Home Articles When It's Time to Go: Part I

When It's Time to Go: Part I

A checklist of the essentials you need to take with you when leaving an abusive partner

  • July 11, 2014
  • By domesticshelters.org
When It's Time to Go: Part I

When survivors are ready to leave an abusive partner, it can feel both empowering and frightening. Abusers may have threatened them in the past that, if they leave, they will be harmed or their children or family members will be harmed. A vital step to take before leaving an abuser is to think of a safety plan. Advises WomensLaw.org, “Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger. You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your children safe.”

It's best to create a safety plan, customized to your unique situation, with the help of a trained domestic violence advocate in your area. This person will be able to help you find resources in or around your area—including shelters, counseling, support groups and legal advice—and has valuable expertise in helping extricate survivors from dangerous situations. 

Creating a safety plan means figuring out how and when you’re going to leave, where you’re going to go and how to keep these details private from your abuser. The first step is to pack a bag that you can easily locate, retrieve or take with you when you leave. WomensLaw.org suggests the following things be included.

  • Spare car keys and your driver’s license
  • Credit cards, money and checkbook
  • Phone numbers for friends, relatives, doctors, schools, taxi services and your local domestic violence organization
  • A change of clothing
  • Any medication you typically take
  • Important documents, or copies of them for both you and your children (birth certificates, social security cards, school records and immunizations, pay stubs, bank account information, marriage license, will)
  • Any evidence you’ve been collecting to show you’ve been abused (photos of injuries, police records, medical records, a journal or log)
  • A few personal items you want to keep (photo albums, jewelry, etc.)

A more detailed list can be found in "Packing Your Bags."

Keep your getaway bag in a place where the abuser cannot find it, such as at a trusted friend’s or neighbor’s house. Also, hide an extra set of car keys somewhere that you can easily access, in case the abuser takes the car keys to prevent you from leaving. If you have pets, take them with you when possible, or think about someone you trust who could take them before or when you leave. Read more about how to protect your furry family members in "Planning for Pet Safety.

Part II of this article talks about the steps to consider next in your safety plan.