Leaving an abusive relationship can be a dangerous time as the abuse is sometimes known to increase. To ensure you leave as safely as possible, make a safety plan where possible even if you’re not planning to leave straightaway.
Try to leave when the person abusing you is not at home, so they can't try to stop you. Try to arrange a place to stay before you leave and get advice about residency if you have any children.
Call the police on 999 if you have to leave in an emergency or if you have been assaulted. They may be able to arrest the abuser which could give you some time to leave safely.
There are a number of options if you are thinking about leaving:
Moving into a refuge
A refuge is a safe house for women or men and children escaping domestic violence. There are refuges for women and any children and separate refuges for men and any children. If you have children you can take them with you.
There are some refuges that have self-contained family units but most refuges will usually give you your own room for yourself to share with your children. Some refuges have disabled access with staff and volunteers who can assist women and children who have special needs.
There are over 500 refuges across the UK with 19 of these organisations offering refuge or safe house provision for male victims. You will usually not be unable to stay in a refuge in your local area for safety reasons. The refuge staff will want to be sure that the abuser will not be able to find you. You will need to be a safe distance from the areas that the abuser has associations with.
The address is kept secret and no-one is allowed in the building other than the other people who live there and staff.
A refuge is a place where you can be sure you are safe and where you can get help from staff who have some understanding of what you are likely to have been through.
Find out more about female and male refuges.
What about my pets?
We understand that for some people, the decision to leave an abusive relationship is made harder by the thought of having to leave a loved family pet behind as refuges are not usually able to accept pets.
Organising care for your pet takes time and a lot of planning. If you need to leave your home quickly and do not have time to organise fostering, it would be recommended to think about any family, friends or neighbours who could care for your pets in the meantime.
How to get a place in a refuge
Call the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 and they will help you find spaces in refuges across the UK. The police, social services and housing advice at your local council can also put you in touch with a refuge.
I want to stay in my own home
Along with legal measures to stop the abusive person coming into your home, other steps may be taken to help make the home safer such as:
- Changing the locks to stop someone getting in the home
- Fitting more secure locks, door chains, and peepholes for the front doors
- Reinforcing doors and door frames
- Installing window locks, bars, and grills
- Installing alarms, CCTV and security lighting
- Having a reinforced and lockable safe room in the house, from which the police can be called
Ask your local fire service about improving fire safety measures in the home. The police can give further advice on security measures.
If you are considered a high-risk victim of domestic abuse, you may be entitled to Sanctuary Scheme support from NIDAS.
Housing support from the Local Authority
You can apply to the council housing department as a homeless person if you can't stay in your home because of the situation. The council will offer you advice about finding somewhere to live and you may be entitled to emergency accommodation.
Get advice immediately if the council says it won't help you because it believes it would have been reasonable for you to stay in your home. The council may be breaking the law. Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 if you are entitled to legal aid or use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your area.
Help from social services
Some groups of people may be entitled to help from the social services department. This might be the case if you:
It is important to get support to help you leave safely, you can call the helpline numbers on this page or contact the organisations on the Get help now page.