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Daniel

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Getting out of an abusive relationship, safely

Getting Out, Safely

by Aimee Lee Ball
Oprah.com


Many women trapped in abusive relationships worry about finding employment so they can support their children. Desperate to leave, they find themselves—after years of abuse—without an income or job skills, no place to go (having been isolated from family and friends), and terrified of a husband who could use his means to get custody of the kids. Experts acknowledge that these situations are tough, but there are ways to exit safely.

The best resource is the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE, which provides 24-hour crisis intervention and referrals to local services. You can also look in the government pages of the phone book, ask at the hospital, or call 911 to find agencies and shelters in your area. A battered-women's home may be the last place you can imagine yourself in, but there are many different kinds of facilities—day and sleep-in—most of which are staffed by experts who recognize that abuse happens at every socioeconomic level. "It's especially difficult for women who have lived with money," says Peggy Payne, executive director of Safe Passage in Rock Hill, South Carolina. "But we're not just 'three hots and a cot.' We're here to help women decide what path they want their lives to take." If you're worried that an affluent husband will out-lawyer you—over the children, for example—these support agencies usually know the best attorneys in the field, including some who'll do pro bono work. They can also help you get back into the job market.

Never tell an abuser you're leaving, because that's when things can escalate, says Judith McFarlane, DrPH, who researches how to stop violence against women at the Texas Woman's University in Houston. She emphasizes the importance of a safety plan: Make copies of key documents such as your birth certificate, marriage license, and insurance policies. Note bank account numbers and Social Security numbers (for spouse and children). Get a set of duplicate keys for home and cars. Put discretionary money in a safe place (not in a purse or drawer). If you phone a lawyer, shelter, hotline, or service agency, hang up and immediately dial the local time or some other innocuous number so that your partner can't use *69 or the redial button to trace the call. If you have caller ID, make sure to erase all incoming numbers that could tip him off. You should also be careful going on the Internet. It's safest to use a computer your partner doesn't have access to (at work, the public library). Otherwise, cover your tracks by deleting "cookies" (once you're online, go to the Help box, click on Index, and find Cookies for instructions) and recently visited Web sites (you'll need to clear your History list and empty your Cache files—again, go to Help option for details). Establish a code to alert friends, family, or neighbors if you're in danger. "You can't depend on using the phone, because he might rip it out of the wall," says McFarlane. "So your code might be pulling a shade halfway down."

At any point in the process, joining a support group can help relieve the isolation and lend some perspective. "Many women don't want their relationship to end," says Liz Jones, who manages community education and the outreach program of Sojourn, a sanctuary for battered women and their children in Santa Monica. "They make excuses for the abuse, but somebody having a bad day isn't an excuse to call you a whore."
 
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Daniel

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General Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship
Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

  • You may request a police stand-by or escort while you leave.
  • If you need to sneak away, be prepared.
  • Make a plan for how and where you will escape.
  • Plan for a quick escape.
  • Put aside emergency money as you can.
  • Hide an extra set of car keys.
  • Pack an extra set of clothes for yourself and your children and store them at a trusted friend or neighbor's house. Try to avoid using the homes of next-door neighbors, close family members and mutual friends.
  • Take with you important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc., as well as other important items, including:
    • Driver's license
    • Regularly needed medication
    • Credit cards or a list of credit cards you hold yourself or jointly
    • Pay stubs
    • Checkbooks and information about bank accounts and other assets
  • If time is available, also take:
    • Citizenship documents (such as your passport, green card, etc.)
    • Titles, deeds and other property information
    • Medical records
    • Children's school and immunization records
    • Insurance information
    • Copy of marriage license, birth certificates, will and other legal documents
    • Verification of social security numbers
    • Welfare identification
    • Valued pictures, jewelry or personal possessions

    You may also create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to relocate. Ask questions that require a call back to your house in order to leave phone numbers on record.
 

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