“But they never hit me.” It’s one of the most common reasons people choose to ignore red flags in relationships. Ideally, nobody would stay in a relationship with a person who crosses their partner’s boundaries. However, people stay in unhealthy and abusive relationships all the time. Though it’s impossible to say whether or not a person will become abusive, certain bad behaviors can indicate that your partner is at risk for acting violently toward you. Having an escape plan in place can help give you the confidence you need to remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation.
Do You Need an Exit Plan?
Although there may be a difference between a person with abusive tendencies and a person with a bad temper, both can be equally dangerous. If you’ve noticed that your partner doesn’t have the classic signs of abusive behavior, but they’ve already made you fear for your physical safety, trust your instincts. You should never be concerned for your physical safety during an argument. Furthermore, if you’ve read about the warning signs of an abusive relationship, and you feel as though your partner may be abusive, you should at the very least have an escape plan, even if you don’t intend to leave them permanently.
Starting Your Escape Plan
Though you may not be ready to leave, you need to be prepared to remove yourself from a situation that endangers your physical safety. If you ever feel as though your life is in danger, you will need to get to safety. Your escape plan should include the basics such as where you’re going when your partner gets violent, at what point you’re going to leave, and who you can contact when you need help. If you have children, consider how they fit into your escape plan. Some people do not have to worry about their partner harming the children; others know that, if they leave, they’ll have to take the children too. Follow your instincts and do whatever you can to keep yourself and your children safe. If you do not have friends or family that you can turn to there are other resources that you should be aware of before you need them.
Build a Support Network
Find a person you can trust and who can be there for you in your time of need. If your partner has already physically harmed you, make sure to photograph the evidence and send it to your trusted person. Service providers such as doctors, therapists, and clergy are all mandatory reporters. This means that if you tell them you’re being abused, they are legally obligated to report the abuse to the appropriate authorities. Ideally, all abuse would be reported and punished. However, if you are concerned that a police report would jeopardize your safety, you may want to keep in mind that certain occupations are required to report abuse to authorities. You should never go without medical attention for either physical or mental health needs out of fear of mandatory reporting. Therefore, it may be prudent to have a safety plan in place before making a disclosure to a mandatory reporter. It will also be important to make the appropriate disclosures to document the abuse so that action can be taken. Failing to ensure the abuse is documented may prevent obtaining legal protection from the court.
Gather the Things You Need
Start making a list of things you’ll need if you have to suddenly leave the house due to your partner’s violent outbursts. Make sure you’re in a safe place when you’re making this list and make sure you keep this list somewhere your partner cannot readily access. Packing everything all at once may provoke your partner, so start taking items out of your house, one by one. You may also elect to purchase other items and not take them into your home in the first place. If you have a friend you can trust, you can store the items at their house. If you feel comfortable, you could store the items under the seat of your car. The idea is to have a change of clothes for when you need to leave the house in an emergency. If there are things you absolutely need, make sure to purchase them or remove those from the house first. For example, if you need glasses in order to drive, the first thing you should remove from the house or purchase is a spare pair of glasses. Lastly, if you’re storing clothes in your car, be careful about storing undergarments in your car, especially if your partner has jealous tendencies.
Make Financial Plans
Stash as much cash as you can without drawing attention to yourself. If you can open a credit card or checking account without your partner’s knowledge, even better. However, if you’re married, the credit card and checking account may be considered marital debt or an asset, respectively. This means that your partner may have an interest in the money in your checking account even if their name is not on the checking account. Make sure you don’t leave your cash in a place where your partner can find it, especially if you know this could provoke them. Also, if your evacuation plan includes staying at a hotel, you will need to give the hotel a credit card or debit card in order to book a room. If you have had to leave an argument in order to protect yourself, you will not want to give your partner any indication of where you are—especially if you’re waiting for them to calm down. You do not want your spouse showing up at the hotel while they’re in a rage.
If you need help finding resources near you, contact the domestic violence hotline. If you feel comfortable doing so, program the phone numbers of resources into your phone. There are places that provide emergency shelter. The Utah Coalition for Domestic Violence has a safety planning checklist that you can go through to prepare your exit. Lastly, if you need assistance, you can dial 211 to find out what kinds of resources are available to you.
If you have been subjected to domestic abuse and you are in fear of your safety there are legal options to help protect you. You may be able to obtain a protective order requiring the abuser to not contact you or interact with you. This order can also provide you with temporary possession of a shared residence and personal property such as a vehicle. It will also order them to stay away from other places that you frequent such as work, school, or a place of worship.
When You’re Ready to Leave and Never Look Back
If you’re in a relationship where you’re afraid for your physical safety, you are in an unhealthy relationship and you deserve better. When you’re ready to leave, CoilLaw is here for you. Though our family law firm handles protective orders, divorces, we also handle domestic violence cases. If you’re ready to leave your relationship, and you need help obtaining a protective order, contact CoilLaw today.