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Step-By-Step guide to help you leave an abusive relationship

If you’re at risk of family violence, being at home with your partner during the COVID-19 pandemic has probably been even more difficult than usual. Particularly so if you or your partner have been stood down, or worse, lost employment altogether. If you try to leave, you may have been threatened with extreme danger or perhaps the safety of your family has been threatened. Leaving can often be scarier than staying.

Here is step-by-step guide to help you realise that you can safely leave an abusive relationship. Once you are safely out, Aitken Partners can assist in getting what you need to make sure you never feel like you have to go back.

  1. Make a plan. Don’t write your plan down or create a record of your plan. Instead, make a clear and simple plan in your head. This will make you feel in control and create a time frame in your mind giving you some light at the end of the tunnel.
  2. Set up a new email account. Do not link it to your phone and do not email things to it from your old email.
  3. You’re going to need some money to live on once you have left. Aitken Partners can assist in securing the financial assistance you will need long term but there are steps you can take before you leave. Having savings to support yourself also helps to ensure you won’t go back to empty promises.
    • Open a new bank account with a new bank. Ensure paper statements are not posted and are only available online. Ensure statements are only emailed to your new email address not linked to your phone. Or better still, if you can, request that no statements be provided at all.
    • Do not download the banking app to your phone. Do not have any links to the new bank on your phone.
    • Collect the new card from the branch and hide it well; perhaps leave it with a trusted friend or at work.
    • Start putting any money you can into the new bank account; birthday money, change from around the house, an unnoticeable amount here and there. Do not transfer funds into this new account from your old account.
    • The Commonwealth Bank will give you up to $1,000 to escape domestic violence if you are a customer so open an account with them as soon as you can. The Commonwealth Bank also has internal policies to ensure they won’t call you or put you in any danger if you notify them of your situation.
  4. Phone. Buy a cheap phone and a sim and keep the phone battery fully charged. Remember, all phones work without a sim to call 000 but they need battery. When you leave, either leave your old phone behind or, if you want to take it with you then turn it off as soon as you leave. That way you can’t be contacted and more importantly, you can’t be tracked. If you must turn on your old phone do so in a location where you are not living. As soon as you turn it on, turn off all location services and do not make any calls.
  5. Work. If you work, tell you boss and people who may answer your work phone what’s happening. That way your partner cannot trick your colleagues into telling them where you are. You may also be entitled to domestic violence leave. If you are able to, randomize your work hours, or better still, get an internal transfer to a different location.
  6. Special items. Start removing items of value from your house that won’t be missed. You can take items to work, to trusted friends or to family. Special or irreplaceable items might include yours and your children’s passports, jewelry, or photos. Don’t take everything at once, this has to be done slowly over time.
  7. Clothes. For clothes that you can’t quickly throw into a bag at a moments’ notice, do a “clean out”. Say you are donating some old clothes to charity and stuff the clothes that you want to keep into a garbage bag. Then drop them off at a safe place like a friend’s house when you can.
  8. Family and friends. Reach out to family and friends for help because it will be necessary, especially if kids are involved.
  9. Housing. If you’re not exactly sure when you can leave, it may be a good idea to move in with family or friends in the beginning. When you first arrive, park your car in their garage or out of sight so that drivers who pass by can’t tell you are there. Once you are out safe, then you can set up your new home with the assistance of Safe Steps, your church group, the Salvation Army, or groups in your local area. Often you will be fast tracked if you have children.
  10. Children. Let the school know what’s happening. Once you are out safe, consider giving the children a few days away from school. When the children return back to school, drop them off later than normal and collect them early, all at different times each day. Change schools if you think it’s in the best interests of the children and not too disruptive for them. However, school is often a good constant for children during difficult times so only consider changing schools if you think it’s vital for safety reasons.
  11. Animals. EDVOS and Safe Steps can find foster homes for your animals until you are able to have them in your new home.
  12. Packing. Do not pack unnecessary stuff. Most things can be replaced, and bags can be heavy. Only pack essentials and irreplaceable items that you haven’t managed to get out before now.
  13. Planning the day. Choose a day when your partner will be out for long enough for you to get the bags packed and the kids and pets in the car. Wait a bit after your partner has left but not too long that you miss your window of opportunity; you want to be long gone when they return home. Let the Police know of your plan. Police can also help you come back and collect some things later.
  14. Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. If you are financially able, keep the car fueled up. Park the car facing the driveway exit. Start parking the car this way weeks before you leave so as not to raise suspicion. Park it once facing out so you can “wash” the car and then just continue to park it that way.
  15. Leaving. You should already have:
    • Money in a bank account
    • A fully charged new phone
    • Yours and your children clothes that you “donated” safe somewhere else
    • Your irreplaceable items safe somewhere else
    • Your children and pets organized
    • Know exactly where you are headed
  16. Once you are out.
    • Change all internet banking passwords
    • Change all social media passwords
    • Change all email passwords
    • Change your name on all social media and change your profile picture to something that doesn’t identify you
    • Block your partners work and mobile phone number
    • Block your partner on social media
    • Block mutual friends on social media
    • Get a P O Box and get your mail redirected
    • Contact anyone you need to on the new phone and keep your new number on private

Once you are out safe, you can contact Melbourne Divorce Network who can provide you with financial planning, counselling and any other services that you may need.

Aitken Partners family law team specializes in domestic and family violence. We can advise you about legally separating and getting the financial support you’re entitled to from your ex-partner. We can also assist you with parenting issues and establishing a safe schedule for your children to contact your ex-partner.

Please give us a call on 8600 6000 or on our emergency family law advice line between 8am and 8pm on 0424 694 124.