Getting ready to leave
Leaving a relationship can be difficult. You may feel you have no options but to stay, particularly if you have been with someone who is controlling and your confidence is at an all time low – but there are services available to support you.
The safety of yourself and you, your children and your family is a priority. Having a network of people around you is an important part of safety planning. If you leave or if you stay, having a safety plan and knowing how to put it into practice is important.
Family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours can also help you. You are not alone. The police can also help you put in place orders so that you can be protected when you leave.
A Domestic Violence Order may protect you and your family. For more information and to apply, call the police on 131 444, 24 hours, 7 days a week, or visit QPS’ domestic violence hub. If you are unsafe now, call the police on Triple Zero (000).
There are a range of organisations and services that can help you escape safely and deal with the emotional trauma of coercive control.
However, it can be difficult to seek help, especially if you still have a deep love for the perpetrator or abuser. You may also be struggling to admit that your partner has gained control over you.
Increasing your safety: Information for people who experience abuse and/or violence in relationships.
Know the red flags. Stay alert for signs and clues that your partner 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 partner 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, neighbours or co-workers know that you’re in danger and they should call the police.
Make an escape plan
Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Keep the car with plenty of petrol and facing the driveway exit, with the driver’s door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get to 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, make sure they practice the escape plan also. Have your tenancy sorted and know your rights.
Make and memorise 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. Memorise the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline.
Leaving with kids
Children exposed to domestic violence can experience a range of impacts on almost every aspect of their physical and mental wellbeing. Domestic and family violence is also a major cause of youth homelessness in Australia. The impacts of this experience remain with these children throughout their life and impact on their own relationships with partners and children.
Children exposed to domestic violence can feel confused, unsafe and very scared. They can also feel they are to blame for the situation and that they must intervene yet feel powerless and highly anxious.
Be there for kids – message for friends, neighbours and family
Being a trusted and reliable person in the lives of young people living with domestic violence can be one of the most important roles that friends, family and neighbours can play.
Reinforce key messages to children like:
- You are not alone
- The violence is never your fault
- Keeping away from the fighting
- Have a plan for getting out of the home safely if you need to
- Finding trusted adults
- Know your name, address and phone number
- Know how to call 000 when there is danger of someone being hurt
Some key resources
Someone for children to talk to
Kids Help Line (1800 55 1800). Kids Help Line is a free 24/7 phone line for children and young people who are experiencing a range of problems and concerns. They also have a large range of simple, online resources that can help reinforce key messages for children.
Headspace centres and services operate across Australia, in metro, regional and rural areas, supporting young Australians and their families to be mentally healthy and engaged in their communities. The website is packed with useful information and they also run face-to-face and online services.
Someone for parents to talk to
1800RESPECT – 1800RESPECT offers a telephone support line and a website loaded with information and resources.
If you stay
Many women try a number of times to leave a relationship. This may be your first or your eighth time – it doesn’t get any easier. You may have some of the following thoughts about staying, which are shared by many people in abusive relationships:
You have a fear that their actions will become more violent and may become lethal if you attempt to leave.
You feel that you don’t have a support network.
Your relationship is a mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear.
You lack the means to support yourself and/or your children financially or lack access to cash, bank accounts, or assets.
You don’t have somewhere to go (e.g. no friends or family to help, no money for a hotel, and shelter programs are full or limited by length of stay).
You fear that homelessness may be your only option if you leave.
Religious or cultural beliefs and practices may not support divorce or may dictate specific gender roles.
Remember you are not alone.
If you do decide to stay with your abusive partner at this time, here are some coping mechanisms to improve your situation and to protect yourself and your children.
Contact a domestic violence or sexual assault program in your area. They can provide emotional support, peer counselling, safe emergency housing, information, and other services whether you decide to stay or leave the relationship.
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 and talking to yourself. Use affirmations to counter the negative comments you get from your partner. Carve out time for activities you enjoy.
Some things to think about if you stay
If you’re hoping your partner will change… The abuse will probably keep happening. People who behave in abusive ways have deep emotional and psychological problems. While change is not impossible, it isn’t quick or easy. And change can only happen once they take full responsibility for their behaviour, seek professional treatment, and stop blaming you, their unhappy childhood, stress, work, drinking or temper for their actions.
If you believe you can help them change… It’s only natural that you want to help your partner. You may think you’re the only one who understands them, or that it’s your responsibility to fix their problems. But the truth is that by staying and accepting repeated abuse, you’re reinforcing and enabling the behaviour. Instead of helping them, you’re perpetuating the problem.
If your partner has promised to stop the abuse… When facing consequences, people often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to their abusive behaviour once you’ve forgiven them and they’re no longer worried that you’ll leave.
If your partner is in counselling or a support program … Even if your partner is in counselling, there is no guarantee that they will change. Many people who go through counselling continue to be violent, abusive, and controlling. If your partner has stopped minimising the problem or making excuses, that’s a good sign. But you still need to make your decision based on who they are now, not the person you hope they will become.
If you’re worried about what will happen if you leave… You may be afraid of what your abusive partner will do, where you’ll go, or how you’ll support yourself or your children. But don’t let fear of the unknown keep you in a dangerous, unhealthy situation.
Using technology safely
Call from a friend’s or neighbour’s phone when seeking help for domestic violence, or use a public pay phone or a prepaid phone.
Check your smartphone settings. There are smartphone apps that can be used to listen in on your calls, read your text messages, monitor your Internet usage, or track your location. Consider turning your smartphone off when not in use or leaving it behind when you leave.
Get a second mobile phone. To keep your communication and movements private, consider purchasing a prepaid mobile phone or another smartphone that you can keep private. You can access free mobile phones from support agencies.
Avoid landlines. Remember that if you use your own home phone, the phone numbers that you call will be listed on the monthly bill that is sent to your home. Even if you’ve already left by the time the bill arrives, they may be able to track you down by the phone numbers you’ve called for help.
Use a safe computer. If you seek help online, you are safest if you use a computer outside of your home. While there are ways to delete your Internet history on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, this can be a red flag that you’re trying to hide something. Besides, unless you’re very technical, it can be almost impossible to clear all evidence of the websites that you’ve visited. Use a computer at work, the library, your local community centre, a domestic violence shelter or agency, or borrow a smartphone from a friend.
Change your usernames and passwords. In case your partner knows how to access your accounts, create new usernames and passwords for your email, online banking, and other sensitive accounts. Even if you don’t think they have your passwords, they may have guessed or used a spyware or a keylogging program to get them. Choose passwords that are hard to guess (avoid birthdays, nicknames, and other personal information).
Protecting yourself from surveillance and recording devices
Your partner does not need to be tech savvy in order to use surveillance technology to monitor your movements and listen in on your conversations. They could be using:
Hidden cameras, such as a “Nanny Cam,” covert security cameras, or even a baby monitor to check in on you.
Smartphone apps that can enable them to monitor your phone usage or track your movements.
Global Positioning System (GPS) devices hidden in your car, purse, on your phone, or other objects you carry with you. They can also use your car’s GPS system to see where you’ve been.
If you discover any tracking or recording devices or apps, leave them be until you’re ready to leave. While it may be tempting to remove them or shut them off, this will alert them that you’re on to them.
Courts and Police
The Police can help you put in place Domestic Violence Orders so that you can be protected when you leave. You can have other people come with you when you apply, or you can apply online. Family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours can also help you. You are not alone. A Domestic Violence Order helps to protect you and your family.
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Grab and Go
What will happen when I apply for a Domestic Violence Order?
You will have to attend court and you can have support with you. Some courts will have specific Domestic Violence programs to assist you.