7 Ways to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship
Follow these steps if your partner is hurting you.
By Wesley Baines
Abuse can take many forms within the context of a relationship. It can be emotional, financial, physical, or even sexual, but no matter what, no one should ever have to endure it. Your romantic partner should be the person who you trust most in the world—someone who treats you with love and respect. But when that love and respect turns to pain and suffering, it’s time to leave.
The problem, though, is that leaving someone who is willing to hurt you is difficult and dangerous. You’re taking something from them, and it’s going to make them angry, so it’s vital to have a plan in place that helps you identify abuse, safely leave your abuser, and be prepared for post-relationship life.
While even the best preparation cannot guarantee your safety, it can make you safer, and so to help you, let’s take a look
The first step toward exiting an abusive relationship involves simply recognizing the abuse.
This is harder than it sounds. Vision can blur when we’re too close to a problem—sometimes, it takes stepping back for a moment to identify the subtler forms of abuse.
When the word “abuse” is mentioned, most people think of physical abuse, but it can be so much more than that. Abuse can be emotional, taking the form of humiliation, intimidation, controlling behavior, and degradation. It can also be sexual—even in a relationship, if you don’t consent to sex or intimate touch, that’s sexual abuse. If sex is degrading or unsafe, that’s also abuse.
Financial abuse is one of the hardest forms to spot, and often takes the form of the abuser insisting that you give up control of your finances—this might look like taking your paycheck from you, limiting your work hours, and disallowing access to bank accounts. The abuser may claim that this is “simply how relationships work”. The abuser is wrong. You deserve financial autonomy.
If you see any of these behaviors, don’t make excuses for the abuser. It’s time to call it what it is—abuse. Once you fully realize that you are being abused, and that this is not okay, you can move on to the next step.
Realize That You're Not at Fault
Abuse is never the victim’s fault. Realizing this is the key to getting out of an abusive situation.
Most people are resistant to change until they become very uncomfortable in their present condition—it usually takes a big push. Sometimes, that push can take the form of a realization.
In this case, the victim of abuse must stop making excuses for the abuser. No matter how much you might think you “nag,” or “annoy,” or “make mistakes,” you don’t deserve to be hit or humiliated or controlled or taken advantage of.
One of the most effective tactics an abuser employs is tricking you into thinking you deserve the abuse you’re getting. They’ll tell you that no one else could put up with you, so there’s no point in leaving. They’ll cut you off from friends and family so that there’s no one to tell you otherwise.
None of this is your fault, and you deserve better. So if you see the signs of abuse from the previous slide, take the time to realize that it’s not your fault.
Realize that it’s okay to leave, and you’ll find your motivation to do so.
Documenting abuse is incredibly important if you’re married or have children—you’ll need that evidence later to ensure that you and your children receive adequate protection. In addition to this, many abusers seem like wonderful people to the outside world. If you can dispel that illusion, you may protect others from abuse.
Documentation can be as simple as a series of journal entries describing and dating each instance of abuse. Going farther, audio and video recordings provide even more concrete evidence.
If you’ve been physically abused in a way that causes bruising, cuts, or other visible manifestations, take photographs and seek medical attention—the medical records will be another form of documentation.
Keep this evidence in a safe place, preferably in a place that is safely away from the abuser, such as your workplace or at a friend’s home. And of course, if you fear for your life, get out immediately and seek help from the police.
If you end up facing your abuser in court, you’ll have all you need to get a restraining order, to win custody of children, or to simply put the abuser in jail.
Pack an Emergency Bag
If you’re in a relationship with an abuser, you need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
You can do this by packing an emergency overnight back that contains clothing, toiletries, money, any medication you may be on, and copies of any keys you might need. You may also wish to keep a folder of your legal documentation, such as your birth certificate and social security card. Include anything else you think you might need while away from home.
Hide this bag somewhere it will not be found by the abuser, or, even better, keep it at a trusted friend’s or neighbor’s home, or at your workplace.
Abuse is unpredictable, and sometimes escalates into life-threatening situations—in this case, you need to contact police and get out immediately. In cases like this, your emergency bag will ensure that you can get out quickly without having to search for your vital items.
Set Money Aside
This is especially important if you don’t have much work experience, or if your abuser controls your finances. Abusive relationships inevitably end, and you don’t want to be left with nothing when you’re heading out the door in the middle of the night.
If your abuser tightly controls your finances, you may only be able to save a small amount each week—do it anyway. Save whatever you can, and stash it away in your emergency bag.
If you have little job experience, or if you haven’t worked outside the home, it may be wise to begin building up a few job skills so that you can support yourself. Get reading, and start applying so that you can have a source of income once you leave.
Try to set aside enough money for at least a month’s worth of expenses, and more if you can—it can take a long time to legally free your money from an abuser through the court system.
Don’t leave yourself vulnerable—financially prepare for the end of your relationship with an abuser.
Alert Friends and Family
If you’re in an abusive relationship, you need your support structure now more than ever.
These are the people who need to know each and every time you’re subjected to abuse. They’re the ones who you need to be able to rely on if you must leave suddenly and need food and shelter. These are the people who will emotionally support you and tell you that something is wrong when you can’t see it for yourself.
Unfortunately, the first thing many abusers do is to cut their victims off from their supports, weakening them through isolation. The abuser’s voice, then, becomes the only voice in the victim’s life.
Don’t let this happen to you—all of us need multiple people in our lives to fill multiple roles. No one can be your everything, although an abuser will claim to be.
Stay in contact with the important people in your life, and they’ll be there to help you when and if an crisis arises. You’ll be able to rest assured that if the worst happens, you’ll have somewhere to go, and have someone who cares about you.
Leave and Disengage
In the end, leaving your abuser is the way out of an abusive relationship. And this isn’t just physical—a victim should totally disengage from his or her abuser.
This means you don’t take the abuser back. This means you don’t allow him or her to make excuses. Sometimes, an abuser will return to a victim with anger and harsh words, but other times, they’ll return with flowers and apologies—this last is even more dangerous.
If an abuser can get a victim back into their home, they once again have control, and may seek to punish the victim for leaving. If you get out, stay out.
Do whatever you must to keep the abuser away from you, including blocking them on social media, changing your phone number, or even getting a restraining order.
Remember—this person has hurt you over and over. They intentionally hurt someone they supposedly love. They’re not going to stop. They’re not going to change. And if you let it, the abuse will continue getting worse.
If you know things are dangerous, carefully pick the time you leave—make sure that the abuser won’t realize you’re gone for a while. Ensure, also, that your phone does not have a tracker installed.
If you feel that leaving is simply too dangerous, call the police and allow them to escort you out.
So if you find yourself in an abusive relationship of any kind, leave, disengage, and go rebuild your life.
Abuse leave a deep psychological mark, but that mark doesn’t have to become a debilitating scar. If you’ve recently left an abusive relationship, seek help. See a counselor, and draw your loved ones close. Don’t dwell on the past, but work to ensure your success in the present.
Above all, remember that you are valuable, and that your experience has in no way lessened that value.
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/love-family/relationships/7-ways-to-get-out-of-an-abusive-relationship.aspx?p=9#UMxutfmgAkbm30xK.99
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