Staying Safe after Leaving
Myth: It will get better if you leave him
Reality: It’s not that easy. For many women, the violence escalates after leaving
Abuse is about power and control, so when a woman leaves, her abuser loses the day to day control he had over her and may try to regain it by intimidating her into coming back. Some may try to punish her for the perceived “transgression” of leaving. It can be a very dangerous time. In fact, women and their children are most at risk in the two years after they leave their abusive partner.
As you read in yesterday’s post, one of the biggest issues women face, is finding a safe, affordable place to stay and financially supporting herself and her children. But staying safe is a major challenge too.
What can I do?
Here are a few ways you can help women experiencing abuse:
1. First and foremost, believe her and let her move at her own pace.
When women are not believed or are blamed, invalidated or otherwise discouraged from disclosure, it leaves them vulnerable. They are less likely to disclose again, they may minimize the abuse or internalize messages that they are to blame. It is natural to be concerned, but when we impose our beliefs about how she should react and when she should leave, we add pressure which can lead to shame, anxiety and isolation. This can result in increased danger. Indicate she knows best, that you support her and respect her choices.
2. If you find out a woman is thinking about leaving her abusive partner, do not repeat this information to her partner, or to others.
If the abuser finds out, it could put her and her children in danger. Offer to help her in preparing to leave by keeping basic essentials at your house and having resources ready for her. This way, she has everything gathered in a safe place where her abuser won’t find them.
3. After she has left, don’t share information with the abuser, no matter how harmless it seems.
Don`t tell him where she and the children live, work, go to school or attend lessons. Don`t tell him that you saw them at the park, mall or beach. He may use that information to find them, and this could put them in danger.
4. If he is granted parenting time, offer to bring the children to the abuser.
When mothers leave, the abuser might still get parenting time with the children. When children are picked up or dropped off, if provides him with an opportunity to harass or abuser her. Help keep her physically and emotionally safe by offering to drop off and pick up the kids.
Ensure the pick-up and drop off is in a busy, public place, and check that you are not being followed by the abuser. Vary the route you take each week.
5. Be willing to speak out against violence.
If you have witnessed abuse, first assess safety. If you feel that you, the woman, or anyone else is in immediate danger, call 911. If they are not and the woman asks you to report the abuse, tell the police or the Ministry of Children and Family Services what you have seen. Write an affidavit for use in family court substantiating abuse you witnessed. This kind of support really helps to ensure that the abuse is taken seriously.
To learn more and for organizations you can call if you witness someone being abused check out the YWCA Stopping the Violence brochure.
Why doesn’t she just leave? It’s not that easy.
YWCA Week without Violence (October 13-19) is a national week of violence prevention. To learn more about #NotThatEasy visit our campaign page.
Thank you for participating in the #NotThatEasy campaign. To learn more about how you can support the YWCA and help end violence against women contact Chantelle Krish firstname.lastname@example.org / 604 895 5767