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UPDATED April 27, 2011

Ending the Abusive Relationship

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No one deserves to be abused.  If you are reading this page, you have likely already taken steps to end the abusive relationship.  Unfortunately, the risk of danger does not always end after you've left an abuser.  Ending an abusive relationship comes with a different set of dangers, and you still need to take steps to keep yourself safe.

Following these suggestions (often known as a safety plan) can't guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer.  However, it is important that you create a safety plan that is right for you.  Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger.  You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your children safe.

back to topSteps to take if the abuser has permanently moved out of your home

Here are some suggestions to try to help keep you safe if the abuser has permanently moved out of your home – he may have left willingly or, more likely, due to a restraining order.

  • Change your locks so he can’t enter the home with his key – even if he left his key with you, he may have other copies that you don’t know about.  If you rent your home, you may have to talk to your landlord first before changing the lock.
  • Put dead bolt locks on your door.  If you can, replace any wood doors with steel or metal doors.  If you rent your home, be sure to talk to your landlord first before changing the doors.
  • If you have the money, think about installing a security system.
  • Try to make sure that the outside of your house is well-lit.  Think about getting a lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to the house (i.e. motion-sensitive lights).
  • Keep bushes, trees, and other plants around your house well-trimmed.  That way, you'll be able to see if someone approaches your home.   Trimmed bushes would also make it harder for the abuser to hide in the bushes without being seen by a passerby or neighbor.
  • Change your phone number.  Ask the telephone company to make your new number unlisted in the phonebook.
  • Call the telephone company to request caller ID and to block unlisted calls so that you can see the number of anyone who calls you.  Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call someone else no one will learn your new, unlisted phone number.
  • If you can, change the hours that you work. 
  • When you're taking the children to school, take different routes.  Avoid the route you took when you and the abuser were together.
  • Explain your situation to anyone who takes care of your children or anyone who picks them up from school.  If the abuser is not allowed to be near the children, let these people know this and even give them a copy of your restraining order.
  • Take a different route to the grocery store, bank, restaurants, and any other place you go on a regular basis or find new ones to go to if you can.
  • Try not to travel alone.  Stay in public, well-lit places as much as you can.
  • Avoid walking or jogging alone.
  • Keep a certified copy of your restraining order with you at all times, if you have one.
  • Let friends, neighbors and employers know that you have a restraining order in effect and to let you know if they see the abuser around your home or work.  Give them a picture of him if they don’t know what he looks like.
  • Give copies of your restraining order to your neighbors, employers and your children's schools.  Also give them a picture of the abuser.
  • If you feel that it would not negatively affect your job, you might want to tell people you work with about the situation.  See if a receptionist or someone else can screen your calls.
  • Remember that you can call law enforcement if the abuser violates your restraining order.  If you don’t have a restraining order, you can still call the police if the abuser comes to your home uninvited.
  • Carry a cell phone if you can, but don't completely depend on this phone.  Cell phones may not get good service in some places, and batteries do run out.  Ask your local domestic violence organization if they give out cell phones – if so, get one as a backup to the cell phone that you already have.  Have emergency numbers like 911 on speed dial.
  • If you need help in a public place, yell "FIRE!"  People respond more quickly to someone yelling "fire" than to any other cry for help.
  • Stay in touch with your local domestic violence organization for support.
  • Get a full check-up with your doctor to see if you need any medical treatment.  Keep in mind that the abuser may not have been faithful and so you may want to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topSteps to take if you have left the abuser and relocated to a confidential location

Here are some suggestions to try to help keep you safe and to prevent the abuser from learning where you live if you've moved to a confidential location.

  • Whenever you have to give out your address (such as at a doctor’s office or with a magazine subscription), use an address that's different from the one where you're actually living.  For example, think about renting a P.O. Box from your post office or ask a friend if you can use her address.
  • Be aware that addresses can be listed on restraining orders and police reports.  Before filling out your new address on any forms, ask if there's any way to keep your address confidential.  If not, see if you can use the P.O. box or a friend’s address instead.
  • Ask the telephone company to make your new address and phone number unlisted in the phonebook.
  • Call the telephone company to request caller ID and to block unlisted calls so that you can see the number of anyone who calls you. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call someone else no one will learn your new, unlisted phone number.
  • Be careful about ever giving out your new address and phone number.
  • If you can, change the hours you work.
  • Keep a certified copy of your restraining order with you at all times, if you have one.
  • If you have children, let their school know what is going on.
  • Consider changing your children's schools or, at the very least, change the route that you use to get them to school.  Drop them off at a different school entrance if possible.
  • Reschedule appointments that you made before leaving that the abuser may know about.
  • Take a different route to the grocery store, bank, restaurants, and any other place you go on a regular basis or find new ones if you can.
  • Consider telling your new neighbors about the situation.  Make a plan with them for when you need help.  Have a signal, like flashing the lights on and off or hanging something out the window, to tell them you need help in case the abuser gets into your home and you can’t get to the phone to call 911.
  • Talk to people you trust that you just left an abusive relationship so that they are on alert if they see anything suspicious around your home.
  • Put dead bolt locks on your doors.  If you can, replace any wood doors with steel or metal doors.  If you rent your home, be sure to talk to your landlord first before changing doors or even locks.
  • If you have the money, think about installing a security system.
  • Try to make sure that the outside of your house is well-lit.  Think about getting a lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to the house (i.e. motion-sensitive lights).
  • Keep bushes, trees, and other plants around your house well-trimmed.  That way, you'll be able to see if someone approaches your home.  Trimmed bushes would also make it harder for the abuser to hide in the bushes without being seen by a passerby or neighbor.
  • If you feel that it would not negatively affect your job, you might want to tell people you work with about the situation.  See if a receptionist or someone else can screen your calls.
  • Explain your situation to anyone who takes care of your children or anyone who pick them up from school.  If the abuser is not allowed to be near the children, let these people know this and even give them a copy of your restraining order.
  • Carry a cell phone if you can, but don't completely depend on this phone.  Cell phones may not get good service in some places, and batteries do run out.  Ask your local domestic violence organization if they give out cell phones – if so, get one as a backup to the cell phone that you already have.  Have emergency numbers like 911 on speed dial.  You may also be eligible for a free phone with free minutes from the Assurance Wireless Program, sponsored by Virgin Moble.
  • If you need help in a public place, yell "FIRE!"  People respond more quickly to someone yelling "fire" than to any other cry for help.
  • Stay in touch with your local domestic violence organization and/or mental health service providers for support.  To find a domestic violence organization near you, go to our State and Local Programs page.
  • Get a full check-up with your doctor to see if you need medical treatment.  Keep in mind that the abuser may not have been faithful and you may want to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Did you find this information helpful?

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