If you’re in an abusive relationship, you need to act. Sometimes it might work out to be positive, but more often the only option is to end the relationship. Don’t try to do it alone or without a plan and help from others. Here are some tips.
Acknowledge the abuse
Before taking action, you should first acknowledge the abuse. This is often the longest and most difficult step, as victims tend to minimize the seriousness of their situation. One thing to remember: abuse isn’t just physical violence – it more frequently comes in forms of emotional and/or psychological torment. Don’t wait until you are physically assaulted before you consider your relationship abusive. Accept your situation and take action.
Ask yourself: Can things be salvaged?
This is a difficult question. The answer is usually no, no matter how badly you want it to be yes. If you’ve faced violence, the answer is a definitive no. If your partner has been abusive more or less since you met them, the answer is no. If your partner’s abuse is a new phenomenon, however, and you sincerely believe that they will accept their wrongs against you and stop immediately, then there may be room to salvage what you have built together. But at this point, your priority should not be your relationship, but immediately getting your power back. Make it clear that you will leave the relationship if your partner doesn’t stop their abusive behavior immediately, and what exactly will no longer be tolerated. Help from friends, family, and organizations can help you during this difficult time.
Assess your situation clearly
If you are in an abusive relationship, the most important thing to consider is your safety. If you feel you are in immediate danger, contact the police and try to get somewhere safe. If you have more time to think, consider who you can rely on for support. Deciding to leave an abusive situation will be difficult and scary. Tell your plans to someone you trust, like a friend or family member. Also, consider contacting an organization that can assist you or gives you relevant information on seeking help. Clearly assessing the seriousness of your situation, and knowing what your options are, is essential for making a good decision about what to do.
The time to be most vigilant is when the abuser realizes that you are planning to leave. Have a safety plan in place. Use a safe computer or telephone not accessible to your abusive partner, as they may be monitoring your computer usage. Once you decide to leave, know where you will go, whether it’s to a friend or family member, or to a shelter or safe house where you can seek temporary accommodation until you sort out what to do next. When you leave, remember to take your phone, identities cards and other important belongings, as it may not be safe to return for them.
Know your rights
It is a good idea to know your legal rights, especially if you feel you are in danger of physical violence. There are a number of laws you can use to protect yourself from domestic abuse. Laws vary from state to state. Once you know your rights, consider filing charges against your abuser.
End the relationship
Once you’ve made the decision to end things, don’t fall victim to your emotions – just do what needs to be done. It’s not the time to mourn your failed romance – it’s the time to make yourself safe. If you think your abuser will react violently, don’t deliver the news in person. Do it over the phone, or via email or text or letter, sent from far away in a safe place. Keep your words short: make it clear that the relationship is over and that you’re not interested in the possibility of any future. It’s over. Nothing else needs to be said. End things and cut off communication.
Reach out for help
You need not fight abuse alone. There are organizations, both at a local and national level, that provide resources that will help you. Friends and family usually have the right intentions, but they may not be the best people to help you. They may even make the situation worse.
Once your abusive relationship is over, you should reflect on what it was that led you there in the first place. Is this your first abusive relationship, or is it part of a pattern? If so, it is vital that you acknowledge and explore what led you into this pattern, and to address any underlying issues you may discover, otherwise, you may be doomed to repeat it. Don’t rush straight into another relationship. Take the time to heal and surround yourself with support, and address the underlying issues.