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Leaving an Abusive Relationship

People stay in abusive relationships for many reasons. They may believe their partners when their partners say that the abuse will stop. They may have faith in the traditional family and want to remain a part of it. Possibly they have tried to leave and faced such financial difficulties that they felt forced to return. Some fear retaliation. Others, having lived in an abusive relationship for years, have come to believe there is no alternative and may even feel that they deserve such treatment. If you are leaving an abusive relationship, help and support is available.

Safety Considerations

It is important to understand that leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous. As you are seeking to regain some control over your life, learn about ways to stay safe and get help. It is important to develop a safety plan and strategies to increase your safety. Without help, the abuse is not likely to stop. There are many alternatives to consider. Assistance is available. Do not put yourself at risk.

The strategies which follow are only some examples. Plan ahead and be prepared. Think about what has and has not worked well in the past.

Monitoring of Your Activities

If you think your activities are being monitored they probably are. Abusers often want to know your every move. Be aware that abusers can easily monitor things like phone calls and computer use. Spyware, recording devices and global positioning systems (GPS), that track your location, are readily available.

It is not possible to remove all traces of your online activities. Also, if it is not your regular habit, it may be dangerous to suddenly start deleting your entire history from your computer.

If you think your computer activity may be monitored it may be advisable to continue to use it for normal activities, such as the weather or news, and use a safer computer for things like looking for a new job or apartment, or finding information about abuse.

Remember that e-mail and text messaging are not confidential ways to talk to someone about abuse or your escape plans. As well, older models of cordless phones may be easily intercepted. Most cell phones and some landlines will show your call history. Telephone bills can also be used to gain information about your activities.

Emergency Plan for Crisis Situations

Plan your emergency exit - determine the quickest, safest route out. If you find yourself in an unstable, explosive situation, try to position yourself close to an exit and away from anything that could be used as a weapon against you. Plan various safe places to go.

Ask others to contact the police right away if they hear a disturbance. Decide on a code word or phrase that will let others know that you need them to call the police immediately. Shout out for help. You have the right to protect yourself.

Store a packed travel bag with someone you can trust. Include personal items needed to get you through the crisis. Be sure to include originals or copies of important documents and any required medication. You may want to include something special for your children.

Keep spare car, house and office keys, debit and credit cards, and some cash where you can easily get to at all times.

If possible, get your own bank account and credit cards. Try to set enough money aside to get you through until you are able to organize your financial affairs. Arrange to have bank and financial statements mailed to a post office box or trusted friend or trusted family member.

Find information about local shelters and support services listed on the Abuse Help Lines pages near the front of your SaskTel telephone directory and locate and record emergency contacts.

On Your Own: Safety Plan for Home and Work

If you live apart from the person abusing you, contact your local police service about crime prevention programs and ideas to secure your home. Change the existing locks and determine other points of entry, such as windows, that need to be secured. Let other people know that your abuser no longer lives with you.

  • Get an unlisted phone number. Find out about privacy and security features offered by SaskTel, listed at the front of your SaskTel telephone directory, or those offered by your phone service provider.
  • Provide others with a verbal description or picture of your abuser and have a plan to deal with unexpected visits.
  • Take different routes to and from regular destinations. Always lock your vehicle doors. Stay alert. Park in well-lit areas. Ask a friend or neighbour to escort you.
  • Make sure that your children have a safety plan for when you are not with them. Review your plan regularly with your children and make changes as needed. Keep a list of important emergency contacts close at hand.
  • Give clear instructions to care-providers, teachers, etc. about who is authorized to pick up or visit your children.

If There Are Children

When parents are living together, they share guardianship of their children. If parents are separating, they will have to decide how the children will continue to be looked after. If parents cannot agree, the courts can be asked to determine the matter.

Generally, the best solution is for parents to reach an agreement about parenting. However, when a parent is caught in an abusive relationship, it is highly unlikely there will be any kind of rational discussion, either about leaving or possibly taking the children. The law says that where a parenting order does not exist, it is an offence for one parent to take the children from the other parent with the intent to deprive them of the children. An exception is where the children would be in danger of "imminent harm" if they were left at home.

If you are forced to leave your home for your own protection and take the children with you, contact a lawyer as soon as possible so that the matter of parenting may be addressed without delay. If you decide to leave the children in the home temporarily, but ultimately want them to live with you, it is also important to seek legal advice immediately. If a court is asked to decide on parenting arrangements the best interests of the children will be the only consideration.

If you cannot afford a lawyer you may qualify for Legal Aid. If you qualify for Legal Aid they handle family matters. If you are denied Legal Aid and you are low income you may be able to get Pro Bono legal help.

There is also self-help for people making family law applications without a lawyer. Family Law Saskatchewan has plain-language information about family matters, including parenting of children, as well as a Form Wizard to create the court forms needed for a court application.

Family Law Saskatchewan

Family Law Saskatchewan is a PLEA website and, as with all our information and services, it is free-of–charge. There is a place on the homepage to choose ‘create an account.’ The account is just so the system can save your work. After you register you answer questions about what you want to do. You will then be provided with step-by-step instructions and all the forms you need.

Finding a Place to Go

Tenants who are affected by interpersonal violence may be able to end a lease early if the continuation of the tenancy could pose a safety risk. Victims must obtain a certificate from Victims Services which then allows them to end a fixed term tenancy by giving 28 days’ notice to the landlord. For more information, contact Victim Services toll free at 1-888-286-6664.

If you are being abused you can try to protect yourself and prevent future abuse. One way to do this might be to leave the home and stay with other family or friends, or check into a motel or hotel. An emergency shelter, safe house or transition house may also be an option. The RCMP or the police, if requested, will escort you out of the family home to any safe place you choose.

The Abuse Help Lines, listed near the front of SaskTel phonebooks, provide information about abuse, counselling and support services, as well as contact information for safe shelters and help lines.

Immediate Financial Assistance

Ideally, a victim of abuse may be able to save up a private "nest egg." Even a small amount of money might be enough to buy some time to seek financial assistance or to begin organizing a new life and financial independence. If no money or income is available, emergency financial support may be available at any government office of Social Services, listed in the Government of Saskatchewan blue pages of the telephone book. You can also find information about government Financial Help online.

When applying for financial assistance, it is important to have the following documents...

  • Saskatchewan Health Card
  • Social Insurance Card
  • personal ID
  • birth certificates, including those of the children who are leaving the home
  • doctor certificates or prescriptions for special medication if required

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