Planning Your Escape
Every woman who wants to leave an abusive relationship should be able to without fear. Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy for most of them. Abusers have tormented their victims with threats of harm if they try to leave. You think about escaping, but you don’t follow through.
I used to volunteer at a women’s shelter as a crisis call interventionist. Calls came in all day from women who wanted help, looking for a place to escape, hoping our shelter had room. Sometimes, however, a call would come in from a woman who just wants answers. I received one such call from a lady who called crying and wanting to tell her story to someone. She prefaced her story by saying she did not want to leave her husband. She just wanted to know what she could do.
This lady and her six-year-old daughter were outside in the yard when her husband came outside. Until this point, the husband had been verbally abusive to the wife, but not the daughter. He had made threatening gestures like cleaning his gun while glaring at his wife. He belittled her and made her believe she couldn’t do anything right. On this day, when the husband came outside, he got into his car to leave. As he was backing up the car, he accidentally backed over the six-year-old’s kitten.
Heartbroken and in tears, the daughter ran into the house, and the mom followed. The dad reached under the car and pulled out the kitten and discovered it was still alive, so he called the daughter back outside to see. When she came out and saw her kitten was alive, she perked up and smiled. He called her over to him and doused the kitten with gasoline and set it on fire. Then he took his teenage son into the garage to lift weights like nothing had happened. The wife who was telling me this story was mortified. As soon as she could, she called for help.
She realized in that moment that this man she had been married to for all these years, the one who had as yet not caused her any physical harm, was capable of anything. It was in that moment that this lady became afraid for her life and the life of her child. Unfortunately, the people to whom she would have gone for help, her church, respected and loved him because he was a leader in the church. Her family were out of state, and she had no other support system. She was desperate for help.
We discussed some steps she could take to prepare herself and her daughter to escape when she felt ready. She already had a couple elements in place and was well on her way to being ready. First, she had a couple bags packed and hidden in a place her husband would never look. She had a couple cell phones inside the bags that were purchased in her mom’s name so her husband would not know how to track her. In this time of disposable cell phones, it’s even easier to take this step. She was able to squirrel away enough money to pay cash for bus tickets anywhere she chose to go and added to the stash as she was able. Finally, I suggested she contact other shelters and family and friends out of town that her husband would not think to talk to when he started looking for her.
If you have ever seen the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy,” you understand how hard it can be for a women to escape her abuser. If you need help, please call a local shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. Their website if you want more information is www.thehotline.org. We here at Turnaround Coaching are available to help with escape plans and coaching after you escape.