She sits at her computer looking back over her shoulder, frightened he’s going to walk in the room and discover she is searching for a shelter.
Her heart sinks as she gets her 20th text this hour questioning her whereabouts, telling her she should be home, accusing her of being with another guy. She does everything to assure him she is just shopping with her mom, but he wants her home.
The above scenarios are reality for many people who are in abusive relationships. I hear these kinds of stories all the time on my radio show.
Here’s a radio clip from when Jessica called in to seek help for her terrifying situation:
On a daily basis approximately 71,000 victims receive services for domestic violence in America from either emergency shelters, transitional housing, child advocacy groups, legal advocacy and counseling. (Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence)
It is not O.K. that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes. So, let's talk about it.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, first and foremost, know that you are NOT alone, that this is NOT your fault, and help IS available. I want to start by pointing out some definite warning signs, provide a few safety tips and offer encouragement.
Let’s begin by talking about some RED FLAGS! If you are just beginning a relationship with someone and something seems a little off, it probably is.
If you are beginning to wonder if you are getting into an abusive relationship, here are some warning signs:
- Wants to move too quickly into the relationship.
- Early in the relationship flatters you constantly and seems "too good to be true."
- Wants you all to him- or herself; insists that you stop spending time with your friends or family.
- Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job.
- Does not honor your boundaries.
- Is excessively jealous and accuses you of being unfaithful.
- Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails, and texts you throughout the day.
- Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat/unattractive, or that no one else would ever want or love you.
- Takes no responsibility for his or her behavior and blames others.
- Takes your money or runs up your credit card debt.
- Rages out of control with you but can maintain composure around others.
If you have experienced any of this, please know you are not to blame. You didn’t know what you were getting into, and once you are in the relationship it can be hard to see what’s going on. If you are starting to get concerned, it is time for you reach out for help….but how?
Three Important Steps to Escape an Abusive Relationship:
1. Get Support.
As mentioned above, abusers will often try to isolate their partner, so you may not have a good support system anymore and you may be concerned that no one will understand. But I promise you there is support. Please confide in someone and if you don’t think you have anyone to talk to, please chat with TheHopeLine®. We will listen to you and help your find resources in your area to help you get to safety. You are not alone.
2. Make a Safety Plan.
- Have an escape route in mind to get out of the house quickly if your partner becomes violent. If you have kids, tell them the plan.
- You might want to alert your neighbors that if they hear yelling coming from your house that you would like them to call the police. It might not be a comfortable conversation, but it could save your life.
- Pack a bag with essentials and store it at a friend or family member’s house in case you ever need to leave suddenly. This could include clothes, medicines, important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, etc.), money, etc.
- Speaking of money…if possible, open a bank account or hide money so you can be financially independent for a while.
3. Internet Safety. Since abusers are most often controlling and suspicious, chances are they are monitoring your on-line activities. It doesn’t take much expertise for them to be able to track what you are doing on-line – so be careful and follow these tips.
- Avoid making any sudden changes in your internet use. For example, don’t go in and delete your entire internet history if that is not something you typically would do. That could raise their suspicions. In fact, continue normal internet activities on your computer/phone like shopping or checking the weather or news.
- You can delete certain items from your browsing history, but with just a little digging or spyware, those could still be discovered. The best practice would be to use a safer computer (a friends or the library, etc.) to look for shelters, a new job, a new place to live, bus tickets, etc.
Now if you have taken the courageous step to get out of the abusive relationship, I know your fears are not necessarily over. You may still feel very unsafe. This was certainly the case for Stacey when she called my show. In the following clip, Stacey shares her fears after her ex found her via social media. I then opened it up to have other radio listeners give Stacey advice. Lisa called in with some awesome tips that she used to protect herself from her own abusive partner.
4 key points Lisa makes for keeping yourself “hidden” from your abuser are:
1. Get a PO Box in a neighboring town or county.
2. Change your e-mail address
3. Get rid of social media (You don’t know who your abuser may be using to dig up information.)
4. Ask your cell phone provider to set your number to always come up as a blocked number when you call anyone.
I also received many comments on my Facebook page from people who had good advice for Stacey. Here is some of their GREAT advice:
Sarah Jane talked about Social Media Protection – “Block him. Block anybody that knows him, talks to him, or even are friends with him on Facebook. Turn everything to private. And completely STOP accepting friend requests even if they seem like completely normal people sending you a request. It's probably him. Or somebody who knows him and he's sent them your way to "watch" you. Call me paranoid, but I've been down that road before. He will go to all lengths just to make sure he's giving you hell or at least staying up to date with your life. It'll forever have you watching over your shoulder, and to this very day I still do.”
An even safer route would be to take Chris’ advice, “Bite the bullet, take a social media break for a while. Shift your focus, and bury yourself in prayer.”
Laura talked about the importance of keeping a record of each interaction the abuser has with you, “Document EVERY SINGLE ENCOUNTER no matter how big or small. Do your best to block him but if he breaks through write it down and keep it all together. Do not engage him.”
There is a lot of important information in this blog for you to consider. Remember you don’t have to do this on your own. Support is available.
Finally, I want to encourage you to pray continually, asking God to protect you and provide for you, and ask others to pray for you as well. If you don’t know who to ask for prayer, please post a request on TheHopeLine Prayer page. There are people waiting to pray for you.
God promises His protection when we call out to Him. I shared three verses from the Bible with Stacey to bring her comfort. Please listen to the clip below…these promises are for you as well.
"You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance."