October is Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month. I want to talk briefly about crunch time when it comes to leaving an abusive relationship. It is important for anyone contemplating leaving and abusive relationship to think about everything that goes into preparing to leave. Up to 75% of all deaths related to domestic violence (against women) happen when the victims attempt to leave or have already left the relationship and/or home. While there are no fool-proof, 100% perfect options that will guarantee safety, every victim should have a plan of some sort.
The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence provides a personal safety plan template that one can download, complete, and store in a safe place.
One of the things one needs to do when considering leaving such a relationship is to crunch the numbers– “Can I afford to leave?” Many will balk at the idea of debating leaving an abusive relationship because of financial concerns, but financial instability is one of the primary reasons DV/IPV victims do NOT leave the relationship. You can read more about financial abuse in DV/IPV relationships here and learn why victims are often caught in a web of dependence and abuse because of financial insecurity.
Part of the safety plan should include saving money, if possible, and building an emergency escape stash. For some, this is difficult because abusers may demand access to all financial records, ledgers, bank accounts, etc. Even finding a wad of money rolled up and stuffed in a sock can lead to more abuse, so if you’re planning to begin saving, try to find a secure place to keep the money. If you work, consider leaving it at work in a locked drawer. Perhaps you have a friend who is willing to hold money for you in his/her home or in a separate account that doesn’t have your name.
Figure out the cost of living where you are using this calculator. It should give you a sense of how costs will translate should you opt to leave your neighborhood, city, or even state. Sometimes, people underestimate the financial costs of transplanting one’s whole life to a distance place and may end up scraping in a way that makes going back to the relationship a more viable option than financially struggling alone.
Look into local resources that offer support for DV/IPV victims, where you currently live and where you plan to live. It helps to know that there are places you can go if you run into more trouble than you anticipated or if you simply want to feel that you’re not completely alone.
Have you told friends or family? If they know you’re planning to leave and have offered help, perhaps they can give or loan you money to help you with your transition. Some people may not be able to give you huge amounts of money, but every little bit counts. If they can’t help you with money, maybe they can help by giving you a safe space to stay or provide you with food and clothing (which cost money) as you make a new life for yourself. When it is crunch time, you have to consider all of the options available to you and not let pride getting in the way of you seeking the help you need to LIVE.
There is a lot that goes into leaving any relationship or transitioning one’s life into the next phase. Being in an abusive relationship increases the difficulty exponentially, especially considering the threat of violence that comes with walking away from violent abuse. My hope is that this provides a bit of help in the area of financial preparation.