Domestic abuse is a serious epidemic in America, but to put that in numbers, consider this startling fact: There were more women murdered by a partner or ex during the period of 2001 and 2012 (11,766) than there were American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq — 6,488. While women are more likely to be affected (85 percent of cases), 15 percent of men also experience physical, emotional, or financial abuse, or a combination thereof.
Sadly, a lack of funds or resources to obtain money is among the number one reason why the abused stay in a relationship, but there are resources available to assist with everything from medical care to helping someone enter the workforce again so they can stand on their own two feet and acquire financial freedom. With that in mind, if you’re a victim of domestic abuse, here are some tips for getting away safely and moving homes so you can move on with your life.
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for getting away as there are logistics, kids, pets, and scheduling issues to consider. However, a general exit strategy involves memorizing a list of emergency contacts (including a local shelter and domestic violence hotline) so your abuser doesn’t find the evidence, practicing escaping quickly and safely — along with your children and animals if applicable. While you want to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, don’t keep your getaway bag (emergency cash, clothing, important documents) at your home. Rather, have a friend or family member hold onto it for you — but do hide a spare car key and make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas and the doors are unlocked. Renting a secret storage locker to keep your valuable in is also a good idea.
As an added level of safety leading up to your escape and beyond, consider getting a second phone so your abuser can’t track your location; a prepaid phone card is another option if you want to avoid a paper trail with a phone bill that may arrive at the house. If you’re looking into resources to help plan your getaway, immediately delete your browsing history or use a computer at work, the library, or a trusted friend’s house. Regularly change all passwords.
When you’re ready to look for a home, start by calculating your home affordability by looking at your annual income, down payment, monthly spending, loan type, and current average APR — there are cost calculators that can crunch these numbers for you. Once you decide on a home and are ready to start the moving process (avoid a secluded area and consider a condo with a doorman), look into one of the many resources in your state to help you relocate so you don’t have to have to have contact with your abuser. Alternatively, you may want to deal with those personal belongings down the line — or not at all — and get a completely fresh start.
You’ve been through a lot, so the last thing you need to deal with is packing and physical moving DIY style. Not only can pros save you time (days versus weeks), but they can also save you money since they know how to pack without wasting excess materials that could rack up costs. As an added bonus, all of your items will be insured should they become damaged or broken. A domestic violence advocate can work with you and the mover to get everything transported for you.
If you were lucky enough to obtain a restraining order against your ex, then you have slightly more peace of mind. Regardless, keep yourself safe after leaving your abusive relationship by getting a P.O. box in lieu of a real address, staying off of social media, getting a new computer and cell phone, and avoiding isolated areas at all times. Consider running errands and carpooling with a colleague so you’re minimizing alone time.
If you’re a victim of domestic abuse, there are options available to help. Remember to plan an exit strategy, plan your move, and hire professional movers so you can begin a new, safer life.