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Staying on in an abusive relationship

When you are in an abusive or violent relationship, the choice to leave or to stay is yours to make, and yours alone to make. If you decide to stay, it is important that you understand certain pointers:

  • That you may be vulnerable to abuse / harm / violence

  • That you must have a safety plan in place for when things get unwieldy

  • That your safety remains a priority and you have the full and unconditional freedom to pursue any course of action that prioritizes your safety.

When you decide to stay on in a relationship that has been abusive, violent or a threat to your safety, here are a few things you can consider doing to ensure that your safety remains a priority:

  • Keep a trusted friend or relative informed of what is going on. It is important that this trusted individual is someone who listens to you without judgment and is there to support you when you need it. It is important that you let them know that you have chosen to stay, and to let them know of what is going on. 

  • Make a list of all the options you have for an emergency situation. This involves mapping trusted friends and allies, their contact information, organizations you can reach out to for help, lawyers and medical support as well. Make note of all your available options, your escape routes and all those you can count on for support.

  • If you’re in a place where you don’t have clarity on whether to leave or not leave, it might help you evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of leaving and staying. It might also help you understand what kind of support you have if you leave – for some survivors, that might be a tipping point in making a decision to leave or stay. It is a good idea not to be impulsive and to take stock of all that you can count on when you make the decision to leave.

  • Keep an emergency bag ready – this is for any untoward or emergency situation that you find yourself in. To know what an emergency bag should contain, please refer to the section titled “Building an Emergency Kit.”  

  • Record evidence of any abuse that you face. It is important that you document instances and save records of evidence of those instances for any time in the future that you decide to leave or seek to press charges.

  • If you have children, help them understand that they can speak up, and talk to someone they trust about what’s going on. Give them a code word that they can use if they’re facing an emergency and want your intervention. Remember to let them know that they can tell you anything. 

  • Keep sharp objects, weapons, flammable substances and fire-generating devices away. It is preferable to keep them out of access at all times, or in safe places where the abusive relative or partner cannot get to. However, remember that these should be accessible in case of an emergency. Throw away any dangerous chemicals in the house and opt for softer and non-corrosive cleaning substances instead of acid. At all times, keep the police helpline on speed dial.

  • Make sure to a spare phone with important and trusted numbers stored in it. Keep the knowledge of this phone’s existence away from the abusive relative, as this phone can help you in an emergency to reach out for help when you most need it. Regardless, keep all phones and devices fully charged and with enough money balance if you’re on a prepaid card.

  • If you are in an argument or in a volatile situation with the abusive relative, make sure to move to a room that you cannot be trapped in, where there are no weapons, sharp objects or things that can be thrown at you, inflammable substances, acid, kerosene or oil.

  • Learn some form of self-defense to protect yourself against any harm or any threats. It is also a good way for you to gain confidence and emotional strength.

  • Learn up your escape routes and safe routes to get out of any space within your house that you may be confined within. It is a good idea to create ventilated spaces that are not confining or in any way capable of being manipulated into trapping you.

  • If you intend to stay, it is important to understand that your safety and peace of mind are a priority, and you should neither work on changing your abuser nor changing yourself for your abuser.

  • If your abuser wants to change their behavior sincerely, you can be a good form of support for them. It is a good idea to help him find professional help. But, if you find yourself being threatened or harmed in any fashion, or if your behavior is being controlled by your abuser in the name of changing themselves, it is not likely that your abuser may change.

  • Remember to set your boundaries, and identify that you yourself have a threshold that you are entitled to – and beyond that threshold, no abuse shall be tolerated.       

  • If your spouse is a substance abuser or an addict, it is important to understand that it is NOT ONLY THE SUBSTANCE THAT MAKES THEM VIOLENT. Yes, they may become abusive when they are drunk or intoxicated, but the real problem is essentially underlying that. It is important that the addiction be addressed, but, it is just as important that the violent tendency in itself should be addressed. Both have a negative impact and are tremendously dangerous to your safety. 

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