There has been a steady increase in the number of deaths due to domestic violence in recent times. How do we curb this menace?
Anyone can get caught in an abusive relationship or marriage, knowingly or unknowingly, notwithstanding your educational level, social status, level of exposure and whether you are male or female.
If you find yourself in a relationship where you are being belittled, threatened, abused physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually etc, and your self-esteem seems to be diminishing, you are definitely in an abusive relationship.
It is quite hard to leave an abusive relationship because your self-esteem is already low and you need strength and courage to make that decision to leave and fully implement it.
Still, if you have made up your mind to leave, nothing can stop you. Wondering how to do that? Here are some steps on how to leave that abusive relationship for a better life.
● Have a record of the abuse
You can keep a journal to write down the details of abusive incidents, including the exact time, place and other specifics. You can also save any other evidence, like abusive or threatening text messages, pictures of injuries from the abuse and medical records. Then store your journal in a secret place where your spouse can never find it. You will need it as future evidence.
● Try and reconnect with friends and family
Abused victims are usually isolated from friends and family so the abuser can maintain control. Call an old friend or a family member you can trust and let them know what is going on. You will need a strong support system of other mature individuals to be able to leave a very toxic and abusive spouse.
● Plan your exit
You need a safe place to go when you leave the abuser. Decide if you need to get your own place or move in with a family member temporarily. Just make sure it is a secure place with people you can trust and far away from the toxic fangs of your abusive spouse.
● Decide on what you will take with you
Gather all important documents and make photocopies of them, including identity cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates, immigration papers, court restraining orders, international passports, in case you need to leave the country for your own safety etc. If you have children, also get their documents ready and important things they will need. You can pack some bags secretly and store in a safe place or at a trusted friend's place for emergency exits.
● Make sure you have money set aside
One of the reasons why victims of domestic violence or abuse go back to their abusers sometimes is lack of financial support or security. If you have a joint account with your spouse, wait till the day you are leaving to withdraw your own share of the money. Before then, you can open another account secretly and start saving money there while you plan your exit. Also, have a proper plan of what to do after leaving your spouse. If you were not working when you were with your spouse and maybe he or she was the main provider, you will have to get a job to support yourself and your children if you have any. You can even start a business.
● While planning your exit, be discreet and stay safe
Don't ever let the abuser know you plan on leaving them. They are dangerous and may try to harm you or even kidnap your children. Tell trusted friends and family members of your plan to escape so they can be there to help you. Protect your phone, online and bank accounts, change your passwords and PINs for all your accounts and social media accounts. You can even get a new phone and change your SIM card and get a new number. You are starting on a clean slate. Don't walk in dark alleys, parks or lonely roads at night. Also, tell your kids to observe these safety measures to protect themselves and avoid harassment from the abuser.
● Talk to professionals
You should talk to a lawyer on legal steps to take to protect yourself from an abusive spouse. You can also contact any local organization or NGO in your area or state that handles domestic violence issues. They will be able to help you to the best of their ability.
● Get therapy
After leaving your abusive spouse, try and see a trained clinical psychologist to help you get through the trauma of the abuse and be a better version of yourself. Some victims of abuse usually develop PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as an aftermath of an abusive relationship. Talk to someone who will listen to you, empathize with you, understand what you went through and help you heal and get your life back together again.
● Commit to leaving and mean it
I know it can be tempting when you remember the good times you shared with your spouse in the early days of your relationship and you may wonder if that loving and wonderful person is still in there somewhere. The abuser may even try to manipulate you into coming back to him or her with stories of turning a new leaf and still being in love with you. Don't fall for it. A leopard never changes its spots. Unless the abuser gets proper therapy and makes a drastic effort to change his or her ways which will normally take a while, don't ever go back to him or her. The reality is that you may never come out of that relationship alive again if you go back. Leave that abusive relationship and don't look back. Move on with your life, heal, make friends, meet new people, then open your heart to love again but with wisdom this time around.
● Finally, end the cycle of abuse
Leaving your abuser is one thing but getting into another toxic relationship with another abuser is another thing. Abusers always look out for weaknesses and vulnerabilities of their victims to prey on. Fortify yourself. Be strong. Be smart. Be wise. Be sensitive. Open your eyes. See all the red flags. See all the signs and patterns. Follow your gut instinct and if your instincts tell you something is not right about a person, trust it and run for your life and sanity. You are not being paranoid.
Domestic violence is not limited to just women. Men also go through domestic violence with their spouses. This act should be highly discouraged and more awareness campaigns need to be put in place to tackle this menace in the society. Most of all, know your worth as a person and know when to walk away if someone that claims to love you is trampling on your self-worth and treating you like dirt.