The first 72 hours of leaving your abuser can be one of the most dangerous time.I am not sharing this to scare you or change your mind in leaving. I am sharing so you aren't caught off guard.
Abusers will stop at nothing to get their victim back. A little smooth talking, a few tears, perhaps some threats to harm themselves or you.
How do you keep yourself safe not only after 72 hours but going forward?
1) Get yourself an Protective Order! You may say, Melinda, I've done this and have a stack of them. He/She keeps getting a slap on the wrists, it's not working! Trust me, I know how frustrating this is!
Anytime this person sends you a threat or upsetting message contact the police. Depending on the level of intensity they will let you know if a Protective Order is an idea.
If it seems like nothing is happening and your ex is still harassing you or breaking into your home. Call the police! Leave a papertrail! This will serve you down the road legally. Any text, voicemail, email, note or letter that is threatening or just leaves you on edge call the police. If these come through and you have an active order this can send your abuser in violation. They may still get off but not doing anything is allowing your abuser to keep bothering you.
2) Don't let anyone talk you back into taking your abuser back! Not family or friends or even your abuser. You may have to sever ties with those close to your abuser or those that he/she may have woo'd by their charm. Ignore calls, messages and texts from your abuser. DON'T ANSWER OR ENGAGE! This is not your opportunity to give a few jabs in. Doing so could legally turn around and bite you in the butt for egging your abuser on.
Have a friend or family member check your emails, text messages and voicemails. If there is anything that is alarming or they consider an emergency call the police or carefully evaluate the situation before returning correspondence.
3) You may find mysterious find yourself having "new" friends requests on social media or things you shared your ex may suddenly know about. Go through your list carefully to rule out who may be sharing info. Or to the extreme "feed" info (false info) to someone you may feel suspicious about. Let time go between giving info before you move onto others that raised flags.
4) Get a new phone or change your number. Before you put the brakes on this one, you do not need a flashy phone to get you through this right now. Unless you can afford it of course. There are several cheap phones that aren't too bad.
I use Tracfone. I'm not advocating for this phone, just saying it is a good phone if you just want to make calls. Texting and data can cost a bit more, but I can swing this at this time for $20.00 every 2 months. It may cost a bit more when I am having emergencies or when I was having legal issues.
If you can't afford a new phone or perhaps your abuser is paying the bill, be forewarned they can check the bill to see who you are texting and calling. They may also be able to enable the GPS on your phone.You may also get a phone from a Shelter!
Invest in a phonebook. Unless you have all of your important numbers memorized. I'm a 70's child and had to remember phone numbers. This was pre-cell phones! Now, we live in a age where we just hit the phonebook on our cell, but what if you have to leave that? You can pick up a phonebook rather cheaply or make a list on Word or Excel.
Consider using collect calls to make calls to your abuser or anyone connected to this person. Or use a phone card.
Example: A BIG problem for me early in my leaving my ex was that I let my guard down. I didn't think and called my then Mom-in-law on her house phone using a cell phone that my ex did not know I had. He went over later that day for dinner, checked her cordless phone and scrolled down her caller id list. Guess whose number he found!?
So the things I speak of are from experience!
If you can find a payphone, use that. Sadly, these are getting harder and harder to find. But, keep change handy.
5) Speaking of GPS... Tracking devices can be very small. They could be attached to your purse, a child's backpack, toys, installed on your laptop or computer or somewhere in your home. Check your phone out. Check your children's things after a visit. Install software on your computer in case spyware was installed.
A new laptop or computer is your better bet if you have the funds. If too pricey but you feel you need to have a new device, consider purchasing from a pawn shop, check upscale thrift stores, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace or local groups. Of course, make sure if you go through social media to be safe and purchase in a public area. Consider doing so in front of a police station.
Change your passwords, pin numbers, and change them often if needed on social media, banking, bills, and wherever you need to do so.
6) If you are securing your electronics, think about your home. Make sure your doors and windows are locked. Put dowel rods in a top corner of the windows vertically. There are window and door sensors that you can get from a hardware store that are easy to install. Consider getting security lighting and alarms, these can be bought relatively inexpensively. Change your locks on all your doors!
Make sure if you keep a spare key that it's not in plain sight. Find a trusted neighbor and alert them to the situation and to call the police if they see something suspicious. You may ask them to also keep a key for you. This may be embarrassing to you or you may feel you don't want to bother anyone or put them in danger. Ask!
Remember if you have a child, they may not understand leaving dear old Dad or Mom outside if they are knocking. Sit them down and talk to them about how important it is that you all stay safe and not to answer the door for anyone at all unless you give permission or allowed to answer the door if they are alone.
Of course you don't want to put fear in them. Gently remind them that right now you and your partner are not getting along and to keep you all safe you need them to be brave and help you all stay safe. If they don't know about stranger danger, now is an important time to do so!
7) Speaking of the door! Instead of changing the locks if it is a wood door think about replacing it with a wood door.
Consider keeping a bat, Pepper spray or even bug spray handy. If you have a permit to carry a weapon keep it handy. Make sure it is safe from your child. Gun's not your style or you are worried about the kids, consider having a knife near the door. USE THE PEEPHOLE on your door and if you don't have one install one.
