If There Is Abuse, What Can You Do?

The following information is taken directly from The Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Tip Sheet: “Support for Abused Women”:

Stay or Go?

There are many reasons why women stay in an abusive relationship. Maybe you’ve stayed because you are financially dependent on the abuser and cannot afford to leave. Maybe you love the abuser and don’t want to leave the relationship – you just want the violence to stop. Perhaps you blame yourself. You may be physically dependent on the abuser. Maybe your abuser has threatened to kill you if you leave. Every woman has her own reasons, and every woman has the right to make her own decisions. But no matter how hopeless or trapped or frightened you feel, help is available.

Tell Someone

You can tell someone you trust about the abuse. This might be a friend, family member, teacher, nurse, doctor, or someone from your faith community. Before speaking to them, decide what you want them to do. Do you just want them to listen? Do you want help finding a lawyer or a new place to live? Think about what you want, then ask for it. If they try to pressure you into doing something that makes you uncomfortable or afraid, speak up. Tell them how this makes you feel. Ask them to respect your wishes. Only you can decide if and when you should leave. If they downplay the abuse, don’t believe you, or refuse to help, tell someone else.

Discover Your Options

Before taking action, you can call a crisis line or women’s shelter to find out your options. They will help you create a safety plan and learn about your rights. Abusers often lie to control their victims, so you cannot rely on what they say. For example, abusers often threaten to take custody of children or have someone deported when they actually have no such power. Make a list of your questions, then talk to an expert.

Protect Yourself

If you decide to leave the abuser, create a safety plan. Abusers often become more violent if they believe their victims are planning to leave. Take precautions to ensure they do not learn about your plans through voice messages, emails, texts, or your internet use. Your safety plan should include strategies for staying safe at every stage: while you are still in the relationship; as you prepare to leave; your actual departure; and afterwards. To learn more about safety planning, talk to a shelter or visit neighboursfriendsandfamily.ca.

What a Safety Plan Might Look Like
Are you experiencing abuse by your partner, but aren’t sure how to protect yourself or how to leave?

The following guidelines, developed by “Neighbours, Friends and Families,” describe the actions you can take to protect your safety and the safety of your children; they also describe how you can develop a plan to leave the abusive relationship:

Developing a Safety Plan

Safety planning is a top priority, whether you choose to remain in the home or leave. Making a safety plan involves identifying actions to increase your safety and that of your children.

Below are some suggestions that might be helpful to you. Take one action at a time and start with the one that is easiest and safest for you.

Protecting Yourself While Living with an Abuser:
• Tell someone you trust about the abuse
• Think about your partner’s past use and level of force. This will help you predict what type of danger you and your children are facing and when to leave.
• Tell your children that abuse is never right, even when someone they love is being abusive. Tell them the abuse isn’t your fault or their fault; they did not cause it, and neither did you. Teach them it is important to keep safe when there is abuse.
• Plan where to go in an emergency. Teach your children how to get help. Tell them not to get between you and your partner if there is violence. Plan a code word to signal they should get help or leave.
• Don’t run to a place where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
• Create a plan to get out of your home safely and practice it with your children.
• Ask your neighbours, friends, and family to call the police if they hear sounds of abuse and to look after your children in an emergency.
• If an argument is developing, move to a space where you can get outside easily.
• Don’t go to a room where there is access to potential weapons (e.g. kitchen, workshop, bathroom).
• If you are being hurt, protect your face with your arms around each side of your head, with your fingers locked together. Don’t wear scarves or long jewelry.
• Park your car by backing it into the driveway and keep it fuelled.
• Hide your keys, cell phone, and some money near your escape route.
• Have a list of phone numbers to call for help. Call the police if it is an emergency.
• Your local shelter or police may be able to equip you with a panic button/cell phone.
• Make sure all weapons and ammunition are hidden or removed from your home.

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 and items:
o Identification
o Bank cards
o Financial papers related to family assets
o Income Tax Return
o Keys
o Medication
o Pictures of the abuser and your children
o Passports
o Health cards
o Personal address/telephone book
o Cell phone
o Legal documents (e.g. immigration papers, house deed/lease, restraining orders/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, jewelry, and objects of sentimental value, as well as toys and comforts for your children
• Arrange with someone to care for your pets temporarily, until you get settled. A shelter may 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.

After Leaving
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 women 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.
• Provide police with a copy of any legal orders you have.
• Consult a lawyer or legal aid clinic about actions to protect yourself or your children. Let your lawyer know if there are any Criminal Court proceedings.
• Consider changing any service provider that you share with your ex-partner.
• Obtain an unlisted telephone 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.
• Do not return to your home unless accompanied by the police. Never confront the abuser.