Escaping an Abusive Marriage (How to)
First a resource:
To all of you abused spouses out there, don't lose hope. It can be done. I know I've done it. But leaving an abusive marriage is usually not an over-night thing. Be prepared for this to take weeks or even months.
The first rule of escaping an abusive marriage is the same as the first rule of business. Failing to plan AND planning to fail are basically synonyms.
I understand what it is to resent it when people say, “Well why don't you just leave?” That is really easy to say. Is that person going to put a meal on your table? Is that person going to take your kids to the pediatrician without him knowing? Is that person going to clothe you? Shelter you? Care for your infirmaties? No. So basically it just feels like a huge cop-out.
I know. I KNOW how over-whelming leaving is. I know the fear that he has taken so much of you away that you are afraid that he has erased just enough of you that you will never be able to leave. Yes I understand completely. So the second rule is this... if you think you can or you think you can't you're probably right. Attitude plays a huge role.
I don't care much for Whoopie Goldberg yet she is like an idol. It is not from her career that she derived that position in my life. It was from an interview I saw, she said (about her career) “I never worried what I had to do. I only asked myself what I could get done today.” That is hugely important. Don't get over-whelmed. It doesn't take a miracle. It takes baby steps and careful planning.
The first thing you will need is the cheapest disposable phone you can find. Put in this phone only one number. That phone number should be one and only one contact. It needs to be someone you trust and preferably someone he doesn't know. Keep it turned off and the best hiding place is your bag of kotex as he is very unlikely to look there. This phone is going to be your best resource soon.
WARNING: Do not rely on shelters or govt. programs to support you. Many take time to get that you don't have. Some require a legal divorce finalization before you can receive them. Also these leave a paper trail that is easy to trace. You are going to need a safe hiding place for a while. A little known fact is also shelters for domestic violence usually need police and hospital reports before they will take you, which most women won't have because seeking help will set him off again. BUT women's shelters are still a very viable tool! They have all kinds of resources they can make available to you anyway. Some can put you on a waiting list for an asset. Where I was they had had a farm... you did not need police reports for but there was a 3 month wait. When he is at work use your track phone to call shelters to find these resources. Do not use your regular cell as this leaves a trail even if it is pay as you go with no contract.
So if there are not govt. programs you can rely on financially how do you sustain a living? Do you have kids? Some people that are hiring nannies will allow your kids to live with you and rather then pay you will give you room and board. At least that's a roof. Also as a nanny your taxes are paid by you which means no paper trail until the end of the year. This gives you a year to get back on your feet, learn a trade or whatever.
Also if you have a name on a joint savings account, on the day that you leave (and not before) visit the bank. Have not just your debit card, carry also your ID and wedding certificate. Instead of walking straight up to the teller, sign your name and sit down as if you are looking to refinance. This is very important... WAIT for a female representative. You have lived years in a relationship that proved how over-powering men can be. Now it is time for you to understand the strength of women. Other women will become your biggest asset. (Some of them are abused too remember.) Tell her discreetly of your situation. She will let you know how much you can withdrawal and probably not call your husband until the next business day. However this money is not a cushion. It will run out quickly so it is time to try to learn to live again.
It is important not to rely on friends that drink a lot. Why? Loose lips sink ships! Alcohol loosens the mouth and allows too many confessions for you to be safe with. Also do not rely on an extra-marital affair to “rescue you.” No one is going to rescue you. It is time to do the hard thing as you may get to his house.... and he may decide you didn't look as pretty now as you did when there was no danger of commitment.
Well you are probably asking yourself, how do we pack without him noticing? Gradually. What we did was to thin out the wardrobe of things we didn't wear often. These clothes went into a garbage bag. We said something like, “She wants an allowance. So I told her taking out the garbage would be her responsibility.” He bought this without question. So the garbage bag with the white tie went in the dumpster. The garbage bag with the yellow tie went to the neighbor who agreed to keep our things until a friend with an unutilized garage could drive over and pick them up. By her storing things in her garage I did not pay for storage... and again, no paper trail that he could trace.
Now you receive every day important documents that you can not do without such as school notifications, bills ongoing child support checks from previous marriage etc. How do you get these by post without him receiving notification of where you just went? EASY.... explain to the post office official you need a change of address and explain your situation... there's a form. Best to go outside your neighborhood post to do this. Your neighbors let your secret out unknowingly with simple gossip. IE “Did you see Mary filling out change of address? Are they moving?” The best advocate you will ever receive is the following rule, “Do not whisper in private what you don't want shouted from rooftops.” Right now secrecy is your best friend. The more people who know, the more likely he will find out.
When do we make this flight to freedom? That depends on him actually, more then you would think. My ex spent a private vacation every year at the races. We spent those 2 weeks getting boxes too large to smuggle out in clear view.... telling neighbors it was donations for one of our charities. We knew when he came home it would be his employer's longest day of the year. We choose that day to flee, keeping calm and keeping the cellphone on to answer his calls. Once we got to where we were going, that phone went in the trash and my tracphone came out of its hiding place.
Remember the less people you tell the likelier your secret remains a secret. I had my most trusted contact in my tracphone call worried friends and family 2 days after my departure and inform them that “Yes I was all right. But no I would not be calling and nobody knew where I was.. Any messages came through my sponsor and were relayed that way.”
A lovely thing my friend did for me was to organize other abused women in the community for me to talk to. One woman had a good job but times were hard. She pretended a pay-cut to keep a job at a failing company and at least keep some money coming in. Her husband did hit her that night but the story was believable so he let it go. She was able to store up enough money in a separate account that then she was able to flee with her kids.
If you are penniless and need to leave the state immediately some bus lines and train stations are sympathetic enough to lend you one-way tickets with the understanding that when you get to the refuge on the other side someone you know will pay the ticket, whether you have a credit card or not. In AA I hear there is always a couch available. Also some companies will hire an abused woman seeking refuge and food because it looks pretty good on that employer.
If he has locked up your social security card from you and your birth certificate you can always apply for another. Write snail mail (info that he can hack from your email is now a no no) to the hospital where you were born leaving them your new address.
If you have important documents that you need to get out and can not smuggle, hide them in plain sight. Buy a new wastepaper basket, crumple them up, buy some potato chips, empty the bag and throw them on top with a few emptied and thoroughly dried water-bottles. Most men won't bother to go through the trash cans.
In the coming weeks food is still important although straying from a hiding place might not be an option. As you shop in the coming moths before your departure buy dry goods, can goods, dry milk etc. Here and there a few small items that won't be noticed. If you are unable to smuggle these out or hide them in an abandoned suitcase, then the solution is simple... church is having a food drive. Place them in a box to be moved by the mailbox tomorrow. Most men won't even ask.
There are many grants and very short school times out there for degrees if you need one. Good Will industries have what is called, “Good Careers Academy.” They might be a resource you may want to look into. If this is not an option for you, try calling your local 3 digit help line... usually 211.
If you need to leave this very second my advice is don't dawdle. Call the police, ask for protection and get out now. Otherwise you are teaching him it's okay to treat you that way. And believe me your children ARE learning that too.
One more rule my Medicine Man taught me that will go a very long way... leap and the net will be there. Faith goes a long way and will last much longer and stronger then any other asset you've got. Give yourself a chance. You DO deserve it.