Guest Article by Janice Russell of ParentingDisasters.com
Sometimes, the healthiest choices are the hardest ones. Leaving a domestic abuse situation can be terrifying, even though it’s imperative — especially when your children are the victims of abuse. With careful planning, you can do more than just survive your situation. You can escape and rebuild your life.
At the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect (EndCAN), our mission is to raise awareness on the physical, mental, and public health impacts of abusing and neglecting children. If you’re a survivor or advocate who would like to contribute to our cause, visit our site to learn about ways you can Be the Change. Survivors can also visit our online Learning Center for more support.
Emergency escape. Ideally, you will be able to take time in planning your escape. However, if an emergency situation develops, you still have options. One suggestion is to connect with a family member or friend the abuser doesn’t know. You can also go to a nearby shelter, which you can find by calling the National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-4-A-Child (800-422-4453) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233); note that your internet use could be monitored by the abuser, so if you need to access the site discreetly, use a public computer, and never ask your children to access these sites for your. Also note that shelters can sometimes help pay for your transportation, which is important if the abuser controls the money in your family.
Planning your exit. If time allows, you should carefully plan leaving the abuser. The Office on Women’s Health recommends identifying safe people to connect with and places where you and your children can go. Think of a code word you and your kids can use to alert your helpers to danger, and discuss it with those contacts. Purchase a prepaid cell phone to use in an emergency, and keep it hidden from your partner. Squirrel away your necessities in clever hiding places, such as inside a zipper Bible cover, pockets of clothes in the back of your closet, or the bottom of a tampon box. Include a spare set of car keys, medical necessities, and important documents such as birth certificates and passports. Bring evidence of the abuse if you have it, such as photos of injuries the abuser inflicted on you and/or your children. Also, list your important contacts and their phone numbers, including insurance companies and creditors.
Starting fresh. If the abuser controlled your family’s finances, you may struggle with finding housing initially. Try to stow away bits of cash prior to the escape. Skim a little off your grocery or gas money; you could even return small items to big box stores, such as shampoo or soap. Oftentimes, they will offer a cash refund for small returns, regardless of how you paid. Shelters can sometimes help with transportation and housing while you establish your new life. Finding a place to live can be a challenge, but isn’t impossible. According to CNN, some survivors simply tell landlords what their situation is, securing a reduction in rent. Once your situation is more stable, you can reevaluate. Open a new bank account and check your credit history, as the abuser might have tallied up debts in your name. Dispute what charges you can, and work on cleaning up your credit.
New home. Once you and your children are free and clear of your old life, you can start building a new one for all of you. Owning your own home can help you feel secure and independent. You may think it’s impossible to purchase a home on your own, but with time and perseverance, you can make that dream come true. Finding a job, renting an apartment and opening a bank account are excellent steps. You can even secure a mortgage with no credit history. Some lenders will use your payment history in lieu of a traditional credit score. You can qualify by proving you paid your routine bills in a timely manner, such as rent and utilities. Do some window shopping to find the best prices and neighborhoods in your region that fall within your home-buying budget. Becoming familiar with the market will help you make an informed decision when the time comes.
Moving advice. When you move, hire a moving company. After all, you’ve worked hard to reach this point! Hiring help will ease your back and your mind, since professional movers take care of loading, hauling and unloading for you. For your safety, security and peace of mind, it’s a good idea to get recommendations of moving companies from people you know and asking potential moving companies if they perform background checks on their employees. Sometimes, there are fly-by-night moving companies, and you want to hire someone with a solid reputation.
Rebuilding, safe and sound. A stable, safe life for you and your children can be yours. Plan your escape carefully and arrange a fresh start. In time, you can build a new life for your family!