A request for advice

I was sent an email by someone requesting advice for their sister: she’s in a common situation, with an abusive spouse upon whom she is completely dependent financially…and she has kids. I’ve been asked what organizations she can turn to.

I’m an old guy in a long term stable relationship and have never had to turn to an external source for help, so I’m not much use. But I bet there’s expertise here that can provide good advice.


  1. ImaginesABeach says

    1-800-799-SAFE (7233) is the National Domestic Abuse Hotline in the US.

    Better advice might be possible if we knew the state or country?

  2. Jason Dick says

    There are women’s shelters around the country for helping with exactly this kind of situation. That seems, to me, to be a good place to check.

  3. NitricAcid says

    ImaginesABeach- Is that supported by the federal government? Will that still work during the shutdown?

  4. says

    Also, a lot of cops will ‘investigate’, which means ‘listen to the perp say it was just a spat, then walk away, even though half the time the door isn’t even all the way shut before the perp is beating the victim for calling the cops’. When the cops show up, she needs to be willing to insist they escort her and the kids someplace safe. Not all cops will, because sadly, a lot of cops are abusers themselves or buy into the ‘she was asking for it’ misogynistic crap.

    She needs to take the kids and get out, then call the domestic violence hotline and have someone there guide her to the shelter. She also needs to have as many people as possible willing to testify on her behalf, because the aforementioned misogynistic crap means that the cops tend not to do anything claiming ‘lack of evidence’. Something they will claim is present even if her face and his knuckles are still bloody.

    Ideally, she needs to blitz. Get out, grab as much of the money as she can (including things that can be fenced), file for divorce and custody and make the complaint at the same time. If she leaves him any out, any way to fuck her over, he will, and the courts will tend to be on his side more than hers. Cops don’t like dealing with domestic issues, they will ignore it as much as possible and try to make her go away, even if that means blaming her for what happens and leaving her in an unsafe situation.

    Or just shoot him next time he comes at her. I wish my sister had taken that option. She might still be alive today if she had.

  5. Emma Blake says

    Try here:


    I used to work for the one in my jurisdiction. I can only speak to the legal side of things, but they help with divorces, restraining orders, and custody determinations. If you’re eligible (based on income), it doesn’t cost you anything. They can also point you to shelters and that sort of thing. If nothing else, I’d say calling one of these numbers is a great place to start.

  6. Emma Blake says

    Just realized my comment was assuming U.S. Oh well. That’s all I can really provide advice for anyway — sorry if it’s not applicable.

  7. nancymartin says

    That fact that she acknowledges that she has to get out is important. She should grab as much financial info (cash is good but info will be power) as is safely possible and contact the local hotline. They will get her into shelter and, if they operate like they do in Maryland when I was a hotline volunteer, they will provide some level of legal support.

  8. says

    One tiny piece of advice that helped a friend of mine avoid some trouble: if she can’t get out first before calling the hotline, remember to call somewhere else innocuous immediately after, so that the redial doesn’t give you away.

  9. says

    Seconding, thirding, whatever-ing the national hotline advice. In the US at least, the national hotline is a very good place to start. The staff is generally well-trained and good at directing clients to local resources and advocates in their area.

    Wishing her well.

  10. bluefairy says

    Created an account just to chime in. One place for resources and advice in the US is http://www.womenslaw.org. There’s information and advice about staying safe as you plan to leave (the most dangerous part of an abusive relationship is often leaving). You can pick your state, and it’ll give you a run down on local restraining order regulations, custody law, divorce law, etc. There’s links and numbers for legal advice, shelters, local hotlines, helpful agencies at the national, state and local level.

    Please do not forget that computer use can be monitored, and if a trusted friend can find the information she needs (lists of what she needs to bring with her, local organizations, etc.) and pass it to her, that may be safer than her attempting to access it, unless she does so at a library or other terminal that is not at home.

    Also, again: 1-800-799-SAFE

  11. doubtthat says

    I don’t know anything about domestic violence shelters, but as a family law attorney I would say that in addition to finding a safe place, she should do one of the following:

    1) File for an emergency protective order and establish child support. The money will likely go through a state payment center, so money for the kid will start coming in and the person won’t have to contact the father directly. The protective order will criminalize any contact or attempted contact, meaning the police can be involved long before he’s close enough to get violent.

    2) File for divorce, obtain temporary orders including a restraining order. This won’t take much longer than a protective order — the temp orders can be set up ex parte — and the advantage of filing a divorce case is that in addition to requesting child support, she can set up spousal maintenance, as well. The extra funds can help her get re-established. The same prohibition on contact will apply.

    To be clear, all this should be done after she’s in a safe place, and multiple folks have given good direction for that.

  12. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    I don’t recommend doing any of those things first.

    The very first thing is to use someone else’s computer and/or a public computer to do a communication safety plan, starting with an internet safety plan.

    Here is a good place to start.

    that link is the internet safety page, other safety planning is on the same site, look top left for links on the internet safety page.

