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How to Seek Help: For People in Abusive Relationships


“Why didn’t you just leave?” is a question often posed to survivors of abusive relationships and domestic violence. But the situation is often more complicated than that. There are many reasons that make it hard to leave abusive relationships, however there are steps you can begin to take to make the process easier. It might seem like there’s no way out right now, but there are people and resources out there that can help you.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:

  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner
  • 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9,000 men sought homelessness services in 2016-17 as a result of family violence
So what constitutes an abusive relationship and what can you do if you want to leave?

Identifying an abusive relationship

Domestic abuse can take many forms including:
  • physical
  • verbal
  • sexual
  • emotional
  • social
  • financial
More information about the different types of abuse and identifying them can be found at https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm.

Some common signs of an abusive relationship can include:

  • Your partner being threatening or violent towards you
  • Your partner trying to control you
  • Your partner blames you for their behaviour, or accuses you of things you haven’t done (e.g. having an affair)
  • You may blame yourself when your partner is threatening or violent

Reasons it might be hard to leave

It can be scary, complex and difficult to contemplate leaving an abusive relationship. Some of the most common barriers can include:
  • Lack of financial support: a job, money, resources etc
  • Lack of emotional support from friends, family and even professionals
  • Fear that the violence will continue
  • Psychological reasons; such as an abuser destroying the confidence of their partner or using tactics like crying, apologising and promising to change
If you make the decision to leave an abusive relationship, you are not alone - there are steps you can take, resources you can access and support services ready to assist:

Planning to leave an abusive relationship

After making the decision to leave, here are some steps you can follow:
  • Call a hotline (see below)
  • Seek legal advice
  • Have your own bank account and as much money in savings as possible
  • Change all your passwords and PINs
  • Put financial and other valuable documents somewhere safe
  • Pack a bag of items you need every day and keep it hidden
  • Reach out to others who may be able to help you or give you a place to stay; whether family members or social workers at a nearby domestic violence centre
  • Keep a spare key hidden in a secure location
  • When you’re in the planning or leaving stage, begin keeping a journal of incidents such as threats and assaults. This is very helpful for legal matters, such as evidence in court
For more information:

Domestic Violence Help

There are a range of resources and hotlines (national and in your state) to assist those who are experiencing domestic violence and abusive relationships. To find help head to https://www.dvrcv.org.au/support-services/national-services.

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Written by Shine Lawyers on June 8, 2018. Last modified: September 26, 2018.

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