It is normal to have a hard time deciding what to do when you’re in an abusive relationship. You are not alone. There is help.
Staying in the relationship
If you stay, you can find support and safety. If you’re called names, how can you take care for yourself emotionally? What friends can you trust? Is there a safe place to stay in case you need to leave for a few days if it gets dangerous or if you need a break?
Planning to leave
If you might want to leave, it takes planning. How can you get money? Will you be safe at home? When can you leave? Will you take legal action? Need an attorney? How will your partner react? What might prevent you from leaving safely? With time and support, you can make a plan to leave.
Leaving the relationship
If you’ve decided to leave, it can be a big life change that is scary if you’re in danger. Will you have to move or change jobs so you can’t be found? Stop talking to certain friends? Take a break from social media? Call the police or get a protective order? A new life is possible, even if it is hard to imagine.
Support and Safety Planning
You can’t control your partner’s abusive behavior but you can take steps to protect yourself and your children from harm. You are the best person to know your situation. You know when the risk of remaining in the home and/or in the relationship becomes excessive. Whether you decide to stay or to end the relationship, you should consider creating a safety plan.
A safety plan is a personalized and practical plan that helps you identify things you can do to better protect you and your children at home, school, work and in the community. It will also help to reduce your risk of being hurt. The changes that occur may be big, like going to a confidential shelter or changing schools. Or the changes may be small, like changing your e-mail passwords or the route you take to work. Planning ahead can enhance your safety during or after a violent incident. Your safety plan can help you to safely escape violence, protect your children and get assistance or support if needed.
Document the Abuse
You can find a free Stalking Incident Log. It’s recommended to record all communication with and from the stalker, and be sure to keep all harassing voice mails, texts, e-mails, and online messages. You can take a screen shot of e-mails and online messages using the Print Screen button on your computer and paste them into a Word document to save. Make sure you save all of your documentation, especially police reports and legal documents. Make copies of all of these materials and give the copies to someone you trust.
On The Phone
- Get a new phone and keep the number confidential.
- Keep your old phone to document the stalker’s calls or texts.
- Research your privacy settings on your phone and apps that track your location.
- Turn off location services for phone apps under Settings —> Privacy —> Location Services.
- Report threatening calls to your phone company or the police.
On The Computer
- Many social media platforms have tracking functions. Check to see if they are on. Keep in mind that someone else may have turned on the tracking without you knowing.
- It is possible that your personal computer has been hacked or hijacked. Find a safe computer at a friend’s, at work, or at a library.
- Purchase anti-virus and anti-spyware for extra protection. There are lots of low-cost ones on the market.
- Use strong, complex passwords Use a different password for each account. Avoid personal information such as your real name, birthday, or location. You can also purchase programs like Last Pass and Keeper to add extra password protection.
- Do a web search for your information. If you find information about yourself online that you don’t want public, you can request that the sites remove the information.
- Be aware of what you post and share online. Even if you delete something, it can stay online forever.
While at Home
- Apply for a free, confidential mail-forwarding service, the Maryland Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program, which helps you keep your address confidential. Contact a local domestic violence agency in this brochure to learn more and apply.
- Install a security system, home camera, or motion detection lights.
- Change the locks on your home or car and keep your doors and windows locked at all times.
Below are some resources you might find helpful. You can view and print these documents, but please only download if you are on a safe computer.