If you’re living in an abusive situation both your safety and your children’s safety is of utmost importance. We recognize that it’s not always simple to understand what to do next, and how you should go about dealing with this difficult situation. Living with abuse can create immense stress, and is something no one should have to face. While you want to leave, we realize that it’s not as easy as many imagine it to be. Your safety and well-being always comes first which is why we’ve created a comprehensive safety plan for you to read.
You should begin this process by having a plan in mind. This can include speaking with family, friends or a professional who can help support and assist you in the steps you need to take to break away. Ensure that there’s at least one person within your life that’s aware of the abuse. Gaining advice on your legal rights if there are children or property involved is also beneficial, or if you plan to get a restraining order and want to press charges against your abuser. If you don’t have a steady flow of income or home you can live in once leaving, it would be advised that you look into nearby shelters, as well as the financial aid within your local area. We recognize that it can be challenging to search these things on your cell phone or computer as your abuser may look through the search history. It’s recommended that you have a friend or family member make these searches, use a public computer or choose the times you do this research very carefully (i.e when your abuser isn’t home). Once you find the information you need, delete your search history, and keep private browsing on when making these searches. Below are links to legal, financial, and housing resources, as well as instructions on how to delete your search history.
- Clearing Internet History Instructions (every type of browser is listed)
- Resources Within Canada (legal, shelter and helplines)
- Application to apply for Toronto community housing (this will take longer to gain access to so don’t base your plan for leaving on when that home will be ready.) This is more of a long term living arrangement for after you’ve escaped. But you can absolutely begin the application process while living at home. But again, be very careful and have it done off a device that isn’t yours or at the very least at a safe time, with private browsing on and search history deleted.
- For more information on internet safety, check out our blog post Protecting Yourself Against Smartphone Domestic Abuse.
Important Points to Remember
- Inform people you trust that there’s abuse going on.
- You can speak with a professional on how to develop a safety plan that supports your needs (call this helpline https://www.awhl.org).
- If you have children, practice leaving with them, and let them know that abuse is never normal and that this is not their fault nor what love looks like.
- Ask your neighbours, friends or family to call the police if they hear sounds of abuse.
- Have a list of emergency numbers to call if you need help.
- Always ensure that your cell phone is charged and the car is fully fueled.
- Park your car by backing it into the driveway (this makes it easier to drive away).
- Check your home for weapons that could easily be used if a fight broke out and remove them from your home.
- Keep all your valuables and belongings you plan to leave with, in a safe space that’s easy to access before leaving.
- If possible, find a time to leave your home when you know your abuser isn’t around.
- Don’t tell your partner you’re planning to leave.
- Try to be within a space where you can easily get outside if an argument did break out. Never go to a kitchen where appliances can be used against you.
- Don’t wear long jewellery or scarves, that can be pulled or used against you for choking. You should also keep your hair in a top knot in order to avoid hair pulling.
- Plan what you’re bringing with you ahead of time. See list of important items you should try to bring with you.
- Always have your internet history deleted, or make your searches from a friend/family member’s phone.
- Delete messages or emails that have private details.
- Take pictures or have a friend take them from their phone of bruises and signs of abuse. Keep all messages from your abuser, and excessive signs of stalking through calls and texts as this can be used if you plan to press charges or file a restraining order.
- Ensure you have a place to stay and a plan for getting there. You can have a police officer escort you to a shelter, or whichever location you plan to go to. You can request a police officer’s presence by filling out this form if you live within the GTA. http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/paidduty/. However, it could also be easier to try calling your local police station for more information. Just remember, to delete any evidence of making that call or do it from someone else’s phone.
- Have a backup plan if your abuser finds out your escape plan. This could include changing the location of where you planned to go, or leaving at a different time.
Do your packing ahead of time and take whichever items are easiest for you to get. We know that your abuser may keep tabs on certain items, and understand that it can look suspicious if they notice things beginning to go missing. If possible, leave important items with a trusted friend or family member ahead of time, as your partner could find the bag where you’re hiding these things. If you have a pet, have a friend or family member take them temporarily in order for you to leave in a swift manner. Below are the items to take with you:
- Drivers License
- Health cards for yourself and children if you have any
- Social insurance card
- Any legal papers (immigration papers, restraining orders, treaty cards, court orders)
- Credit/debit cards
- Mortgage and lease
- Medication if you have any
- Sentimental items
Things to Consider After You’ve Left
- Inform your children’s school about what took place and leave them with a picture of the abuser. This can ensure that they can never pick your children up from school and staff will know to call the police if they show up (give them any relevant documents as well).
- Apply for a restraining order that will also keep the abuser away from your children if you have any
- Change your number, and any services you may have shared with this person (i.e banking)
- Apply for full custody of your children
- Be aware of how you can ensure a safe presence online for yourself and your children. We have a detailed article on how to do this, and feel this step is crucial in ensuring further safety
- Never return home unless escorted by police.
- Do not keep in any form of contact with your abuser, block their number, social media and any way they can find you.
- Don’t confront your abuser.
- Don’t go into areas you know they’ll be and avoid walking alone or in deserted neighbourhoods, streets etc.
We hope this plan helps give you an idea of where to start during this process. Remember, the abuse is never your fault and you shouldn’t feel guilty for not leaving sooner. You will get through this.
Written by: Taryn Herlich