Support for survivors: difficulty leaving home 14.12.07
Women experiencing domestic violence who are having difficulties with leaving home may find the questions and answers in this article relevant to their situation. Also view Making a Safety Plan in the Survivor's Handbook.
- I need to get out of the house, is there anywhere I can go to be safe?
- I might need to get out of the house at night without any notice. What should I do?
- I want to get out of the house but my partner is here all the time and won’t let me go. What should I do?
- My partner says that he will find me wherever I go. Is there anywhere that I could go that he wouldn’t be able to find me?
- Once I’ve gone in to emergency accommodation how long will it take for me to be re-housed?
If you feel unsafe in the house or feel that you just need a break from the abuse, there are various options you can think about.
You could call upon friends and family to let you stay with them temporarily. You could go in to a women’s refuge - view photos of a real refuge to see what it's like. Or you could access emergency accommodation from your local authority. This may be the best option if you want to stay in your local area. The local authority has a duty to provide emergency housing to any resident who is made unintentionally homeless due to domestic violence. This is true whether or not the person has dependent children. In the short term this accommodation may be something like a hostel or a bed and breakfast. Contact your local housing department if you’d like this type of accommodation - every local authority has an emergency number that can be contacted out of office hours. The National Domestic Violence Helpline* can also provide these numbers.
I might need to get out of the house at night without any notice. What should I do?
If you need to leave in an emergency it’s worth making a plan of what you need to do. If it’s safe to do so, try to get together a bag that you can leave with a trusted person. A useful list of things to take include:
Birth Certificates (for you and your children)
School and Medical records, including the telephone number of the school and your GP or surgery
Money, bankbooks, cheque book and credit cards
Keys - to house, car, office
Driving Licence and car registration documents
Cards for payment of Child Benefit and any other welfare benefits you’re entitled to.
Passports, visas and work permit
Mortgage details or lease and rental agreements
Current unpaid bills
Family photographs, your diary, jewellery, small items of sentimental value
Your children's favourite items of clothing and small toys
Toiletries and clothes for you and your children
Spare cash/cash card/money to travel
It would also be good to make a list of useful telephone numbers and keep this on you at all times e.g. local police, local domestic violence service, National Domestic Violence Helpline, trusted friends and family.
If it’s safe, you could let trusted neighbours, friends and family know that your safety is at risk and that you may need to get out in an emergency. You could ask neighbours to watch out and dial 999 if they hear a violent attack.
Think about where you could go if you had to leave quickly at night. Is there a neighbour that it would be safe to go to? Could you travel to a friend or family member? You also could go to any police station or hospital - anywhere where there are other people around would be good. When you’re in a safe place you can make telephone calls either to the police or to the National Domestic Violence Helpline.
If possible, ensure that you take all of your children with you when you leave. If you have to leave without your children, it’s important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible: the longer you leave it, the more difficult it may become to get them back with you, if that is what you want.
The most important thing is for you and your children to get out safely. If you have to leave without a plan and without taking anything with you, the helpline can still support you. Also view Making a Safety Plan in the Survivor's Handbook.
Have a think about any opportunities there might be that could give you a window in which to leave. Examples could be taking your children to school, going to the doctor or for a hospital appointment, perhaps when one of you goes shopping without the other, or if your abuser ever goes out to a pub or club. You could invent a doctor’s appointment either for your children or yourself. You may want to say that it’s ‘women’s problems’ to discourage your abuser from wanting to attend with you. You may also want to consider leaving in the middle of the night.
Whenever the opportunity arises, the most important thing is that you and any children get out safely. If you’re in danger at any point you must dial 999, as the police are the only people who can intervene.
If you can’t foresee any opportunities for leaving safely, then do consider calling the police. When the police arrive you should be able to speak to an officer without your abuser being present. This will give you the opportunity to tell the officer that you need to leave the property to be safe. The police will then help you access emergency accommodation.
My partner says that he’ll find me wherever I go. Is there anywhere I could go that he wouldn’t be able to find me?
This is a very common thing for an abusive person to say. By saying this, your partner is trying to prevent you from leaving by scaring you. You can go to a women’s refuge in order to be safe from harm as the address is confidential. The National Domestic Violence Helpline can help you to find a space in a refuge in an area that’s safe for you, or you could contact a local domestic violence service yourself. You may want to think about going quite a long way from your abuser to an area that he wouldn’t think to look for you. Refuges are geared up for preventing women from being found.
Once I’ve gone into emergency accommodation, how long will it take for me to be re-housed?
This depends on the length of the housing list in the area you want to live in. When you’re in emergency accommodation as a result of domestic violence you become a priority for housing. However, this can take anything from a few months up to a year, and occasionally longer. It also depends on other factors, such as whether you have any dependent children.
If you’re in a refuge, the staff will help you deal with the local housing department. If you’ve accessed accommodation through other means, you may want to contact your local domestic violence service to help you with your housing application. View more info on housing options.
*The National Domestic Violence Helpline is run in partnership between Women's Aid & Refuge.