move in. Or take possession on the 1st and move on a date that works for you a week or so later. This way you can clean it and bring in essential articles.
In my case, I had the children’s beds, new toys and linens they would love, essentials like toilet paper, snack foods, bottled drinks set up prior to moving day. This way, when I knew it was going to be long, exhausting upside down day I knew they could have dinner and go to bed on time. I also had all my EMPTY boxes, tape and moving supplies at my new home. I had my movers stop by the new house to pick them up on the way to help me move out of the family home.
When you are doing your “spring cleaning” donate or sell as much as you can. Throw out anything not fit for charity. Use a “boxing system”. Pack everything you know you would not need prior to your move day. I stored those “declutter” boxes in a friends garage until I was able to move them to our new home. My ex thought I gave boxes and boxes to charity. Ummmm- not really! The other thing I recommend is keeping a list of inventory of everything you are taking with you. The police may need to see a list of things you are taking.
When you organize movers, also arrange for a packing crew. A friend posted for me on a local facebook group. She found a kind group of ladies who were friends to help. Another reason to have everything all tidy! LOL- pack ur own panties but leave the rest to complete strangers.
Be sure to have ample boxes, tape guns and newspaper. You WILL need more boxes than you think, packing fast means things take up more space. It is amazing how quickly you can move when you are organized! We packed and moved a 4 bedroom home (most of the contents were mine, my ex literally owned practically nothing but junk at 50+ years of age) in just under 6 hours. This is the benefit of having a domestic abuse escape plan.
I did not have much move out cleaning to do, as I had cleaned prior to the move. Have the packers label the boxes with the room they came out of eg “kitchen”, “Girls room” etc. That way the movers can put them in the right rooms in your new home. That helps to make your unpacking much faster!
Try to have your fridge and freezer as clean and empty as possible on move day. Plan to deep clean your kitchen a week or so before your big day. Vacuum under and behind your appliances and furniture so you don’t take old dirt to your new home. Also try to have or borrow several coolers. Empty fridge/freezer first thing. Have the appliances moved to your new home first while the packers get packing at your old home.
Try not to have a huge moving van, just a cube van and several trips back and forth is best. After your appliances (if they are yours to move), work on your large furniture items and finally personal effects. This is advantageous for several reasons-
- it gives the packing crew time to pack
- if conflict does arrive, chances are it will happen later in the move. If the police attend they will see you are not taking belongings that are not yours.
God willing, your move will be as smooth as possible and your ex will not be there. It was a miracle that things worked out that way for my family. I pray it happens that way for you too! If you need a courage boost for moving day, I highly recommend you read this!
Welcome to your new peaceful home, Mamma! Now that you have escaped safely, you have to remain firm in your resolution to NEVER GO BACK!