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What to Do in a Violent or Abusive Relationship

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Looking at the signs of an abusive relationship and realizing they might apply to you can be a shock. It can be really hard to recognize that your relationship might be violent or abusive. You might feel overwhelmed, or not sure what to do next. It’s okay to feel however you’re feeling right now.

Sometimes, people end up in situations they didn’t expect. How your partner treats you is not your fault, and the most important thing you can do right now is survive. Making a decision about what to do can take a long time. Trusting in how you feel and thinking about what you want can help you reach the happiness and safety that you deserve.

I think I’m in an abusive relationship! What do I do?

People who recognize they’re in an abusive relationship can feel anything from scared to helpless to empowered. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. Remember that being abused is not your fault. You can’t “make” someone abusive. Sometimes abusers tell their partners that they deserve it, but this is not true. No one deserves to be abused.

Deciding what to do about your relationship can be really hard. It can help to start thinking about things like:

  • How will I feel if I stay? What about if I leave?
  • How will my partner react if I leave or break up with them? Will I be safe?
  • Do I depend on my partner for money, food, medical care, housing, etc.?
  • Who can I talk to about my relationship?
  • Who can help or support me?

You’ll probably think about your relationship a lot. You don’t have to decide immediately, but you have two options: staying or leaving.

Deciding to stay

You might decide to stay in the relationship. If you stay, it’s not your fault if your partner keeps abusing you. Unfortunately, some people think that if you stay in an abusive relationship then you’re choosing to be abused. People who think this way might not understand how complicated relationships really are.

You can have a lot of different reasons to stay in an abusive relationship. Maybe you depend on your partner or you’re afraid of revenge. No matter why you decide to stay, you deserve respect. You deserve help when you want it. And people should always take you seriously.

If you stay, you can do things to try to be as safe as possible. Some examples are:

  • If you live with your partner, keep important things (like your legal documents and money) somewhere they can’t find them.
  • Look into ways of earning and saving money that aren’t accessible to your partner, like a private chequing account.
  • Keep spending time with other people who love and support you.
  • Use computers at a public library or at school so you partner can’t monitor you.
  • Give important contacts in your phone different names if you don’t want your partner to know who you’re contacting.
  • There are some types of birth control that don’t rely on your partner and that they can’t change. If you use birth control, try looking into the shot or an IUD.
  • If you are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired, you can register your cell phone with TEXT with 9-1-1. This lets you text 911 if you’re in an emergency.

Deciding to leave

Maybe you’ve decided now that you’re ready to leave an abusive relationship. You might wonder if you’ve made the right choice. You might also feel a mix of good and bad feelings.

Leaving an abusive relationship won’t look the same for everyone. For one person, it might just mean sending a breakup text and never seeing their abuser again. For someone else, it might mean moving to a new city.

No two situations are the same, so you’ll probably want to do a list of unique things when you leave your relationship. Researching local organizations that can help or shelter people who are facing abuse can help you figure out just what you need to do. They can also support you through the process.

Here are some things you might do:

  • Deleting and blocking their phone, email, and social media
  • Changing your social media, phone, and email
  • Telling your friends, family, school, or work
  • Changing your plans and schedules
  • Gathering all your legal documents
  • If you live together, planning for where to go and who to stay with
  • Finding a new job
  • Arranging for custody and support of children
  • Filing for divorce or separation if you’re in a marriage, civil union, or other legal partnership
  • Going to the police, if you want legal protection

You might feel loneliness, grief, or guilt after leaving the relationship. You can work through your feelings by talking to someone you trust. Ending a relationship is a major change. It’s totally okay to give yourself time and space to work through all the emotions that come with it.

More info:

  • SOS Violence Conjugale/Conjugal Violence

    24/7 crisis line for women who are or have been abused by their dating or romantic partner (dating/romantic). It can help connect people with phone counselors, shelters, and support centers.

  • Tel-Jeunes

    Tel-jeunes is a free, confidential resource for young people throughout Quebec, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can talk through texting, phone, or online chat and get a quick response.

  • Abusive Relationship Safety Plan – Scarleteen

    Detailed info on how to stay safe in an abusive relationship and how to leave. One section for if you live with your abuser, one for if you don’t.

  • Abusive Relationships – TeensHealth

    What an abusive relationship is, signs of abuse, signs your friend is being abused, and how to get help.

  • Intimate partner violence/sexual violence–Heart your parts

    Heart your parts describes what an unhealthy or abusive relationship and sexual violence can look like, and gives suggestions and Canadian resources for how to plan for safety when facing abuse.