There are many reasons why women cannot or choose not to leave an abusive relationship. Blaming her or judging her will neither end the abuse nor keep her safe. Supporting her and empowering her with information so that when she is ready to leave she can do so safely is key.
But, when a woman is ready to leave, how does she do that safely?
One of the most dangerous times for a woman facing abuse is the time when she chooses to leave the relationship. The act of leaving -or even planning on leaving - shifts the balance of power and control and can lead to escalating and serious violence. It’s not as simple as deciding to “just leave”.
A critical step for any woman who is considering leaving her abusive partner is safety planning. Safety planning is about identifying actions to increase her safety and the safety of her children and should be a top priority for all abused women, whether they plan on remaining in the home or leaving.
There are many actions that a woman facing abuse can take to increase her safety and the safety of her children. These include:
- Do not tell your partner you are thinking of leaving.
- Tell someone you trust about the abuse.
- Create a plan to get out of the home safely and practice that plan with the children. Teach children a code word that can be used when they need to seek help or escape the home.
- Hide your keys, cell phone and some money near an escape route.
- Have a list of phone numbers with you at all times to call in case of emergency, including the women’s shelter crisis line. (902 752 0132) Teach your children how to call 911.
- Open a bank account in your name or in the name of a person you trust. Make sure bank statements are not mailed to your home.
- Have an emergency suitcase packed, if possible, and keep it hidden in an easy to access place or at a trusted friend’s house.
Items to remember include:
- clothing for you and your children
- an extra set of house and car keys
- special toys and comforts for your children
- valuable documents such as passports, birth and marriage certificates, immigration papers, health cards, SIN cards, bank cards, driver’s license
- prescription medicines for you and your children
- documents that prove you have been living at the same address as your partner
- pictures, jewellery, items of sentimental value
If an argument starts to happen, move to a space with easy access to the outdoors. Don’t go to a room where there is access to potential weapons such as the kitchen.
Getting Ready to Leave
When you are planning to leave, here are some suggestions:
- Contact the police or a local women’s shelter. Let the staff know that you intend to leave an abusive situation and ask for support in safety planning. Ask for an officer who specializes in woman abuse cases (information shared with the police may result in charges being laid against the abuser).
- If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask them to document your visit.
- Gather important documents: identification, bank cards, financial papers related to family assets, last Canada Income Tax Return, medication, pictures of the abuser and your children, passports, health cards, personal address/telephone book, cell phone and legal documents (immigration papers, house deed/lease, restraining order/peace bonds).
- If you can’t keep these things stored in your home for fear your partner will find them, consider making copies and leave them with someone you trust. Your local women’s shelter will also keep them for you.
- Consult a lawyer. Keep any evidence of physical abuse (such as photos). Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events, threats and any witnesses.
- Put together pictures, jewellery and objects of sentimental value, as well as toys and comforts for your children.
- Arrange for someone to care for your pets temporarily, until you get settled. A shelter can help with this.
- Remember to clear your phone of the last number you called to avoid his utilizing redial.
Leaving the Abuser
Here are some suggestions for your personal safety when you leave:
- Request a police escort or ask a friend, neighbour or family member to accompany you when you leave
- Contact your local women’s shelter. It may be a safer temporary spot than going to a place your partner knows.
- Do not tell your partner you are leaving.
- Leave quickly.
- Have a back-up plan if your partner finds out where you are going.
Here are some actions you should take after you or your partner has left the relationship:
- Visit the closest police station and ask to speak to an officer who specializes in woman abuse cases.
- Consider applying for a restraining order or peace bond that may help keep your partner away from you and your children. Keep it with you at all times.
- Consult a lawyer or legal aid clinic about actions to protect yourself or your children.
- Obtain an unlisted phone number, get caller ID and block your number when calling out.
- Make sure your children’s school or day care centre is aware of the situation and has copies of all relevant documents.
- Carry a photo of the abuser and your children with you.
- Ask your neighbours to look after your children in an emergency and to call the police if they see the abuser.
- Take extra precautions at work, at home and in the community. Consider telling your supervisor at work about your situation.
- Think about places and patterns that your ex-partner will know about and try to change them. For example, consider using a different grocery store or place of worship.
- If you feel unsafe walking alone, ask a neighbour, friend or family member to accompany you.
- Do not return to your home unless accompanied by the police. Never confront the abuser.
- Change the locks or install steel/metal doors, a security system, smoke detectors and an outside lighting system.
- Inform neighbours that your partner no longer lives with you and ask them to call the police if he is observed near your home or children.
Protection Orders: This can include a Peace Bond, Stay Away order (if there are charges of probation order), Emergency Protection Order, Protection of Property order.
Nova Scotia Peace Bond Application: NSPC-Apply-for-Peace-Bond-2006.pdf
Emergency protection orders: A temporary 30 day order. Tearmann Staff can assist with applications for Emergency protection orders. These applications are made online with the Justice of the Peace Center. You can read about Emergency protection Orders HERE
If you can download an app to your cell phone, safety Siren is an app developed by the YWCA.