Helping a loved one get through an abusive relationship is never easy for anyone involved, but it’s important to keep in mind that their safety is the priority. Getting away from the abuser is the first step, but staying cautious and prepared afterward is part of it, as well. In fact, the chances of a domestic abuse-related homicide go up dramatically after one person has left the relationship, as does the risk for stalking and sexual assault.
Anyone can find themselves in danger from an abusive intimate partner, but it’s estimated that 1 in 3 women experience intimate partner violence/stalking compared to 1 in 4 men in the US. For women who have recently left an abusive situation, knowing how to stay safe is imperative, not just for their physical wellbeing, but for their mental and emotional health as well.
Here are some of the best ways you can help a female loved one stay safe and have peace of mind after leaving a bad situation.
Think carefully about where to move
One of the first steps an abuse survivor will have to take is moving to a safe place. This means considering many details, such as finding an apartment that includes utilities so your loved one won’t be easy to track down; making friends with the neighbors for an extra measure of security; and looking for a home that isn’t secluded but isn’t necessarily in an easy-to-find spot, either. This can be tricky, especially if your loved one is on a budget, so urge friends and family to be supportive during this time in any way they can.
Watch out for social media
For those who have recently left an abusive relationship, staying off the grid as much as possible is the name of the game. Social media, therefore, is a bad idea. It gives anyone and everyone the ability to look up personal facts about you or even track your comings and goings; even if your loved one isn’t active on social media, their friends can tag them at locations if they have an account. It’s much better in the long run to either stay away from these platforms altogether or to have a private account with no real names or photos used.
Secure the home
Help your loved one go through her home and upgrade the safety features; thick windows with extra locks, metal doors with deadbolts, motion-sensor lights on the perimeter, and a security camera that sends a live feed to a smartphone or laptop are all great places to start. For a little more money, she can also install a security system that will automatically call the police if an intruder is detected. And encourage her to have locks rekeyed or additional deadbolts installed for additional protection. Help her connect with a local locksmith through a site like Angi. Ideally, find someone who understands the need for discretion and expediency.
If your loved one is worried about her former partner retaliating, urge her to find a home or apartment with a garage so her car will stay safe, or a building that has a guard or gate with a passcode. She might also want to make sure her smoke detectors are in good working order.
Think about those accounts
Your loved one will need to think about any accounts she had open while she was with her former partner–bank accounts, credit cards, etc.–and either change them over or change all the security settings on them. She should always assume that the abuser will remember PIN numbers or passwords. Joint accounts should be closed out, if possible, or simply not used.
Help your loved one get through this extremely difficult time by being patient and loving. Help her feel safe by assisting her in making sure her home is secure and that she can move on with her life. It won’t be easy, but with some preparation, she can at least have a little peace of mind.
Check out the following blog for tips with dealing with Covert Verbal Abuse.