What Are My Options?
If you're trying to decide whether to stay or leave, you may be feeling confused, uncertain, and frightened. You may be torn between wanting desperately to get away, and hoping that the relationship will improve. You may even feel responsible for the abuse or feel weak and embarrassed because you've stuck around in spite of it. Don't be trapped by confusion, guilt, or self-blame. The only thing that matters is your safety.
Whether or not you're ready to leave your abuser, there are things you can do to protect yourself. These safety tips can make the difference between being severely injured or killed and escaping with your life. If you are in an abusive situation, there is hope. No one deserves to live with emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. You have choices.
Making the Decision to Leave
Click for information on important steps to take now and after leaving.
If You Stay
There are several precautions you can take to help protect your safety and prepare for emergencies. Scroll down for more information.
Prepare for emergencies
- Know your abuser’s red flags. Be on alert for signs and clues that your abuser is getting upset and may explode in anger or violence. Come up with several believable reasons you can use to leave the house (both during the day and at night) if you sense trouble brewing.
- Identify safe areas of the house. Know where to go if your abuser attacks or an argument starts. Avoid small, enclosed spaces without exits (such as closets or bathrooms) or rooms with weapons (such as the kitchen). If possible, head for a room with a phone and an outside door or window.
- Come up with a code word. Establish a word, phrase, or signal you can use to let your children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers know that you’re in danger and the police should be called.
Make an escape plan
- Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Keep the car fueled up and facing the driveway exit, with the driver’s door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get it quickly. Have emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents stashed in a safe place (at a friend’s house, for example).
- Practice escaping quickly and safely. Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser. If you have children, have them practice the escape plan also.
- Make and memorize a list of emergency contacts. Ask several trusted individuals if you can contact them if you need a ride, a place to stay, or help contacting the police. Memorize the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline.
- Contact the domestic violence/sexual assault program in your area. They can provide emotional support, peer counseling, safe emergency housing, information, and other services while you are in the relationship, as well as if you decide to leave. Time Out’s 24/7 Crisis Line is 928-472-8007.
- Build as strong a support system as your partner will allow. Whenever possible, get involved with people and activities outside your home and encourage your children to do so.
- Be kind to yourself! Develop a positive way of looking at yourself and talking to yourself. Use affirmations to counter the negative comments you get from the abuser. Allow yourself time for doing things you enjoy.
Source: Breaking the Silence: a Handbook for Victims of Violence in Nebraska (PDF)