PREPARING TO LEAVE
Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous. Every precaution should be taken in order to ensure your safety and the safety of your children. In addition to general safety:
- Many abusers resort to stalking during their relationships and after the relationship has ended. Learn more about stalking and stalking victim safety here.
- A protective order can be helpful. Consult with a victim advocate beforehand to determine if this is the best and safest course of action for you.
- Do not tell your abuser you are planning to leave.
- Prepare for what you will do if your abuser finds out about your plan.
- Leave when the abuser is not home or when it is least expected, for example, when things are going well between you.
- Create plausible reasons to leave home at various times – such as walking the dog, checking the mail, taking out the trash, going to the gym or the grocery store. These offer opportunities to leave safely.
- Determine who will let you stay with them or loan you money. Determine who will stay with your children if you need to be separated for some reason. It should be with someone your abuser does not know.
- Set aside cash in a separate account or;
- Ask someone you trust to hold money, copies of important paperwork and clothing for you. If that is not an option, have a bag packed and hidden yet accessible. Pack light – a few days worth of clothing and a comfort item for the children, like a favorite toy, blanket or doll.
- Create a safety plan for your pet.
These are some important items you may want to take with you:
Birth certificates, social
Driver’s license and any other
Marriage certificate or divorce and custody documents
Protective / restraining orders, police reports, evidence of the abuse
Health insurance cards
Medical records, prescriptions for
Ownership papers, medical records
Checkbooks, ATM cards, bank info,
Deed, rental/lease agreement
Extra house and car keys
Change of clothes for you and your children
Pictures of the abuser and
Keepsakes, jewelry, small valuables
- Keep in mind that your abuser may be monitoring your emails, internet activities, phone calls and your whereabouts. Use a computer at your local library, if possible. Consider purchasing a pre-paid cell phone for calls to people and organizations related to your situation (case workers, advocates, police, shelters). Keep the phone on silent mode. Your local domestic violence organization may also have emergency cell phones available.
- Keep a phone close or on your person at all times. If you do not have a home or cell phone, know where the pay phones are in your area and have change or a calling card on your person.
- Keep your keys and wallet close.
- Keep spare keys some place safe and close to the car, if possible, in case you have to leave suddenly. Keep your car filled with gas and backed into the driveway.
- If you don’t have a vehicle, keep a list of taxi services and bus/train routes and fare money for the fare.
If you are prepared to move to a new home:
- Find out if you qualify for an address confidentiality program for victims of family violence, sexual assault or stalking, in your state. Follow the instructions given to you.
- If the address confidentiality program is not an option, obtain a mailbox at a mail service that offers a physical street address for their customers. Use this address for everything, including credit applications and voter registrations. All deliveries should go to this address. DO NOT forward your mail with the US Postal Service as they will send a notification to your former address. Call everyone personally (creditors, utilities, family and friends) and give them the new mailing address.
- If possible, have utilities established under the name of someone you trust. If that isn’t an option, give a password to the companies providing the service and make sure they require the password any time a call is made regarding your accounts. Have your bills sent to the mailbox above.
- Get an unlisted number and caller ID. When you move, screen your calls. Do not answer calls marked “anonymous” or “private” or calls from numbers you do not recognize.
- Notify your children’s day care provider or school of your situation. Provide them with pictures of the abuser and any protective orders or injunctions. Make sure they keep you informed and report any strange visits or contact by anyone.
- Talk to your children about the importance of privacy. Tell them not to give out any information to strangers asking for their family or personal information.
Read the information on this site on what to do after you leave as well as information on safety in your new home or once the abuser has moved out.
We encourage victims to develop a safety plan with the assistance of a trained victim advocate. The safety measures on this site are not intended to be a guarantee of safety or a substitute for professional or legal counsel.
Your local coalition may have additional information on safety and protecting your identity. The following organizations are also available to help:
The National Domestic Violence Helpline 800-799-SAFE (7233)
The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 866-331-9474
The National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673)
ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)