    In this day and age with call histories and internet histories, we need to pay specific attention to what an abusive partner might think of accessing the help of, say, an anti-DV shelter. The most dangerous time for a woman in a heterosexual abusive relationship is during the separation process. It can be particularly dangerous if the person acting abusively get wind of the DV label. Many are infuriated that they might be labeled “an abuser” as those are demonic folk that hate women, not good guys who really love their women but just had to hit them because reasons.

    Please encourage her to delete your e-mails and then check the trash & delete those as well. If you talk regularly on the phone, talking on the phone is better as it leaves no trace of content. If you don’t talk regularly on the phone, she should make a communication safety plan first.

    I don’t know what the abuser might or might not do, but one of the keys to understanding the situation is that she doesn’t either. Abused persons frequently under- or -over-estimate a partner’s capacity for violence. There’s no telling which side she’ll come down on, but odds are her assessment isn’t particularly accurate. Better to make a thoughtful plan in advance then stick to it.

  13. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Ooops, I want to clarify this last para:

    I don’t know what the abuser might or might not do, but one of the keys to understanding the situation is that she doesn’t either. Abused persons frequently under- or -over-estimate a partner’s capacity for violence. There’s no telling which side she’ll come down on, but odds are her assessment isn’t particularly accurate. Better to make a thoughtful plan in advance then stick to it.

    That doesn’t mean that other people are better at assessing the danger. It means that even the person who knows most about the situation doesn’t have a great chance of being right. The correct conclusion is that abuser’s reasons for abuse and their reasons for refraining from violence are different. You can’t know if someone is willing to engage in violence but held back by fear that if the violence is too extreme the partner will be driven away. This can be the most dangerous type of abuser, because when separation is initiated, the natural check on abusive behavior is lifted and who knows where and how the next inhibitor down the line operates…

  14. brakemanz says

    She should read the bible and ask her pastor what to do, – Nope! You asked for good advice not bad advice. Funny how the evangelical answer is the worst advice that anyone could give to a woman in her situation isn’t it?

  15. thinksanddrinks says

    I was going to suggest something, but WithinThisMind #6 said it best. Some might object to the final suggestion, but it might be the best one. These weave nearly-inescapable nets of financial and emotional dependence, and many significant-others (men are not immune to this) find it extremely difficult to get away.

    If friends or family are available who can shelter her, they might be the best bet. The bully will attempt to intimidate them, but one look down the barrel of a shotgun seems to take the wind right out of their sails.

    Many of the other answers are helpful, but the highest priority thing is to GET OUT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE (I know I’m shouting, but I meant it). Take whatever you can and leave. Get to a safe place. Get the legal process started. BUT: be aware that he can show up unexpectedly and, in that case, your life (lives, including children) will be at risk; be prepared to defend yourself. Use whatever means are necessary. It is a saying that has been hijacked, but it has wisdom: “It is better to be judged by twelve than to be carried by six.”

    Heed the advice that the police may not be helpful. Many are, but many are not. Don’t let it get into a situation where you depend on the cops to get you out.

    If you can, document as much as possible and get witnesses. If he intimidates witnesses, that might be better evidence (it is horrible, but the injustice system comes down harder on witness tampering than on domestic abuse).

    My niece recently went through some of this; she was pummelled while holding her infant. The cops actually helped her. (She took him back a few weeks later; societal and economic pressures are horrible, but he was jailed just after that on previous charges. I hope she comes to her senses, but statistics don’t favor that outcome.)

  16. thinksanddrinks says

    Sorry about an omission from my comment. In the section of the first paragraph that showed up as “These weave” I wrote, included in angle (“”) brackets, the following: “insert favorite perjorative”. It appears that anything in angle brackets is taken as an HTML tag. I should have known that; sorry.

  17. kimbeaux says

    Other commenters have already mentioned the most important things I can think of.

    Many local libraries have computers she could use without his being able to monitor. I would recommend this for researching her plan. Also, if there are any pets, having a plan to move them would head off emotional blackmail on that front.

    If it were me, I would try to find a place to stay that is not known to him (e.g., not her relatives)–if he can’t find her, he can’t threaten her.

    Remind her to take any proof she has of abuse (photos of injuries, maybe?) with her.

  18. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @thinksanddrinks, 20:

    I hope she comes to her senses, but statistics don’t favor that outcome.)

    An abused person who makes a choice to continue (or return to) living with someone acting abusively is **not** doing so because the person has yet to come to the person’s senses. As you stated, the societal and economic pressures can be horrible. It is not insensible to give in to such pressure.

    Furthermore, statistics do favor the outcome of getting free. As near as we can tell, most abusive relationships end with separation. However, the average woman (don’t know if it’s mean or median) in an abusive heterosexual relationship returns to the abusive partner 6 times before leaving permanently on the seventh.

    So it takes work and effort and negotiating pressure, but yes, that outcome is favored.

