Having a relationship with an emotionally or physically abusive person creates a toxic environment that is dangerous to your mind and body. It not only destroys your mental peace but also harms your self-esteem, self-worth, and overall outlook on life. Finding an escape route can be difficult, but not impossible.
Remember that you are not alone. There are a lot of people who are ready to help you extricate yourself from this darkness, but only if you let them know! You may be frightened that seeking out help will result in further physical or emotional harm. And you may be right, which is why you must think through your situation very carefully. The most important thing is that you find a path that leads to your safety.
1. Know your rights
Your partner’s abusive behavior is not your fault. Also, the physical and emotional abuse you may be experiencing is not OK, no matter what your partner may believe. There are laws to protect you from physical assaults. You have the complete right to physical safety and the right to seek out support and protection.
2. Voice your thoughts
Let people know about your abusive relationship. Remember, if you are being abused mentally or physically then the situation has already crossed the line. Keep a couple of trustworthy friends and family members by your side. Make them aware of everything so that they can help and support you to make decisions on how to take back control. Whether you choose to find healthy ways to salvage the relationship or decide to leave, you will need loving people around you who understand what you have been dealing with.
3. Keep yourself mentally strong
Do not let your abusive relationship break you. You are a valuable human being with thoughts and dreams, strengths and flaws, accomplishments and regrets, just like the rest of us. You are worthy of respect and love. Abusers often say and do things to make their victims feel devalued and unworthy, and deserving of the abuse. Maintain your mental toughness by reminding yourself that NO ONE deserves to be abused, and that includes you.
4. Helplines on your side
Have the contact details of Domestic Violence Hotline and other helplines handy. It is better to be prepared for any emergency, even if your partner has not yet become physically abusive. In the United States, you can call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE for support. Your local hospital should also be able to provide local resources for your safety and information.
5. Maintain your support system
A strong support network is the key to dealing with any toxic relationship. Abusers often attempt to limit their partners access to others as a way of controlling the relationship. Watch for this, and make sure you maintain your friendships and family relationships.
6. Stay calm
When your partner becomes angry, and you are fearful of abusive actions, be mindful of your own words and actions. Matching your partner’s emotional level rarely yields good results. Remember, the most important thing at the moment is everyone’s safety. This does NOT mean you should just shut up and take the abuse!
The point is to stay as calm as possible during the explosive moment so that you do not add to an already dangerous situation. It also allows you to be in the best mindset to make healthy choices for yourself at that moment and after.
7. Maintain your personal space
Physical space is very important. If your partner is too close for comfort, trust your gut and take a step back. Don’t let yourself be backed into a corner or an area without an exit strategy. Sometimes you can ask your partner to step back or leave the room while you both calm down. Other times, it may be appropriate to ask your partner to come no closer than arm length. But, be very careful about extending your arms to push your partner away. This may be interpreted as an aggressive act and can open you up to increased risk.
8. Know when to walk away
Only you can decide whether to remain in the relationship or to leave. It can be a very difficult decision with ramifications to you, your partner, family, children, housing concerns, finances, etc. But consider that your safety and the safety of those around you is of primary concern. You do not deserve abuse. You deserve better. And sometimes walking away from the relationship is the right choice.
9. Prepare a safety plan
A safety plan includes all potential sources of help inside the home and beyond. Where are the safest rooms/areas in your home? Where could you walk nearby your home if necessary? Are there multiple exits in your home? How accessible are they? Do you always have your phone with you and turned on? Do you have close friends or emergency numbers on speed dial? Do you have a code word you can use that will tell others that you need help, without your partner recognizing your request? What steps can you take to ensure the safety of others, like children or other family members?