Perhaps you have known a person who has been physically and emotionally abused by an intimate partner, and you wonder, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”
Or perhaps you are the one who is in an abusive relationship. You have been slapped, shoved, beaten, strangled, being humiliated or name-called by your partner. Your partner also tries to separate you from your outside relationships such as your close family and friends. He is in total control of your bank accounts. Or perhaps he has installed a GPS tracker in your car and monitors you via a smartwatch or smartphone to know your location at all times.
Psych2goers, it is also important to know that the abusers may not necessarily be your romantic partner, they can be anyone; perhaps they are your caregivers, or maybe they are your teachers, or any adults who are supposed to take good care of the children and youngsters.
And…have you ever heard of cases of abuse experienced by the elderly in nursing homes and long-term care facilities? According to the World Health Organization, in 2020, approximately 1 in 6 people 60 years and above experienced some form of abuse in community settings, and there is an increased rate of elder abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic (World Health Organization, 2021).
However, for this article, we will look at the scope of an abusive relationship on a narrower scale, and we will focus more on intimate partner violence (IPV). According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, IPV is a grave, preventable public health problem which describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. Sometimes this type of abuse can occur early and resume throughout the lifespan and when it happens during the teenage years, it is known as teen dating violence (TDV). Did you know, TDV affects millions of teenagers in the US annually? Approximately 11 million women and 5 million men who reported experiencing physical violence, contact sexual violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime disclosed that their first experience of these forms of violence was before they reached the age of 18.
So, Psych2goers, below are step-by-step guide that you can take to leave your abuser:
- Admit to yourself that you are in an abusive relationship
Oftentimes when you are in an abusive relationship, you have been “brainwashed” by your abuser that the abuse and suffering that you experience is your fault. You have been continuously fed with words and deeds that lower your self-esteem, causing you to become too beaten down to trust yourself. Consequently, you feel that it is very difficult to muster the courage to break free from an abusive relationship.
Unhealthy relationships exist on a continuum. It is crucial for you to analyze if your partner is showing these warning signs (Boyes, 2015) :
- Your partner actively tries to separate you from the support of your close friends and family.
- Your partner constantly belittles you, especially in front of others.
- Your partner says that you are stupid, or they are “the smart one” in the relationship, they try to prevent you from trying something new because “you presumably would not understand it.”
- You cannot recognize the positive influence that you receive from each other, instead you can identify ways your partner influences you negatively such as heavy drinking, laziness, or smoking.
- Your partner easily loses temper and physically hurts you.
- Your partner is extremely jealous of your accomplishments.
- Your close family and friends have warned you about your partner.
2. Prioritize your safety as you plan and prepare
Psych2goers, you should know that when you are planning and making preparations to leave your abuser, safety should always be your utmost priority. It is best that your abuser is oblivious to your planning to escape from the abusive relationship. According to David J. Glass, a certified family law specialist and a former clinical psychologist, you should never broadcast your plans of leaving by telling your partner that you are going to get a restraining order, because they will most probably call the police and accuse you were the abuser.
Oftentimes, abusive partners monitor your email, computer, cell phone, and they might also track your whereabouts or your browsing history on a web browser. Make sure that your partner is clueless about your internet browsing history to find a domestic violence shelter, calling your close friends or family members to move in with them or borrow some money to aid you in leaving the relationship. Perhaps you can go buy a brand new number and keep it secret, then throw the thing away when you finally leave.
3. Get out fast
You must choose a safe time to escape the abusive relationship. According to Glass, “There’s no right time to leave, thus it always comes down to finding a safe time.” Safe time usually means the time in which your abusive partner is not at home, maybe they are at their workplace or maybe they are spending their time with their friends or family.
Make sure that you have already packed important things with you beforehand such as your bank card, your birth and marriage certificates, your children’s birth certificates. When you finally figure out the safe time to leave, remember to take these important things with you.
4. Turn to someone that can help you out
Make sure that your close family members or friends know of your escape plan. Apart from that, if you can afford it, it is also best to consider getting professional help from a therapist or a family lawyer.
A therapist is able to help you to do the emotional work and gives you validation regarding your experience with the abuser so that you will be able to garner courage to finally leave the relationship. A lawyer can help you file a restraining order on your abuser. This means that your partner cannot get within 100 yards of you, cannot contact you, or approach you or your children in their school.
You can also find support from institutions or non-governmental organizations which are specialized in handling domestic violence cases. You can contact the hotlines available:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
- Hope for Wellness 24/7 Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
- Childhelp National Child Abuse 24/7 Hotline (multilingual service available): 1-800-422-4453
- The National Domestic Abuse Helpline : 0808 2000 247
- Women’s Aid Organization: +603 3000 8858 (24 hours)
- SMS/WhatsApp TINA: +6018 988 8058 (24 hours)
- Talian Nur: 15999 (24 hours)
Boyes, A. (2015, February 10). 51 signs of an unhealthy relationship. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201502/51-signs-unhealthy-relationship.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October 9). Preventing intimate partner violence |violence prevention|injury center|cdc. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/fastfact.html.
Rodgers, L. (2021, January 22). How to leave an ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP: 18 expert tips. The Healthy. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.thehealthy.com/family/relationships/how-to-leave-an-abusive-relationship/.
World Health Organization. (2021, June 15). Elder abuse. World Health Organization. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse.