Protecting yourself after you have left
Leaving your partner or a domestic situation because you have suffered abuse is not easy and you may not want friends, family or acquaintances to know why you have left.
It is entirely your decision whether or not you tell people. That said, if you believe you may still be at risk, it might increase your safety if you tell your family, friends, your children’s school and your employer or college what is happening. By doing this you can ensure that they do not inadvertently give any information to your abuser. They will also be more prepared and better able to help you in an emergency.
If you have left the family home but are staying in the same town or area
Here are some of the things you can do to remain safe
- Try to avoid those places you used when you were with your abuser i.e. shops, banks, cafes etc.
- Try to alter your routines as much as you can – catch a different bus, walk a different route home, that sort of thing.
- If you have any regular appointments that your abuser knows about such as counselling sessions, health practitioner or even your hairdresser, try to change your appointment time and if possible, the location of your appointment. If you cannot change them, then alter the route you take or the form of transport you use
- Make sure that your children’s school, nursery, or your childminder know what has happened and make it clear to them who will pick the children up. Stress that they cannot release the children to anyone but you, nor can they give your new address or telephone number to anyone. You may want to establish a password with them, and give them copies of any court orders, if you have them.
- Think about telling your employer or others at your place of work, particularly if you think your abuser may try to contact you there – if possible, ask them to screen your calls.
If you have moved away from your area, and don’t want your abuser to know where you are, then you need to take particular care with anything that may indicate your location, for example:
- Does your abuser always seem to know where you are and what you are doing? If so, your mobile phone may have been ‘tracked’; this is only supposed to happen if you have given your permission, but if your partner has had access to your mobile phone, he/she may have sent a consenting message purporting to come from you. If you think this could be the case, you should contact the company providing the tracking facility and withdraw your permission; or if you are in any doubt, change your phone.
- Try to avoid using shared credit or debit cards or joint bank accounts: if the statement is sent to your ex-partner, he/she will see the transactions you have made and may be able to use them to track you down
- Make sure that your address does not appear on any court papers. (If you are staying in a refuge, they will advise you on this.)
If you need to phone your abuser (or anyone with whom he/she is in contact), make sure your telephone number is untraceable by dialling 141 before ringing.
- Talk to your children about the need to keep your address and location confidential.
- Those who have experienced stalking and domestic abuse are now allowed to join the electoral register anonymously to ensure they are not put at risk, and do not lose the right to vote. Anyone wanting to register their details anonymously must provide evidence such as an order under the Family Law Act 1996 or the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. If an application is granted, the details that appear on the register only have a person’s electoral number and the letter N.
If you stay or return to your home
If you stay or return to your home after your abuser has left, then you will probably have an occupation order or a protection order (see Getting an injunction).
If the injunction has powers of arrest attached, then do make sure that your local police station has a copy, and that the police know they need to respond quickly in an emergency.
You can get further advice here Domestic abuse | Devon and Cornwall Police (devon-cornwall.police.uk)
It is important to know that you do not have to stay at home – with or without an injunction – if you do not feel safe there.
You could also consider the following:
- Changing the locks on all doors.
- Putting locks on all windows if you don’t have them already.
- Installing smoke detectors on each floor and providing fire extinguishers.
- Installing an outside light (back and front) which comes on automatically when someone approaches.
- Informing the neighbours that your partner no longer lives there, and asking them to tell you – or call the police – if they see him/her nearby.
Changing your telephone number and making it ex-directory.
- Using an answering machine to screen calls.
- Keeping copies of all court orders together with dates and times of previous incidents and call-outs for reference if you need to call the police again.
- Keep your own personal log of any issues with dates, times and details of the incident
If your ex-partner or family member continues the abuse
As in the final point above, if they continue to harass, threaten or abuse you, make sure you keep detailed records of each incident, including the date and time it occurred, what was said or done, and, if possible, photographs of damage to your property or injuries to yourself or others.
If they injure you, see your GP or go to hospital for treatment and ask them to document your visit.
If you have an injunction with a power of arrest, or there is a restraining order in place, you should ask the police to enforce this; and if they are in breach of any court order, you should also tell your solicitor.
See Getting an injunction and the Police and the criminal prosecution process for further information on legal options.
In an emergency, ALWAYS call the police on 999.