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How to leave an emotionally abusive relationship

Ending a relationship is never easy, particularly when the relationship has been characterised by emotional abuse. Perpetrators of emotional abuse work on isolating, controlling and psychologically wearing down their victims, making them feel guilty and often making threats of physical violence, and so it can be difficult to find the strength to leave.

Deciding to leave an abusive relationship is a huge decision and there are a number of things you can do to assist.

Safety planning

This is a personalised, practical plan which helps you look at ways for you and your children to remain safe, including identifying a safe place to go and an exit plan should you need to leave suddenly. The charities listed below can assist you with creating your safety plan.

Research and prepare

When thinking about leaving or getting a divorce, research and preparation are important. You will need to identify somewhere safe to go and ensure that you have enough money to get by, until you find your feet. In abusive or controlling relationships, it is common for the abusive partner to get control of all of the money. You could think about setting aside a small amount of money each week, or opening a separate bank account.

One of the charities below will be able to explain your options to you both in respect of finances and living arrangements. You may be able to get help with emergency or temporary accommodation and you may be entitled to claim some form of benefit. You will also be entitled to child maintenance from your former partner, in respect of any children.

When leaving, you should take everything you need with you, including important documents, to avoid having to return the property. You should also take your children with you, where possible, to avoid difficulties later.

Contact a family lawyer

A family lawyer can assist you with advice on your legal position in respect of your finances and any children, whether you are married or not.

At Rayden we can provide you with detailed advice tailored specifically to your circumstances. We can also advise you on applying for a court order to protect you. There are remedies available to victims of domestic abuse in the form of Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders.

A Non Molestation Order is an injunction which offers protection where there is a risk of any violence. It also protects against threats of violence, intimidation, harassment or pestering both in person and through other means such as text messages and phone calls.

Non Molestation Orders usually stay in place from 6-12 months but can be extended.

A breach of a Non-Molestation is a criminal offence and the police have the power to arrest anyone in breach.

Occupation Orders regulate occupation of the family home and defines who can live there. Abusers can be excluded from the home whilst the victim and the children remain, or they can be excluded from certain areas of the home.

Occupation Orders usually last for a period of 6 months, although this can be extended for an indefinite period of time in some instances.

Both Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders have a specific set of criteria that have to be fulfilled before they are made.

You should try to keep a log of abuse and events which can serve as evidence later down the line. Keep a record of anything which helps to build a picture of your abusers behaviour and actions.

How to recover from an emotionally abusive relationship

  • Take care

Abusers often monitor activity such as phone and internet use. Please ensure you take precautions when planning to leave in order to ensure you stay safe and prevent your abuser from discovering your plan. For example, make calls from a friend’s or neighbour’s phone, or a payphone and consider getting a second phone.

You should check your phone’s settings for any apps your abuser may have used to track your location or listen to your calls or read your texts.

Use a safe computer such as a friend’s or one at work or the library and change your passwords and usernames. Web history is easily accessible.

Beware of any surveillance or recording devices such as hidden cameras or tracking devices which can be left in your car, purse or on your phone. If you find any of these devices, you should leave them in place to avoid notifying your abuser.

  • Support network

Abusers work on isolating their victims from their friends and family, making it difficult for them to recognise the abuse, and to increase dependency on the perpetrator. You should, where possible, try and find someone to confide in, whether a friend, family member or neighbour and build your support network.

  • Find available help

There are a number of charities that can support and help you during this time:

  • National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
  • National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
  • Refuge Helpline- 0808 2000 247
  • Samaritans– 116 123
  • The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
  • Women’s Aid
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • If you or your children are in immediate risk of harm, you need to call 999 straight away, as you would usually do. Domestic abuse is a crime and the police remain equipped to deal with these situations and offer help.

Be kind to yourself- you deserve to be treated well and with respect.

How to protect yourself after leaving

  • Tell your family and friends what is happening, not only for support, but so that they do not inadvertently give out any information to your ex-partner. They will also be more prepared and better able to help you in an emergency.
  • Get a new phone number
  • Contact a family lawyer about one of the above court orders
  • Change bank accounts and credit cards, especially if these were joint
  • Alter your day to day routine as much as possible
  • You may wish to inform your employer, or others at work, of the position, if you think your abuser may try to contact you through work
  • Explain the situation to your children’s school and confirm who will be picking them up from school going forward. Explain that you do not want them to release the children to anyone else.

This can sometimes prove difficult where the abuser has parental responsibility as schools cannot legally prevent someone with parental responsibility from collecting the children unless there is a court order in place.

If you have a court order, you should show the school a copy of this. If you do not, you should contact a family lawyer as you may need to make an urgent application to Court to protect the children.

  • Counselling or therapy can be extremely helpful during this time both in dealing with what you have been through and ensuring that you do not go back to the relationship. At Rayden Solicitors we can recommend suitable counsellors or therapists.

How to help someone to leave an abusive relationship

If you know someone experiencing any form of domestic abuse, it can be difficult to support them and you can often feel helpless. These are some steps you can take to assist and support:

  • Listen and acknowledge. Particularly in cases where there is no physical violence, it can be difficult to understand what a victim is going through or the impact the abuse has had over a prolonged period of time.
  • Don’t push them to leave the relationship if they are not yet ready or able.
  • Do not push for too much detail if the person is not forthcoming or does not feel able.
  • Reassure them that how they have been treated is wrong and there is nothing that can justify the behaviour.
  • If there has been any physical or sexual abuse, offer to go with them to the doctors, hospital or police.
  • Be ready to provide them with information on charities and refuges that can assist.
  • Go with them to a family solicitor, if they feel able.
  • Help them with their safety plan and ensure they have somewhere safe to go if necessary. Offer the use of your address as a safe place, if possible.

Do not put yourself into a dangerous situation. Do not get involved with the perpetrator directly or let yourself be seen as a threat.

If you need to discuss any of the issues raised in this article please get in touch via email or call to speak to one of our solicitors on 01727 734260.

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