Leaving Your Abuser

Review Your Options

How many times have you been asked — or asked yourself —"Why don't you just leave?" There may be many reasons why you can't simply pack up and move out at this time, including that you still hope things will get better. Thinking through where you would go if you have to leave is probably the most important part of your safety plan. Work on a safety plan based on remaining in your home if you expect your abuser will be obsessed with finding you, and you determine that staying visible is your safest option. But there may come a time when the violence gets so bad that you have to leave, at least temporarily, or risk being killed.

You might consider going to a domestic violence shelter. However, a shelter close to your home may not be an option because your abuser knows where it is. A shelter farther away from home may be your safest option. Ask someone at your local shelter now — before you are in a crisis situation — to help you find and how get to another shelter far away. If you are afraid to trust your local agency because they know and work with your abuser, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE and they will assist you.

Though it is hopeful and comforting to think that you can go "underground" and successfully avoid detection by your batterer, this is not a reality in our data-driven society. A false sense of security surrounds the options of changing a name and Social Security number. Even if you change your name and get a new number, your new (and old) information is available to many parties, including law enforcement. Carefully weigh the long-term impact of this option. You will not be able to use any previous work, financial, medical, or school records. You will not have a birth certificate or be able to get a passport. If you have young children, going underground and changing your identity is nearly impossible. If you decide to apply for a new Social Security number, you will be asked to provide documentation such as police reports, Orders of Protection, or letters from shelters where you stayed. If you don't have any documentation, your request will probably be denied. A domestic violence counselor or advocate may be able to intervene on your behalf.

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Planning Critical

It's hard to think or plan clearly when you're in the middle of a crisis.

Try to think of places your abuser would not know to look for you. Since you'd be leaving because you're in danger, you probably wouldn't be safe staying with friends or family since they'd be the first places your abuser would look for you. Wherever you decide to go, you will need transportation. It won't be not safe to take your car because it's very easy for a member of law enforcement to track your vehicle. Staying in a motel or leaving town would probably be expensive. If you have your children with you, there are practical and legal reasons why you might not be able to leave the state.

For example:

If you have an order of protection and plan to leave the jurisdiction or the state where it was issued, you need information on its enforcement. Please refer to the National Center on Full Faith and Credit.

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As a victim of a police officer, your situation is very different than other domestic violence victims.

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Victim Handbook by Diane Wetendorf