Sometimes, like in my case, you cannot plan too far in advance but if you have time, you really should have a plan for getting to safety.
- Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret place that is easy to reach
- Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents and extra clothes with someone you trust
- Open a savings account in your own name to start to establish or increase your independence if possible
- In my case, I also informed the school counselor of what was going on so that they could help my children through this transition should problems arise at school.
Once out of the situation if there are no children involved you can legally change your phone number. However, if there are children involved, then it becomes tricky because you cannot withhold his children from him so you would need a restraining order with a provision of who could pick up your kids to visit and supervise visitation with their Dad.
You need to have a safety plan in place for your children. A code word for them to use if their Dad is being abusive during unsupervised visitation. Have a discussion on how to stay safe with their father if his mood does change. Not to engage in fights etc.
It is vitally important to take the following with you:
- Social security cards (yours and the children’s)
- Birth certificates
- Childrens’ birth certificates
- Marriage license
- Charge cards/debit cards
- Bank statements
- Proof of income
My ex-husband owned his own business and he is the one that was forced to leave so before he came back for his things with an escort, I had copied all of our IRS Statements, his personal bank statements that he kept in the file cabinet, IRAs etc. that I was not allowed to see. I copied it all and set it aside away from his stuff he came to pick up so that I could have it at a later date.
I prepared my children for pick up by their Dad from school and had a plan in place if they did not want to go and my children followed it when needed. Sometimes they would talk to their Dad before getting picked up and didn’t like how he sounded so they would opt out, hide and call me to pick them up.
I immediately changed all the locks, got my children a cell phone for emergency use and sat down and talked with them about why their Dad was gone. I made sure not to slam their Dad. I told them that how we had been living with the yelling, punching walls and threats and name calling is not acceptable. People should not treat other people that way and if their Dad treats them that way when they are with him, then they need to set boundaries by either not going, or calling for me to pick them up to remove them. Not to fight or engage in the mood. Probably the most important thing I told them was it is okay to be confused. It is okay to love your Dad and not like his behavior. I kept them out of the middle. He was the one that pulled them in and it was heartbreaking but all you can do is try not to allow your kids to be in the middle and tell them it’s your issue and their Dads…not theirs.
Sometimes you have to play the game. My ex brought my youngest into our relationship by telling him he loved me and wanted to be home with us but Mom wouldn’t go to counseling. (My younger son had no idea we had been many times before and through that counseling I had been told 2 out of 5 times that I was a battered wife and that I had asked his Dad to go before he left and he refused.) He came home crying, pleading for me to go. To bring his Daddy home. So I played the game, Got free counseling. Got to watch the first counselor ever handle him with honesty and strength and I got validated…again…only this time, I was ready to hear it. My ex-husband pulled one last move on me that crushed me. I called the counselor. My ex and I went in for our counseling session, the therapist brought up the incident, asked my husband after many minutes of stonewalling with him and turned to me and said, “Do you want to be married to him anymore?” I said, “No.” My ex stormed out. The therapist held me back until he knew he was gone because he feared retaliation and then told me, “You are going to be fine. You know how to have a healthy relationship. Go enjoy your life.”
Plan as much as you can, talk to your children and be ready for some hard work but let me tell you something, nothing is harder than living your life with an abuser. You got this. It’s a cakewalk after what you have endured and at the end of the day, you are responsible for you and there is great satisfaction in only answering to yourself.