After Leaving An Abuser
Leaving an abuser does not mean that the abuse is over. Abusers may react in several predictable ways, and knowing what an abuser may do can help you prepare for what to expect. Again, the most dangerous time for the victim is when they leave the abuser. Keep in mind the following when safety planning:
SAFETY PLANNING INFORMATION
The abuser will likely try to locate you
One of the perpetrator’s first responses will be to try to locate you. They may go to friends and family who they think will help you. Depending upon the history of their relationship with them, the perpetrator may either threaten them or attempt to gain their sympathy. If they do not know where you are, only that you are safe and well, they cannot be intimidated into disclosing your location. If the perpetrator preys upon their sympathies, the story may be such a distortion of actual circumstances that they may even try to persuade you to return to the abuser. Remember: The batterer can be charming and persuasive, so be prepared for them to use this tactic on others.
The abuser may apologize
If the perpetrator does make contact with you, by whatever means, they will probably first try to apologize and promise to change their behavior. They may also promise other things that you have wanted, such as attending marriage counseling, buying something, or even having another child. They will promise whatever will get you to return.
The abuser may make threats
If previous strategies for getting you to return have not worked, the perpetrator will next try threats and intimidation. They may threaten to harm family and/or friends, you, or the children. They may also threaten to take the children away from you or threaten harm to themselves. Hope Center counselors and advocates can help you choose a safe, appropriate response to specific threats.
The abuser may promise counseling and/or religion
“Finding” religion may also be a manipulative tool to get you to return. The abuser may suddenly become active in a particular church to prove that they have changed. The abuser may enlist a counselor or spiritual leader to encourage you to return to the relationship and help the batterer complete their redemption. Those who accept responsibility for their wrongdoings must understand that their behavior has consequences which may not include forgiveness by the victim and/or restoration of trust or the relationship.
The abuser may plead
The abuser may cry, beg, and plead for reunification. These efforts may occur in a public setting so that you are embarrassed or appear to be “hard-hearted.” The perpetrator may further harass by leaving excessive telephone messages, misusing public systems to frustrate you (e.g., initiating unnecessary court actions, reporting you for fraudulent behavior to welfare, etc), or showing up at your place of work or annoying friends and family. Hope Center counselors and advocates can help you choose a safe, appropriate response to specific threats.
The abuser may ask you to meet with Them
The abuser may claim to be despondent, depressed, or even suicidal. You are not able to help them by meeting with them. If you are concerned about their well-being, ask others who care about them to get involved or call 9-1-1. Do NOT meet with them alone or in a secluded place; in fact, you are safest if you do not meet with them at all. Most domestic violence-related homicides occur while a victim is trying to leave or shortly thereafter
Safety planning tips for after you have left an abuser include:
- Change all locks to your residence. Keep all doors and windows locked at all times.
- Change phone number or phone plan. If abuser gave phone as a gift, it may be safest to buy a new phone.
- Change passwords to all accounts.
- Consider deleting your accounts on social media.
- Try to make your schedule unpredictable to the abuser. For example, shop at different stores and/or at different times; get rides with different people and/or take different routes; park at different places; open new accounts at new banks.
- Keep a copy of any court orders with you at all times, and keep a copy at work or school or daycare centers.
- Give a photo of the abuser to your employer, teachers, daycare workers, trusted neighbor. Warn neighbors, friends, and family about your situation.
- Save any voicemails, emails, texts, or other communications from the abuser.