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How to Leave a Violent Relationship

Domestic violence is a serious issue that is shockingly prevalent in California. According to the California Women's Health Survey (CWHS), approximately 40% of California women experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. And, according to the California Department of Justice, there were 174,649 domestic violence-related calls for assistance in 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available). Of these calls, 40% involved the use of weapons.

For many complex reasons, victims of domestic violence (mainly women, although there are cases of domestic violence against men) have a difficult time leaving. A lot of women have a very valid fear that leaving will only make their situation worse. And they are right; we are not trying to sound dramatic, but leaving a violent relationship without careful planning can be fatal. So in this week's blog, we wanted to pass along some advice on how to reduce the risk, and leave safely.

Don't go it alone. Even if you are not ready to leave the relationship, please seek some kind of support. Whether it is from friends, family, domestic violence professionals, your coworkers or your church, you need to talk to someone. Talking through your situation will help you make a decision based on the facts, versus your feelings. Feelings are very unreliable sometimes, which leads us to point #2.

Expect your feelings to change. It's normal for a victim to feel wild emotional swings, which can range from deep feelings of love to fear and anger. In addition, it's normal to feel conflicted and guilty. It's best to accept your feelings, but know that you cannot rely on your feelings to make logical decisions for your future when you are in an abusive situation.

Plan to leave. Unfortunately, most women who are victims of abused tend to wait until there is a severely abusive situation before they leave. Experts say it is best to at least plan for the option to escape. Take steps that include gathering pertinent documents (bank account numbers, birth certificate, SSN), as well as your most treasured items and a change of clothes, and leave these with a trusted friend. Also, be sure to carry the phone number of a local domestic violence shelter with you at all times.

Be realistic when ending the relationship. Experts advise not to end the relationship in person. Instead, choose to do it by email or telephone, for obvious safety reasons. In addition, be sure to let family and close friends know the situation in case he tries to contact you through them. It is important to remember that you cannot be friends and you cannot trust him.

Refuse any contact once you leave. This probably doesn't need too much more detail, since we just covered this above, but once you leave, do not meet with him, or respond to phone calls, texts, or emails. It is dangerous for you to do so, and is likely just a manipulative ploy on his part.

Develop a safety plan for the "worst case scenario". It is important to work with a domestic violence professional and plan for the potential dangers that may arise, now that you have left. Some items that you will likely discuss are ways to avoid any habits or routines where you have to be or go somewhere alone, and making sure your social networking site settings are private.

Arm yourself with data and information. Educate yourself regarding restraining orders, and get a referral for a family law attorney or advocate who can advise you. It's also a good idea to save any threatening emails, voicemails, texts or letters, in case you need them for future legal purposes.

As we said, domestic violence is a serious and complex issue, which we cannot fully cover in a short blog post. However, we hope we have at least given you confidence, and some tips that may help you or someone you know leave a violent relationship safely. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call our office. We are here to help.

(Source: How to Leave a Violent Relationship,

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