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Learn About Coercive Control and Psychological Abuse

How to Stay Safe When You Leave a Controlling Partner

– Posted in: Children's exposure to abuse Helping victims/survivors SAFETY of Women & Children

Speakoutloud.net safety Clare Murphy PhDWomen who have male partners who psychologically abuse, restrict, control, manipulate and rob women of their sense of self, need a safety plan whether their partner ever lays a finger on them or not. Many controlling men stalk, threaten and harass women who leave. Other controlling men use physical violence, or threaten to kill, or do kill the woman who leaves and sometimes kill the children too.

By safe I mean – spiritually safe, psychologically safe and physically safe – to maintain a sense of dignity and aliveness. Some women have been controlled by their male partner for 10, 20, 40 or more years and want to make plans to eventually leave. Other women know that they are going to leave very soon and know they need to take safety measures.

If you are a woman being abused and controlled it is highly likely you are always doing what it takes to keep your psychological wellbeing as safe as possible – whether that is arguing and getting aggressive, or going silent and withdrawing into a private world. Here are some added tips for women who may need or want to leave their controlling partner – whether he has ever used or may use physical violence or not.

Plan possible escape routes

  • Plan with your children which doors, windows, fire escapes, stairwells, etc. to use if you need to escape quickly

Enlist trustworthy support

  • Leave copies of your safety plan, your Protection/Restraining Order and Custody Order with a trusted friend, neighbour, your children’s school or day care
  • Develop a code word or phrase with children, trusted friends or colleagues so they know when you are in danger and should call for help
  • Teach your children how to use the telephone to contact police or a trusted friend

Transport to escape

  • Keep the car full of petrol, the driver’s door unlocked and always back the car into the drive to make it easier to leave quickly
  • Hide a spare car key where you can grap it quickly
  • Keep money handy if you need to take a taxi cab
  • Keep the taxi cab number handy
  • Ask people you trust in advance if they will provide a ride to help you escape

Choose a place to go

  • Ask people you trust in advance if they would give you a place to stay
  • Women’s refuge/shelter
  • A holiday park is cheaper than a hotel

Create a false trail

  • Create a false trail, for example, call motels, real estate agencies and schools in a town at least six hours away from where you plan to relocate. Ask questions that require a call back to your house in order to leave phone numbers on record.

Pack a survival kit and hide it

  • Keep the following items in a safe place – could be a friend’s house, neighbour, or workplace: Phone/contact numbers, money, spare keys, clothes, small sentimental items, medication, important documents

Important phone numbers/contacts

  • Crisisline, helpline numbers
  • Trusted friends and family
  • Taxi cab
  • Police
  • Women’s refuge/shelter (if you call from home, immediately dial another number so your partner cannot push redial and find out where you’ve gone)


  • Put money away in a safe place to assist with the escape and getting started again in a different location
  • Small, sellable objects
  • Open a bank account in your own name to increase your independence
  • Money, cheque book, hole-in-the-wall cards, credit cards, bank books

Spare keys

  • Extra set of keys to the car, house, office and safe-deposit box

Clothes, small sentimental and comfort items

  • Clothes
  • Children’s baby photos and other pictures
  • Children’s favourite toys and blankets
  • Comfort items for you and your children


  • A supply of prescription medicines for you and your children
  • A list of the drugs and dosages

Important documents

Transport documents

  • Driver’s license, registration and ownership papers

Health documents

  • Social security cards
  • Community service cards
  • Medical records
  • Children’s immunization/vaccination records
  • A list of prescriptions

Work/financial documents

  • Work permits, green card
  • Bank records
  • Papers that show jointly owned assets
  • Work references

Identification papers

  • Birth certificates – yours and your children’s
  • Passports
  • Citizenship documents

House documents

  • Mortgage papers, titles, deeds
  • Lease/rental agreement

Legal documents

  • Protection/Restraining orders
  • Custody papers
  • Court documents
  • Marriage license
  • Divorce papers

Other documents

  • School records
  • Insurance papers
  • Address book


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  • Michele 22 December 2015, 1:44 pm

    I am middle-aged, have worked with the women and children of those women who have fled abusive situations, have studied this horrific situation in College and in Child Care workshops. That is some of my personal history – which includes 2 much more personal circumstances involving abusive men….but I had thought I had talked enough with my 2 older daughters about how a man should treat a woman, and I had thought their father had modelled those positive behaviours women deserve in their lives. As I read your posting, I recognized the behaviour my daughter and her boyfriend exhibited, then they married, and the abuse became more physical. I was not living in the same country as her boyfriend, or his family, so that also had me feel even more disconnected.
    I sobbed as I read your words, but reassured that what I am doing now is the best I can do for all of my daughters, who have been affected.

  • Midge 27 May 2015, 12:32 am

    I have used a similar list for perhaps 50 years to help others get out of horrible situations. My home, when I was middle age, was a safe haven in the chain of homes where we took women and children who needed to be protected from abusive situations. Over the years, I had even some police officers who would bring me a woman during the middle of the night. It was an honor. Now, I am old and infirm, thus can’t help, but it is good to know that you and others like you are still doing this good service. May God bless you in all you do. Hugs, from a survivor.