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Tips on how to leave an abusive relationship

If you are thinking about leaving an abusive relationship, there are some things that you need to consider first.

There’s no single way of leaving an abusive relationship. It might be as simple as not meeting your partner any more, not answering phone calls or SMSs, and cutting off contact with his friends and family – all this is possible if you don’t live in the same house as your partner.

Whatever it may be, and however hard it may seem, try to make a quick decision and reduce the pain you may cause yourself. Give the relationship a chance, but not at the cost of your well-being and loss of self-esteem.

Never hold yourself responsible for the abuse. People in abusive relationships often find themselves thinking, ‘I brought it on myself,’ ‘it’s all my fault’ or ‘you could say I’m to blame.’ But there’s no excuse for abuse, and it’s not your fault.

Keep in mind that you can call the police to rescue you from an abusive relationship. Still, how much you can trust them and how well they’re likely to respond depends on where you live.

If you aren’t sure you can handle this all by yourself, you can call the GBV Kenya Helpline for support on 1195.

Leaving an abusive relationship

If you’re married to your abusive partner and/or live in the same house as them, then you’ll have to plan your exit strategy. Here is a possible guide to help you:

1. Plan, plan, plan.

Making the final move is very difficult, and this is one of the reasons many people never do it.

It very much depends on your individual situation. Plan which day is the best to leave – it could be when your partner is away on a business trip or is going to be out all evening with friends. Find a good time to make the exit. It might even be a good idea to practice or rehearse leaving before you actually do it.

If you have children, explain them what you’re planning and gain their confidence. This in itself is a long-term conversation you ought to have been having with your children. If you’re planning to take them along, think about where you’re going to stay. It’s easy to to accommodate one guest, but more than one can be difficult for anyone.

Think about school schedules and how your kids will get back to normal life.

If you’re not taking your kids along because you think it’s better for them and for you, you need to spend some time explaining this to them. You also need to plan how they will be taken care of.

As you can see, it’s very hard to do this all on your own. That’s exactly why many people stay in abusive relationships.

2. Call in someone you trust to help.

You need someone to back you up in case something fails. Tell them your plan. This could be your neighbour, a trusted colleague, or an old friend or relative you’re still in touch with.

3. Find a safe hiding place.

Don’t leave any clues for your partner to find. If you’re working, you need to consider whether the place you work at is safe. Will your partner go there in search of you? You may need to take some time off or leave your job for the sake of your safety.

4. Save some money.

Look at the savings you have. How many days, weeks, or months can you survive with it? If you don’t have any access to money, it’s time to ask for help. Perhaps you could borrow from a friend who understands your situation and won’t add pressure to your already tense life.

5. Take your time to recover.

Break the habit of being abused. Get back into a normal life and be around people who don’t have an abusive past. You can reach out to counselling centres and helplines to seek help too.

6. Begin to consider a divorce, if you are ready.

If marred, start thinking about divorce.

Seek legal assistance, find out what you need to file for a divorce, and see what your options are. There are many organizations and shelters offering services free of charge or at low cost to people who have been abused.

Check out this guide for more information on building a case against your abusive partner.

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