Article contributed by: Gina Kendall Lusardi (Founder of Speak Out, Get Out, Stay Out)
Gina Kendall Lusardi is a domestic abuse survivor, thriver, educator, speaker and advocate. She is a survivor of 27 years of both childhood and adult domestic abuse. At the age of 28, she was able to find the strength and courage to break her cycle of abuse for good. Today, she is dedicating her life to helping other victims of abuse become survivors while helping survivors become thrivers in their own lives.
Domestic Abuse or Violence is an umbrella term used to encompass a wide range of abuse, such as: physical, sexual, emotional, financial or psychological actions or a threat of action that influences another person. The definition of domestic abuse, in a nutshell, is a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
While some people think domestic abuse is a “women’s problem,” for the first time in history, there are more “reported” cases of male domestic abuse than female cases. It’s true that domestic abuse affects 1 in 3 women, however, at the same time, 25% of men suffer from some form of domestic abuse from a current or former intimate partner.
As a domestic abuse advocate and survivor, it has become my calling in life to educate young adults, women and men on how to break free from an unhealthy or abusive relationship, while thriving at life.
Sadly, on average, it will take a victim of abuse leaving 7 times before they stay out for good. There are more reasons than there are days in the year as to why victims of abuse return to their abuser. It is common for some of those being abused to not think what they are living is abuse.
I would like to share with you some ways to recognize if you are living in an abusive relationship, and more importantly, how to break free and become a thriver in your life on your terms.
This is a brief overlook of some of the more common characteristics that could signal that you are in an abusive relationship. Does/Is your partner:
- Dishonest with you?
- Disrespectful towards you and others?
- Do they hit you, kick you, choke you, pull your hair, call you names, spit on you, restrain you, throw you into walls, etc.?
- Are they verbally abusive to you doing things like calling you lazy, using curse words, telling you that you are crazy or putting you down, etc.?
- Do they limit where you can go and who you can go with or accuse you of cheating when you are not, etc.?
- Do they try to control you: what you can do, what you can wear, and who you can talk to, etc.?
- Are they emotionally unavailable?
- Do they criticize everything you do?
- Do they make you pay a price for their affection?
- Do they tell you that you are crazy when you bring something up or call them out on what you suspect?
- Do you walk on eggshells around them or does your whole demeanor change when they come home or walk into the room?
- Does your partner forbid you from working or going to school?
- Do you have an allowance while your partner can spend whatever they want?
- Do they deny you access to any accounts or any information regarding the household expenses?
- Force you to write and cash bad checks?
- Do they get loans in your name without your knowledge or do they forge your signature to get a loan or to open accounts?
- Do they steal your checks or government benefits or force you to turn them over to them as soon as you get them?
If you can relate to ANY of these signs in your relationship, then it is time to figure out how to kick rocks and get your groove back. It’s time to take back your power, but how? Keep reading my goddess.
Remember, your abuser knows everything about you: your habits, your friends and family, where you shop, when the kids get out of school, and their bus number. Therefore, you have to change your whole life, after leaving. For this reason, take a different route to where you need to go, shop at a different store; even if it’s further away. Additionally, make sure your kid’s schools know what is going on, so they can make sure your ex cannot get to them or snatch them from you. If your relationship has been abusive, it is important that once you have decided to leave, you do so quickly and carefully to avoid any additional violence that could endanger your life. Research shows that the most dangerous times for domestic abuse to escalate very quickly are when a victim is leaving or has just left. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.7233
In preparing to leave, it is imperative that you gather some important items in a bag that you can easily grab in a moment. Some things to gather and pack are:
- Emergency cash – If your partner keeps a tight grip on the money, keep any change you can get your hands on, return items to the store for cash back, hide any money that is gifted to you, and sale off small items. If you are not able to gather up cash, try applying for a credit card that is in your name only and have statements sent to a PO Box, a work address or even a friend’s house. Do not access your account through your home computer or via your phone in case your partner knows your log in information.
- Hide a “getaway bag”– This bag should have clothing for you and your children, copies of birth certificates for everyone, passports, your driver’s license, car titles, extra keys, bank or credit card account information, paystubs, social security cards, court orders, medications needed for you and your children, toiletries, and special personal items such as photos, jewelry, and nonperishable snacks. Be sure to pack animal food, if you plan on taking your pets. Once your bag(s) have been packed, store them in a safe place where you can quickly get to them, like in your trunk, closet, or at a friend’s house.
- Gather abusive evidence – If your relationship is an abusive one, it is important that you take pictures, seek medical help, and document, document, document. Take photos of any injuries, any damages down to the house or property, keep any items that may contain blood, and request all records from the hospital or doctors you’ve seen due to your injuries. This will help with being awarded an order of protection, and help during your custody or divorce proceedings. IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT AT NO TIME SHOULD YOU PROVOKE INSTANCES OF ABUSE SOLELY TO GATHER EVIDENCE.
- Make a plan for your pets – People stay in abusive relationships because they fear what will happen to their pets, if they leave. Make plans for your pet to have temporary housing either with family or friends or even take them to a no kill shelter for safe keeping. Be sure to explain your situation to the shelter. In the end, you need to realize your own life is more important than that of a pet, however difficult that is to swallow.
- Leave during a safe window of time – For safety reasons, you should leave during a time that your partner is away from the house. It is completely ok for you not to leave a “Dear John” letter for your partner. If you do not have access to reliable transportation or if the vehicle you generally drive is in your partners name, arrange to be picked up or if you fear imminent danger, you can arrange for the police to pick you up and take you to a safe place.
During this time you may be on pins and needles trying to stay calm, and trying to remember everything you need to do in order to safely leave that unhealthy relationship, but you can do this. I have faith in you, and in your determination for a better life.
For more information on how to stay out or how to overcome the pitfalls, emotions, and obstacles that may cause you to consider returning to your abuser, please visit our website: https://www.speakoutgetoutstayout.com, to help you stay strong and empowered!!
** If you need help, visit her website for valuable information and free resources.
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