9) See if a friend can stay with you or stay with a friend or better yet, go to a shelter! If none of these work for you. Be sure to keep a trusted friend or family member in the loop for where you are going. No your not a child, but you need to stay safe. Texting or sending a quick shout out to your tribe can help put their mind at ease.
Change your routine! If your routine is to drive for coffee before work, consider going to a different coffee shop or going later. Drive home a different way. If you are using public transportation, take it at a different time. Shop at different stores in different areas.
Example: In the early stages of our separation my abuser found out where I worked. He paid someone to follow me. This person soon knew my routine and then found out where I worked! He knew what time I started and when I got off. Lesson learned!
10) Let your work associates know what is going on! You may not want to air your dirty laundry, but keeping your job secure is high priority for you Dear One.
You may have upcoming legal proceedings, doctors appointments and so on. Keeping your boss included what is going on personally can also help them be more understanding if you are "not all there or focused". Maybe ask to keep your name off of directories, desk, or office doors. If your place of work has security ask for someone to escort you to your car. No security? Ask a co-worker if they feel comfortable to do so.
11) Give your loved ones a "Code word" to use for phone calls or in case of emergency. Teach your child 911 in the States or the emergency number for your area.
12) Make sure if you have to see your abuser for any reason that you do so in a PUBLIC setting. You can call your local law enforcement and let them know about your situation (Give them the CliffsNote version). Ask if they can send an officer to sit and wait for the visit or drop off for the kids to be done before leaving.
Now before you think that you don't want to "bother" the police I'll tell you a secret... They would much rather prevent an incident then to walk into an incident in progress or clean up the aftermath.
Trust me! I've done this and the officers stayed a healthy but easy to get to me distance and waited around until I left. I even had one officer follow me almost all the way home for good measure.
13) If you can swing it MOVE! Check how far legally you can move away from your abuser. That is if you have children together. Moving too far away could stir the pot and cause more legal issues. Try not to move to the middle of nowhere or a spot that is too surrounded by trees.
If you do move, consider getting a P.O. Box to use as an address for correspondence with your abuser and his/her attorney. Be forewarned the court or police may use your real address. ASK if they have to do it this way or if they do can they hide your address due to safety concerns.
Consider renting a home with utilities included. Or check your state for address confidentiality programs. They may also be able to give you a new social security number too! If you do find a rental apartment make sure you are on an upper floor.
14) Going back to social media. Do not post where you are going. If you wish to share please do so AFTER you have went. Check your settings and make sure you are posting to your friends only!
15) Remember I mentioned having a weapon? Consider taking a class in firearm safety or self defense. My family and I took a class through Protective Tactics 101 in Chesterton, IN visit them here- Protective Tactics 101 I highly recommend the class. It is an all day class so be prepared to stay for 8 hours or so. It was worth it! We were also blessed that someone gifted us the class. We hope to do another class in the future.
Taking the class and learning about handling a gun has helped me feel empowered and reassured me that if I need to protect myself and family I can without hesitation!
16) Stay situationally aware at all times. Assume you are going to be a target. Before you enter a public setting, parking lot or going out to your car make sure you are looking around your surroundings at all times. Don't check your phone for the latest text, online game, or social media update. That is not important. Save these for home. Keeping yourself safe is important right now!
17) If you read my other Safety posts, remember I talked about a "Go-bag"? Basically, it is a bag with a 3 day emergency set of clothes, toiletries, keys, and a bit of cash in. I would throw in a cell phone that may not be active to use just for 911. Remember to throw in a phone charger!
18) Perhaps your abuser is threatening to kill themselves. Take that information to the police to do a wellness check or call his/her family. DO NOT ENGAGE!
Both times before I left my ex, I told his parents and even his boss knew! I let them know in case he did something rash.
There will be threats of self harm, harming your, your children, or furbabies. Don't be surprised if people you know and love suddenly turn on you. Your abuser maybe turning on the charm and making your out to be the bad guy. Learn to let these things go as upsetting as they will be. Now these things may seem like over the top but these "tools" can help keep you safe.
How long do you have to do these things? I hate to be a wet blanket, but I've celebrated my 9 year Independence day and I still implement many of these tools. I may have to do it for many years to come but now, they are so ingrained in my routine that I don't even think about them anymore.
If at all you have any questions contact www.thehotline.org or your local police department. Don't hide. Enjoy life. Moving on is best for you and everyone involved.
I am always happy to talk to you! I've walked down this road and have been there and survived.This is not an easy road, but I will tell you it will be worth it in the long run!
Stay safe Dear One.
P.S.- The picture of me is for giving you a giggle on this otherwise strong and tough subject. Sometimes if I didn't find something to laugh about that I would cry. I hope this give you a giggle!
*Check out Amazon, Kindle and Nook for "Call me Master" by Melinda Kunst, my escape from abuse. You will find not only my story, but tips and tools to help you on your journey.
Coming soon, book two,"Rising from the ashes". I share what was going on behind the scenes when we aren't dealing with the legal system. Issues of suicide, Parental Alienation, rebuilding my self esteem, kicking PTSD to the curb (at least by 95%) and learning about healing chronic illness of Lyme disease and the long list of other illnesses that follow. *