Are you in an abusive relationship? Are you thinking of leaving? Congratulations and good luck! Before you leave, it is important to plan in advance. Below are a few pointers to help you plan your freedom and the life ahead. Remember, do not approach people for help unless you are completely convinced that you want to leave. Asking for help every time and backing out frustrates people trying to help you and soon they withdraw themselves

Valuables

  • Keep your documents safely. Ensure you have scanned copies of your documents online. If you sense any danger, leave the documents at a safe location – such as your family or a friend’s place. These documents include:
    • Educational certificates
    • Bank documents/certificates
    • Work/business related documents
    • Property related documents
    • Identity cards – Passport, Aadhar, PAN, Driving License
  • Keep your jewelry safely either in a locker (keys of which you have with you) or with close family members
  • If you have a joint account with the abuser, ensure that you open an account for yourself as early as you can. Keep saving small amounts of money on the side – especially those amounts given on festivals, birthdays etc. The cash will come in handy

Family and Friends

  • If your marriage is abusive, DO NOT KEEP QUIET. The first preference is to report it to the police. If not, then atleast tell your family and friends about it.
  • Prepare your family by talking to them, to help you in case of an emergency, especially if your parents/siblings try to push you back into the marriage.
  • When you take shelter at a family member or friend’s house, DO NOT inform your abuser about where you are staying, or you will antagonize those helping you.
  • If you are economically independent, you can consider moving to a PG or hostel, a relative/friend’s home or your parents’ home 
  • Most relatives or friends who are not willing to take you in, will help with money. Do not hesitate to ask, if required
  • Sensitising children about abuse is very important. DO NOT hide the abuse from them. Prepare them for their own safety as well

Law and Documentation

  • In a situation of danger, approaching the police or dialing 100 is the best way to report
  • If you have been facing abuse for a long time, reaching out to an NGO/helpline/support group could be helpful for counselling and legal advice
  • Do not hesitate in saving screenshots of threatening messages on SMS, WhatsApp or e-mails
  • Keeping video and audio recordings of abusive situations is very important
  • Create an online storage account with Google or Drobox or similar platforms to store pictures, videos and messages or copy to a pen drive. You can even send this information through WhatsApp to friends, relatives or family
  • Delete these pictures/videos from your phone once you have backed them up safely

Gadgets and Technology

  • Keep a spare phone and SIM handy. If you cannot procure one, ask someone to do it for you. Do not share the number with your abuser or anyone you think is sympathetic to him, including your own family members
  • Create an e-mail ID of your own, the password of which only you have. Before leaving, e-mail some of your important contacts and forward important e-mails to this e-mail ID
  • Delete your browsing history from time to time if you are using a common computer or use the computer of a friend or family member
  • If your abuser has access to your passwords, change them before you leave. You can do it from another computer of a friend or family member
  • If needed, create alternate e-mail IDs and social media profiles with the help of a sympathetic family member/friend/relatives

Children

  • Unlike what you think, children are always aware of abuse, especially if there is violence. For children to live in a violent environment is a not good and will harm their mental health
  • If you are concerned for your children’s safety, inform their schools in advance, to keep the child safe. Most schools would be helpful
  • Talk to your children and explain your problem to them. Educate them on how to react in a violent situation. Your children can be your biggest allies and helpers and it will more emotionally comforting if you know they are safe
  • Abuse is not your shame, nor is it theirs. Teach them that it is a crime and an abuser’s shame. Well informed children will act as needed on time

Mental Health

  • Abuse can be very confusing. It can feel like a roller coaster ride. One day would be very happy and the next moment would be like a day in hell. You will be constantly on the edge and in self-doubt. The first step to understand abuse is to read about articles, take quizzes and watch videos on YouTube that address domestic violence (should be linked to the appropriate resources)
  • If you still feel anxious, depressed or unhappy, visiting a psychological counsellor or a psychiatrist will help immensely
  • Love yourself and value yourself. Do not fall for the conditioning “that women are weak”. Cribbing all the time to friends and family may become a complete put-off. Do not place yourself in the zone of victim mentality
  • With smart planning and help from family, friends and law, you can move on in future to have better prospects in life for yourself and your children