SOS-Info Safety first
Preparing to leave : a delicate step
Reading time : 6 min
When intimate partner violence (IPV) is present in a relationship, preparing to leave involves high stakes. If you are thinking of separating or of seeking refuge in a shelter or with relatives, it is probably because you feel that your physical or psychological safety (or that of your children) is at risk. It is a difficult decision and you deserve information and support.
When loved ones worry
Your reflection about leaving may have been prompted by the concerns of friends, colleagues or family members. Those close to you may feel a sense of urgency motivated by their fears about your safety. They may think that a separation will ensure your safety and may thus become overly insistent about it. Because leaving can be a very sensitive moment and that the levels of danger can sometimes increase in the beginning, it is important for you to know that the decision to leave, how you decide to go about it, and when you do it is your decision alone.
The perception of your loved ones or that of counsellors can help you weigh everything that is at stake and help you find resources, but it is important to respect how you feel about your situation. You have the right to tell your loved ones that you are thinking about it, but that you have not yet made a decision. If need be, you can refer them to this website, where they will find information and advice for themselves in the situation.
Nothing is more important than your immediate safety and that of your children. Leaving a situation of violence can sometimes increase danger because the partner loses control over the victim-survivor and tries to regain it by increasing the intensity of the violence. Here are some strategies that may help keep you safe and make it easier for you to move on.
Seek support while preparing to leave
If you have the opportunity to do so, it may be helpful to plan your departure with the support of an advocate who is specialized with IPV. This advocate will be able to accompany you :
- To prepare the safest possible way out (the time, the pace, announcing your departure to your loved ones, your children, your partner, etc.) ;
- To explore different means to improve your safety (Finding safety in a shelter, consulting a lawyer, making a claim to IVAC, etc.) ;
- To develop safety plans for you and your children.
These advocates are available to support you and to accompany you in the steps you choose to take. They will respect your decisions and will not pressure you into any action. They are available throughout Quebec, 24 hours a day, whether you wish to take refuge in a shelter or not. To get in touch with one of them, contact SOS violence conjugale at 1 800 363-9010.
Take your children with you
It is recommended to bring children with you when you leave a relationship involving intimate partner violence. Obviously it is a personal choice, but it is important to be aware that not bringing the children at the beginning could have repercussions later on, if you hope to have custody. Shelters are designed for the well-being of families: there is a playroom, toys, cribs, high chairs... and friends! The shelter-workers always try to ensure that the stay of mothers and their children is as comfortable as possible.
There are a number of strategies can be put in place to help keep you safe before and after leaving. We invite you to explore our article about safety planning and our article about technological self-defense in situations of IPV.
Explore the possibility of filing a criminal complaint
Some forms of intimate partner violence are criminal (physical violence, threats, several forms of sexual violence, some forms of economic violence, etc.). Filing a criminal complaint against an abusive partner can be a way to improve your safety, but is a decision that involves high stakes. Counsellors are available to accompany you in this reflection.
In a situation of immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 911.
It took me a while before I left. At first, when I thought about it, I was dizzy. I was so afraid that it would go wrong that I was frozen in place. I called SOS and was put in touch with a shelter worker who helped me by telling me that I didn't have to do everything all at once. I talked to her a few times and I even went to see her to prepare for my departure. I hid a bag at my sister's house, which I gradually filled with everything I wanted to have when I left. I took my time to prepare and when I left, I felt ready. I stayed in the shelter for two and a half months. Today, I am free.
Preparing your get-away-bag
If possible, it can be helpful to take the time to prepare some personal belongings that will make your journey easier once you have left. In some situations, it may be preferable to make copies (or take photos) of certain documents rather than taking the originals, to avoid arousing the suspicions of an abusive partner. It may also be safer to leave your get-away-bag in a place where your partner does not have access, such as at work or at a friend's house.
*** If it is not possible to prepare your personal belongings in advance, either because of time constraints or because there is a risk that your partner will find out, do not do so. Violence advocates will be able to help you find ways to retrieve your essential belongings once you are safe.
None of the documents or items mentioned below are mandatory. It is a checklist to help you think about what could be useful when preparing your personal belongings and those of your children.
- Baptism or birth certificate
- Health insurance card
- Driver's license
- Social Insurance Card
- Marriage contract or other contracts related to the relationship
- Divorce, separation or other judgments
- Family Mediation Reports
- Names and contact information of lawyers, notaries, mediators, etc.
- Evidence (photographs or other) of events of violence
- Event number (police) / name of investigator on file
- Protection orders or others (810, etc.)
- Credit and debit cards (accounts in your name and joint accounts)
- Last bank statement
- Latest tax assessment notice (federal and provincial)
- Last bill for major accounts (electricity, cable, internet, telephone, etc.)
- Documents related to the residence (purchase contract, mortgage, lease, school and municipal taxes, etc.)
- Documents related to the car (purchase contract, loan, lease, proof of insurance, registration, etc.).
- Documents related to school, employment or social assistance
- Insurance contracts (car, home, life, etc.)
- Internet access to accounts and passwords
- Proof of Permanent Residence
- Proof of refugee status
- Proof of citizenship (Canadian or other)
- Work Permits
- Names and contact information of your legal representative or immigration officer
- Health or vaccination record
- Drugs and Prescriptions
- Braces, orthotics, etc.
- Contact information for professionals in your file (social work, psychology, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, etc.).
- Favourite stuffed animal, doll or game
- Paci, slippers, favorite clothes
- Portable video game
- School material
- Teacher's name and contact information
- Last report card
- Address book
- Keys (car, house, post office box, etc.)
- Photographs of the contents and condition of the house at the time of departure
- Jewelry and small valuables
- Breaking the hold of IPV : reclaiming power over your life
- Safety planning : the empowerment powertool
- Technological self-defense guide for victims of IPV
- 14 criminal offenses in contexts of intimate partner violence
Find this article and many more in a printable format by downloading our SOS-info e-zine for free here.
Bien que la violence conjugale touche majoritairement des femmes, elle peut aussi toucher les hommes et les personnes issues de la diversité sexuelle et de genre. Les services de SOS violence conjugale sont offerts à toutes les personnes touchées par la problématique.