While the Coronavirus poses a real threat for sickness to most of the world’s population, there is one group of people for whom it causes a different type of threat. The isolation caused by the “shelter in place” regulations outlined in most countries can seem just as lethal for those in abusive homes as the pandemic itself.
There is hope, however, for those who are seeking answers to how to escape an abusive relationship.
You Have to Realize and Admit You’re Being Abused
Chances are that if you have been in an abusive relationship for very long, you have learned to downplay the abuse to hide it from others. Over time, this turns into hiding it from yourself. This is especially true for those who have grown up in abuse and learned to minimize it at an early age. Many abuse victims will deny abuse, even to themselves, especially if the abuse is not severely physical.
A person does not have to have a black eye, broken bones, or be bleeding for abuse to be taking place. There are many different kinds of abuse. Even men can be victims of abuse. Your first step to escaping is to learn what abuse really is and realize and admit that it is happening to you. Here are some of the various types of domestic abuse.
1. Physical Abuse – When most people think of physical abuse in a relationship, they remember the images on social media and commercials which show a woman with a black eye, or a child with bruises.
The truth is that physical abuse could be many things, including slapping, pulling hair, punching, cutting, bruising, grabbing forcibly, pushing, and more. Not all physical abuse leaves a mark.
2. Emotional Abuse – In some cases, a person may be emotionally abused without ever suffering from physical abuse. Someone who constantly degrades you, threatens you, isolates you from your friends and family, intimidates you, or humiliates you is abusing you.
Emotional abusers may also convince you that your version of their attacks or something else that happened in your relationship is not correct. In time, you may fear that you are going crazy because your abuser convinces you that you are remembering everything wrongly. This is known as gaslighting and is a form of emotional abuse.
3. Sexual Abuse – Yes, you can be sexually abused by someone that you’re living with or having sex with, even if you are married. No one should ever be forced, coerced, tricked, bullied, or otherwise pushed to have sex if they do not want to.
If someone pushes you to have sex when you have made it clear that you do not want to, or if you are in a situation where you are afraid to say that you don’t want to have sex, it could be abuse.
4. Financial Abuse – Financial abuse takes place when your partner takes control of all of the money in your relationship. This could mean that the person takes over your finances and decides how much of your money you are allowed to spend.
It could also be that your partner pushes you not to work, or even refuses to allow it. Whether your partner is simply monitoring what you spend and where you spend it or refusing to allow you to have money at all, financial abuse makes it very difficult for a person to escape an abusive relationship.
If you are experiencing any of these 4 situations, there is a very good chance that you are in an abusive relationship and will need to find a way out. Even if the abuse is only emotional, the damage to you can be catastrophic, and most emotionally abusive situations will eventually turn physical.
You Might be In Denial
Aside from minimizing the issue, another reason that someone may not admit that they are in an abusive relationship is that they are in denial. Here are a few signs that you may be trying to save an abusive relationship when you should be leaving it.
1. You Keep Hoping They Will Change – If you find yourself constantly hoping that your partner will change, you might be in an abusive relationship. While there are moments in any relationship when we wish we could change little things about our partners, abuse victims keep holding on even when these little things get very big.
Chances are that if your partner is abusive, they are not going to change, especially not with you. In many abusive situations, the victim has learned to enable the abuser in order to survive…a fact that makes it almost impossible that the abuser will ever stop.
2. You Keep Wanting to “Save” Them – Many abuse victims stay with their partners hoping that they can “save” them. In these cases, the abuser may be an addict or may have been abused themselves. Many people have become victims of an abuser who told them of being abused as a child themselves.
The truth is that you cannot save them, and likely you need to be saved yourself. In most of these circumstances, both the abuser and the victim need therapy to heal them from past trauma, and they are not qualified or capable of helping each other. Once again, they become enablers instead of helping.
3. They Promise to Stop, You Believe Them – When an abuser realizes that you may have had enough and that this time you are really leaving, they will often promise and bargain their way out of it. They may even cry, pouring out their heart to you and declaring their love.
Abusers use this tactic when they are faced with consequences that they do not want to have to deal with. The only purpose for this display of emotions is to stop you from leaving so that they do not lose their control. Once you decide to stay, they know that they have you, and the abuse will likely begin again sooner rather than later.
If your abuser minimizes the abuse, acts like it was not that serious, blames you or others for their behavior, makes themselves out to be the victim or demands that you owe them another chance, they are not going to change. This is also true if the abuser refuses to stay in treatment or tries to make you feel sorry for them so that you won’t leave.
Ask for Help
Escaping an abusive relationship can be done alone in rare cases, but it is extremely difficult to do so without help. This is especially true of relationships that include financial abuse. For most people who find themselves in an abusive relationship, help will be needed to get out.
Because most abuse victims have been isolated from family and friends long before the coronavirus demanded it, it is doubtful that you can turn to them for help. In most cases, friends and family are not equipped to help someone in an abusive situation.
Luckily, there are many different organizations that are primarily to help abuse victims escape the danger that they are living in. In America, there is a National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or 1-800-787-3224. The people at the other end of this line can talk to you any time of the day or night to find help in your area. In the UK, you can seek help from Women’s Aid or Refuge.
Do It Safely
There are a few steps to take to make sure that you are making this move as safely as possible. The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship can often be when the victim decides to leave. The best way to ensure your safety is to leave without letting the abuser know. Here are a few important tips:
1. Use a Safe Computer – Do not use a computer or phone that your abuser monitors to research information on escaping, or to call an abuse victim hotline. Even if you delete a call from your phone, the abuser may be able to see a list of calls in an online account if he pays your cell phone bill. If possible, use a friend’s phone or computer, or go to the library.
2. Have a “Go Bag” – If it is safe to do so, have a go-bag ready in case you have to leave in a hurry. This bag should have a change of clothes, a little cash, copies of any paperwork, birth certificates, licenses, etc. if possible, as well as medications, and if you can get it, a cheap cellphone. You might also want to grab copies of special photos, and if you have children, all of their important paperwork.
3. Change Your Passwords – Change your passwords and usernames often to avoid your abuser signing in to your accounts. If your abuser insists on knowing your passwords, then change them as soon as you leave.
4. Look for Surveillance – While it may sound like something out of a movie, your abuser could be watching you with smartphone apps to track your movements, programs to see what websites you have visited, or even a hidden camera or baby monitor in your home. While it is not good to be paranoid, it is good to be careful.
Remember to leave your old smartphone behind so you cannot be tracked!
How to Survive After Leaving
Chances are that you have heard of domestic violence shelters, and you may have to live in one for a while. Even during the pandemic, these people are ready and willing to help you escape the abuse and build a new life.
Shelters offer many services, including legal aid, financial assistance, counseling, educational opportunities, support groups, health services, child services, and employment programs.
These shelters usually stay hidden so that abusers cannot find their victims. If you choose not to move into a shelter, remember to get an unlisted phone number, or request a cell phone number from a town that is nowhere near you.
Use a P.O box and cancel all of your old bank accounts, credit cards, and other accounts. If you are being stalked, you will need legal help as well. Most Departments of Family and Children’s Services and local police departments can help with this.
In closing, there are a few things that you need to remember once you have decided to leave an abusive relationship. First of all, it is not your fault. The victim is never to blame when being abused.
You did not cause the abusive behavior and you did not deserve it. You do deserve to be treated with respect and to have a safe and happy life. So do your kids.
It is also important to remember that you are not alone and that there are people waiting right now to help you.