14 February, 2023

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy, and in many situations, it can also be unsafe.

In fact, the period that follows leaving an abusive partner can be the most dangerous time for a survivor of abuse. The abuser may fear a loss of control and increase their abusive behaviours in an attempt to hold onto it.

Many people in abusive relationships will remain in their situation out of fear for their safety – and the safety of their kids or pets – if they do leave.

It often takes a lot of bravery, support, and planning to escape an abusive environment, and you may need to take some extra steps to stay safe once you’ve left.

We offer some suggestions to increase your safety here.

If you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 000.


Access Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave if Eligible

Paid family and domestic violence leave is now available for some Australian employees.

Full-time, part-time, and casual employees of medium and large businesses can now access 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave in a 12-month period.

Employees of small businesses can access the leave from 1 August 2023.

This paid leave ensures you can make arrangements and attend appointments required to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence without losing wages. This might include moving to a safe location, accessing police services, attending court hearings, or attending counselling.

This leave can also help reduce vulnerability for people concerned about their abuser visiting their workplace directly following the separation.

The Fair Work Ombudsman states:

“If an employee takes paid family and domestic violence leave, they have to let their employer know as soon as possible. This could be after the leave has started. An employer can ask their employee for evidence to show that the employee needs to do something to deal with family and domestic violence and it’s not practical to do that outside their hours of work.”

You can learn more about paid family and domestic violence leave here.


Consider Getting a Protection Order

If you’re worried about your safety, you may want to consider getting a protection order – also known as Apprehended Violence Orders or AVO.

This is a court order that bans someone from assaulting, harassing, threatening or stalking you, and the person can be charged if they break the order.

It’s a good idea to always carry a copy of the protection order with you and call the police if it’s broken. You should inform your employer of the situation if the order prevents your abuser from visiting your place of work.

You may like to speak to someone about whether this option is suitable for your situation. You can learn more about the application process here.


Change Your Routine

Wherever possible, try to mix up your routine so your abuser can’t predict where you’ll be.

This might include:

  • Avoiding your usual cafés and grocery stores
  • Driving a different car (e.g. borrowing a friend’s)
  • Leaving home or work at different hours
  • Taking a different commute route
  • Catching different buses or trains
  • Avoiding your usual gym or walking route
  • Changing any upcoming appointments they might know about.

If eligible, accessing paid family and domestic violence leave can support your safety by allowing you to take some time away from your workplace while you make arrangements and attend appointments.


Update Your Passwords and Privacy Settings

Survivors of domestic and family violence can be at high risk for online abuse. Unfortunately, advances in technology and social media have made it easier for abusers to stalk and harass their victims.

One way to protect yourself online is by updating the passwords on your social media, email, bank, and any other accounts. Choose strong passwords that your abuser won’t be able to guess.

Ensure all social media accounts are set to private and block your abuser wherever necessary. You may even like to consider getting a new phone number so your abuser can’t reach you.


Delete Location-Tracking Apps

Another way to protect yourself online is to deactivate the GPS setting on any location-tracking apps or spyware on your phone, such as Find my Friends, Snap Chat or Strava, or delete these apps altogether.

You should also avoid ‘checking in’ anywhere on social media or posting photos that may reveal your location. For example, avoid posting any photos that include street or shop signs or any identifiable buildings or landmarks.


Lean on Your Support Networks

It can be scary confiding in someone about what’s been happening behind closed doors. But it’s important that someone you trust knows about your situation so you have emotional support and a potential witness.

You might like to tell a friend, family member, colleague, or even a neighbour about what’s going on, and ask them to call the police on 000 if they witness any future abuse.

Remember that there is never an excuse for abuse, and it’s always the abuser’s choice to use abuse against their survivor. It’s not your fault, and you deserve to feel safe and respected in every relationship. Your loved ones just want to be there for you to help you stay safe and begin to heal.


Get Professional Support

Leaving an abusive relationship can take a huge emotional toll on survivors, and living with abuse can cause serious psychological damage. It’s important that you look after yourself during this difficult time.

Our experienced counsellors can help you process your experience in a safe environment free from judgement. They can work with you to explore your options and refer you to the appropriate support, including legal action where necessary.

You can learn more about our counselling service here, or call 1300 364 277 to book an appointment in person, over the phone, or via Zoom video call.


Other Support Services

1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732

DVConnect Womensline: 1800 811 811

DVConnect Mensline: 1800 600 636

Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 010 120

Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800

Lifeline: 13 11 14

We look at how to make a domestic violence safety plan and exit strategy here.