How to leave an abusive relationship

Relationship expert Jo Lamble answers many prickly questions in her book, Answers to Everyday Questions about Relationships. This week we publish the answer to how you go about leaving an abusive relationship?

Q. I think I am living in an abusive relationship. How do I get out?

A. Many people don’t realise that they are living in an abusive relationship. Domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate. It happens across all age groups and socio-economic lines. It occurs in same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or financial. At the root of the abuse is control and dominance. If you recognize many of the following signs, then you are in an abusive relationship.

Your partner:

  • humiliates and criticises you
  • ignores or dismisses your opinions and achievements
  • blames you for the abuse
  • sees you as a sex object
  • is extremely jealous and possessive
  • needs to always know where you are
  • stops you seeing friends and family
  • controls the money you spend
  • has a very bad temper
  • hurts or threatens to hurt you
  • threatens to commit suicide if you leave
  • threatens to hurt your children
  • forces you to have sex

If these signs are familiar, then you are probably living in fear and have lost any confidence you once had. Obviously, an abusive relationship is not healthy for anyone and violence is never okay. But many men and women find it difficult to leave – either because they are scared to or because they still love their partner and they’re hoping things will change.

The first step is to understand the nature of abuse. The abuser’s aim is to control you and take away your self-worth and independence. They abuse and then often apologise and rationalize their behavior (often blaming their victim). They might be kind and loving after an abusive episode, making you believe that they are willing to change. But while you are starting to relax a little, they are planning their next attack.

Click NEXT for steps to help you get out of a dysfunctional relationship.

Once you believe that you may be in an abusive relationship, you need to make a solid plan to leave, because otherwise you might turn around and go straight back. Here is a list of steps to take that will help you get out of this dysfunctional and dangerous relationship:

  1. Make an appointment with a counsellor who specialises in domestic violence. There are women’s resource centres and private counsellors that have experience in this area ad will clearly explain why your relationship is abusive. There is also plenty of online support for those in remote areas, but be careful of using a home computer as your abusive partner may well be checking your online history.
  2. Know you partner’s triggers. Get to know the signs that they are getting upset or getting close to exploding and leave the house if you see those signs.
  3. Be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Have an escape kit packed that contains money, a change of clothes, important documents, credit cards, valuables and a list of emergency contacts. Think about leaving this kit at a trusted friend’s house for safe-keeping.
  4. Plan your escape. Know where you’re going and always have petrol in the car.
  5. Set up another bank account and regularly deposit small amounts of money.
  6. Create a codeword that you can tell your family, friends, neighbours and children so that they will know what is happening if they hear it.
  7. Keep a record of any abusive episodes. Take photos and ask witnesses to make a note of what happened.
  8. Be prepared to call the police.

Extract from the book Answers to Everyday Questions about Relationships by Jo Lamble

Published by Penguin

RRP: $19.95

Is it ever acceptable to remain in an abusive relationship?