According to the United Nations, more than a third of women have suffered physical or sexual violence. In the United States alone, 12 million men and women face abuse at the hands of their intimate partners. In addition to this, half of the women murdered around the world in 2012 died at the hands of partners and family members.
Children also suffer in abusive households. The CDC notes that in 2017, child protective service agencies identified 674,000 children who were neglected, abused, or both by their parents. Another 1,720 died from these conditions.
When people see these abstract numbers, the initial thought may be that of surprise or horror, but the numbers are quickly forgotten. This is just one of the many reasons I share the dark details of my own experience with child abuse and spousal abuse. An insider view paints a much more vivid picture and leaves a longer lasting impression.
With that in mind, two weeks ago, I wrote an article about parental alienation that also touched heavily on domestic abuse:
In the article, I mostly focused on parental alienation. However, it was impossible to tell the story without including the abuse that came with it. Since then, people have reached out to my via text, Twitter, and on this blog sharing their own personal experiences with child abuse, spousal abuse, and parental alienation.
In this article, I will share tips on how to escape or survive domestic abuse. Please note that I am not an expert in this field. All of these tips are based on my own anecdotal experience coupled with what I learned in college psychology and sociology classes. You know your situation and abuser best and will need to act accordingly to protect yourself and any minors you are responsible for.
1. Document Everything
In the article referenced above, I shared how I took Polaroid pictures of my destroyed home and beaten body. I don’t remember what first spurred me to take these pictures. It never occurred to me at first that I would ever need them or that my grandmother would bring them with her into a family court room, but that is exactly what happened.
However, I also didn’t plan for my biological father to find them, which he did before I stole them back. Even when he made threats to coerce me into returning my passport and other documents which I had given to my grandmother, he neither acknowledged nor asked for the photos.
How could he? To ask for them was to admit they existed. Your abuser may be more brazen about their actions, so be careful. My abuser was always concerned with saving face and sparing his reputation.
Photos aren’t the only documented evidence you can have. You could also put cameras around the house for “home security” and store incidents in the cloud. But again, be careful about these being found. Finally, I also kept a journal which rarely, if ever, left my person.
Unless your abuser is a hacker or knows one, I would recommend encrypting your journal and storing it in the cloud via an email address he doesn’t know about. Do not use that email address for anything else. Provide access to one trusted person outside of the household just in case anything ever happens to you.
2. Gather Your Witnesses
When I first began to speak out about the abuse I faced, I was met with negative responses. Even my mother did not at first believe that after she left, he had turned his hatred to me. It took my grandmother reiterating the same stories for her to believe me. They then became the only two adults who did.
I also told friends at school. They believed immediately because they saw the marks for themselves. Had my best friend not at first discovered the bruises, I might have continued to suffer in silence for years longer, because I did not view even near-death parental discipline as abuse. I had to be enlightened of that fact by other students.
Another tactic I used was to keep people on the phone during some of these incidents. My mother remained on the phone for the chase that sent me running down a hill to the sea at ungodly hours, trying to escape the man my readers now know as Judas. I also kept my best friend on the phone the day he drowned our puppy Simba outside my bedroom window to spite me.
These people may be able to act as witnesses on your behalf in the future. However, not everyone will agree to do this when the day comes, so choose your witnesses wisely.
3. Get the Police Involved
One of the greatest sins I allegedly committed as a teenager was to call the police on my biologocial father i.e. Judas. I never lived this down. It came up in every family meeting with his side of the family and I was frequently called the wicked, spoiled, and ungrateful teenager as a result.
The funny thing is, I have never called the police on Judas, nor have I ever filed any report against him. My grandmother did — at least twice. But, I was on the same property both times that she did and so when he looked around blindly for someone to cast the blame on, it fell on me. That said, in one of those instances, my grandmother used my cell phone and neither times did I object to her calling.
Note that there is always a risk with getting the police involved. You will need to be able to cover your tracks. If you develop a friendship with the neighbours, encourage them to discreetly call the police if they notice a domestic disturbance.
But, why risk retaliation from your abuser by doing this? You may need to have it on record that the police was called to your residence at least once for domestic abuse, assault, or some other altercation even if you never press charges.
I received this advice from a police officer when Judas’ nephew started to stalk me after college graduation, which is a story for another day. He, however, advised women to file a report.
4. Save Every Penny
When women are financially dependent on their partners, the chances of becoming abused increases. In fact, according to a 2014 study published by the William & Mary Law School, a batterer is empowered by his partner’s financial dependence on him, which further allows him to restrict her autuonomy.
You may at first think of a woman who is a homemaker, when you think of a woman who is financially dependent on her spouse. However, sometimes women bringing home six-figure annual salaries may become victimised if their partner manages their income and has access to their financial accounts.
Whether you work or not, you will need to save every penny you can to escape. Every woman should always have a bank account her spouse knows absolutely nothing about. This is one of the best pieces of advice my mother ever gave to me, and I pass it on to you.
Note that most jobs will allow you to split your direct deposit, so that only a portion goes to your main bank account. If you get a raise, make a request to put the extra into that secret account. Do not keep any paperwork related to this lying around, such as the form used to make the formal request.
If you do not work, you may need to scrape what you can from the money you get to purchase groceries or run small errands. You may also consider secretly selling items and saving the money. If possible, do not keep the cash in the house. These men are professional stalkers. They will search everything and they will find it. You will need that money to escape and they know it.
5. Plan Way Ahead
Don’t just leave the moment the idea springs into your head. You will have to find an opportune moment. In my Mom’s case, she left under the pretext of following a job opportunity overseas. When I moved out, I used no pretext. You will need to figure out what approach may work best and safest for you.
Judas had my exchange overseen by the police when he returned me to my grandmother. He told them he needed police in attendance because I was violent and he feared for his life. If you know anything about the abuse I suffered at this man’s hands, maybe you will find this as hilarious as I did.
In any case, I did plan way ahead. I was a full-time college student at the time with no job. I saved every penny I could and scraped together extras from freelance work, which has now become my full-time career.
Whenever I got money from family members, I saved that too. I also received help from one family member on his side. Finally, both my grandmother and mother worked together to bring about number six.
6. Seek Parental Termination
In the spring of this year, a woman was reportedly shot by her ex outside a California police station during a custody exchange. Public custody exchanges of this kind are usually recommended when a woman fears for her life, but is forced to share custody rights with her abuser. It shows how men often use children as a pawn to retain access to the women they wish to harm.
Thus, if you have a child with your abuser, you may find that sharing custody keeps you under his thumb. It may also put your child at risk. So, what can you do to prevent this? You may need to be able to prove he was abusive. If you cannot prove it, you may lose custody of your child.
This is why it was so important to follow the previous steps of:
- Documenting everything
- Telling someone
- Getting the police involved
All of this will help to constitute the evidence you need to prove that your allegations of abuse are not false. Note that in 80% of cases where mothers fail to prove that the abuse happened, they lose custody of their child to the abuser. So, tread carefully.
Many people love to sum up the characteristics of an abuser into one profile of a man, but this is misleading. Some abusers take pleasure in domination through beating, while others enjoy emotional games and manipulation. Some may sexually assault you, while others will not. Some are violent enough to attempt murder; others may only make threats or even threaten to kill themselves.
Every woman gets out eventually. Unfortunately, sometimes we exit feet-first through the door beneath white sheets, so balance safety with the need to take risks to ensure you get out alive.
Click here for a list of domestic abuse resources. If you are a victim of abuse, please be mindful of your internet history. This article shares details on how to clear your cache on any browser.
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DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional in this field. Use any advice provided here at your own risk. May you find your way to safety soon!