Or perhaps you are a Debbie. I worked with a woman's shelter for a
Any kind of abuse makes the person who is being abused as crazy and
chaotic as the abuser! Here is some information that may help you or a
1. Build a team. Physician, clergyperson, therapist, shelter
counseling service, lawyer, etc. These will be people you "hire" to
help you get safely out of the situation.
2. Do not tell your abuser or threaten your abuser with "I'm leaving,"
The most dangerous time for a person who is being abused is the time
around leaving. Make sure your team is in place. Act as normal as
possible. Do not tell friends or family whose safety might be
compromised, or who may not support this decision. If you have any
question of their ability to keep a confidence, don't tell. One person
told her mother of her plan to leave and the mother called the abusive
husband because she thought it would "straighten him out!" The team
you hire will keep you safe. One reason I said hire is that, for the
most part, these services will not be free. However they will be on a
sliding scale and payment can be arranged so that you can pay. One
woman took 10 years to pay off her lawyer, and when her final check
arrived it was sent back to her with a note of congratulations!
3. Open a separate bank account in another town. Your team will advise
you how to do this. Make copies of all legal documents and get copies
of your driver's license, your Social Security card, birth
certificate, marriage license etc. and all the legal documents
relating to the children. Put these and all your and your children's
valuables in a safety deposit box in the bank where you have opened
your new account. If you and the children don't currently have
passports, get them. They are one of the best forms of identification.
4. Find a safe house through a shelter. Do not involve your friends.
You may endanger them or their families. Likewise, do not offer to
shelter a friend. Accompany the friend to the shelter, but remember
that you are responsible for yourself and your family.
5. I once heard a person in shelter say, "I can't leave and give up my
house, and Cadillac, and two sets of china and silver." This person
did not come back to shelter and I often pray for her and people like
her who just can't leave for similar reasons. You may be very poor for
a while, but you and your children will be alive and eventually you
will be well.
6. The biggest barrier to getting help is shame. The abuser already
has created an environment of shame and you feel you are to blame.
This is flawed thinking. The hardest thing to do in our
independent-minded American society is to admit that we are helpless
and need assistance, or that we made a mistake.
7. A source of free help is Al-Anon Family Groups. Although these are
not focused on abusive situations, abusive behavior and the "dance" of
anger both parties are involved in bear some resemblance to addictive
behavior. Again. Do not tell your abuser that you are attending
therapy sessions, Al-Anon etc. It may only enrage the abuser further
as he/she may already be trying to limit your access to others
8. If you are being closely watched (stalked) get a lawyer
immediately. A lawyer who is familiar with domestic violence and has a
solid practice and successful track record working with people who are
being abused. The shelter has a list of referrals.
9. Emotional abuse can escalate to physical abuse and to lethal abuse
10. Finally, do not seek "marriag"e or "relationship" counseling. This
is not just a couple diagreeing about issues, this is one person who
has power over another person. One woman in shelter said she had
sought and got counseling with her partner and was abused physically
after each counseling session during which she mentioned physical
harm. Her partner said she could talk about anything but that during
counseling. Needless to say the counseling didn't help and the couple
soon stopped going for help. The recidivism rate for abusers who enter
treatment, even court ordered treatment, is very high. Don't expect
11. If there are children in the relationship, be sure you know the
facts about the abuser's visitation rights. Don't use the children as
a threat. Your partner will most likely have the right to visitation.
12. If your partner is suicidal or has weapons in the house or access
to weapons, make an escape plan and leave as soon as possible. Get
your team in place first, but make it a top priority.
13. There is another way to live your life, calm and serene and safe,
but it is entirely up to you to take charge of it, even though it is
time consuming, very hard, very costly.
If you want more information, email me off line email@example.com
For those of you who are in difficulty or know someone who is