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Dealing with Domestic Violence - What to Do if You are Thinking About leaving

Domestic Violence is a common problem that affects many women regardless of race, age, sexual orientation or financial status. It is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. It is something to take very seriously. Thinking about leaving? Here are some things to consider if you are in situation involving domestic violence.

1. Gather all of your important papers and make copies, putting the originals back where you found them. Have these papers in a safe location outside of the home so that if you leave on a moment's notice you already have copies of important papers (birth certificates, driver's license, social security cards, passports, marriage license, divorce decrees, powers of attorney, wills, keys to safe deposit boxes, any and all financial information, etc.).

2. Make a Plan for you and your family. Decide where you can stay and if you have children, where they can stay and for how long. This might be a relative, friend, or the shelter closest to you. If you aren't sure where the shelter is closest to you, find out so you will know on a moment's notice. Make a plan for where you will stay and if you have to flee, how you and your children would get there if you become separated from each other. Your children should be aware of this plan and you should have a code word for them in case you don't want them to come home but instead want them to go to the safe place you have decided to stay if you have to leave.

3. Stash cash and get a Go Phone. Save up some cash for essential items and get a prepaid phone so you can safely make calls without being tracked. Stash cash in multiple places outside the home so that you can access it if you have to flee and so that if your abuser finds one "stash" of cash he can't find any of the others. A separate bank account is also a good idea. You can open a bank account in your own name without your abuser's permission, authorization, or signature.

4. Plan on making a report. If you are abused, plan on making a police report as it happens. If you don't, you need to understand that your abuser will say it never happened because you didn't report it. Likewise, if you are physically injured know that if you don't go to the doctor or emergency room after it happens, your abuser will say it didn't happen. Also, plan on telling the truth. If you downplay or don't tell the truth about the abuse this will come back against you at a later date and will cause more harm than good. Your shame about what happened to you may cause you to lose custody of your children so tell the truth even if it's ugly, painful, and embarrassing.

5. Don't look back. When you leave, don't look back. It takes a lot of courage to finally leave and should you decide to leave, know that you most likely will have difficulty getting back into the house without being subjected to more abuse, injury, or even death. This means moving anything valuable out of the house before you finally leave and without your abuser knowing it. Assume that once you leave everything you left in the house is gone. Take anything of value out of the house well in advance or know that it is gone.

Finally, know that you are not alone, that there are other women in similar situations. It takes courage, faith, and strength to leave. It isn't your fault. Arm yourself with a good lawyer, march forward, and don't look back.