  19. Jackie Papercuts says

    I will comment on this if it is ever appropriate. So far, I’m pleasantly surprised with my current experience. This has gone better than textbook and is still very difficult. Hopefully, the gov. shutdown won ‘t leave us stranded.Very proud of my town and my community at this time. All things considered, it could have been much worse. It helps that we know the system and invested individuals within it.


  20. Jackie Papercuts says

    Leaving an abusive situation, while enduring the abuse of that situation is incredibly hard. Believe me when I say that I know that a brave, smart, practical person can be trapped in a prison with no walls. We often do what is expected of us, what we believe is the only moral thing to do. We do this even when it is not in our best interest. Navigating a different worldview is not something that person can do.

    If you think you are too smart or too strong to end up in an abusive relationship, you’re just wrong.

    People have these same beliefs about cults. They think, as I once thought, that only the desperate, the naive and the weak are caught up in cults. That belief usually comes with the belief that the believer is far too smart and strong willed to ever end up desperate or hobbled in any way. It is comforting, I’m sure, to cherish these beliefs. I’m sure it feels warm and cozy. But people of all ages, class, etc. get stuck in cults and they all get trapped in abusive relationships too. Gosh darn it, reality is hard! I suppose if my friend, who has severe PTSD, had not have gotten cat-called today at the library, I might feel like sympathizing with people who think feeling comfortable is their right. But she was…
    So, fuck those people.

  21. says

    I echo the public library (take the kids to a story reading or sponsored kid activity at the library), or to set up a “play date” for the kids if possible at someone’s house and use their computer (if you have someone you can trust; from my own experience, I know that may not be possible because abusive spouses go out of their way to alienate potential friends.)

    If you can, take the jewelry, take the tax returns (ESPECIALLY a copy of last year’s return; a good lawyer can really expedite custody payments with that information and having trouble providing that sort of paperwork is a way for the spouse to avoid a realistic custody payment), take anything you can fence. Take clothes, take things you’re attached to (pictures and the like are often burned as revenge if the abuser thinks they can get leverage that way), take a favorite toy for each child (something they can use as transition between living at home and staying at a shelter or new home), take the kids’ insurance cards (another delaying tactic is to use that info to punish the kids and the fleeing spouse), their birth certificates, their social security cards and your bc and ss card (my ex destroyed all my identification as the relationship started to get awful). Any important paperwork should go with you. Take your wallet, any spare cash around the house, and some sort of portable food (granola and the like).

    Surrender the pets to a surrogate family or your local humane society if you have them. Abusive exes can and do take it out on the pets. (Mine took it out on my cat.)

    The following is my full on paranoia speaking, take with a grain of salt:

    Don’t take your cell phone. A “sympathetic” person at your phone company could potentially help your ex find you that way on newer model smart phones with GPS technology by claiming it’s “lost”. Don’t take newer model cars for that reason, either. Cars with OnStar technology can be remotely located if they are claimed to be stolen.

  22. left0ver1under says

    Kimbeaux’s point about libraries is good, though an abuser might control the spouse’s movements to prevent that. AFAIK, using a “free” email service won’t leave traces of email on the hard drive, and the username and password can be remembered, the abuser unable to see it or prevent memorization.

    I doubt the woman being discussed is in Canada, but for those who are and know someone being abused, there is the Elizabeth Fry Society:


    And if someone wants a way to browse without leaving traces on the computer, may I suggest downloading the QtWeb browser? It is based on Apple’s Webkit, so it is modern and fully functional, though there’s no java. The portable version is a single executable, easy to hide in a system subdirectory:


  23. says

    And don’t feel bad about taking the paperwork and jewelry: you’ll be preventing the abuser from hurting your children. No matter how you feel about the situation (and it’s okay to feel any way you need to), this will really help your children get support and stay in the healthiest situation possible.

  24. Francisco Bacopa says

    Houston Area Women’s Center is a good place if you are in southeast Texas:


    And sometimes cops are quite cool with the whole domestic violence situation, I called the Montgomery County TX Sheriffs on myself in a domestic violence incident. I did not believe I could safely leave my ex-gf’s home without resorting to more force than I thought acceptable.

    The police were totally cool. They first wanted to secure all weapons, but once they were all clear they interviewed us separately, gave each of us a chance to press charges, which we both declined, and supervised me while I loaded my stuff into my car and got out.

    They understood their shit. They asked all kinds of questions and had references to all kinds of resources. I have to give them my props for realizing that I had a place to live and just wanted to get away. They had plenty of help available if this had been a more serious DV situation.

  25. thinksanddrinks says

    mouthyb, Vagina McTits #26: Listen to her. They will exploit ANY possibility. I mourn her cat.

    I would take the car, but then, I’m an electrical engineer and know a lot about stopping activation of such things as radios. It would be much better to drive it somewhere where it can be watched and obstructed for evidence. (Loading it up as a car bomb to trap him, while entertaining and satisfying, would be illegal.) Disabling and blocking the vehicle would at the least make it inconvenient and costly; it might make it evidence against him. Cutting all of the spark plug wires works wonders; so does removing the serpentine belt. Smashing the battery with a hammer or rock will slow things down.

  26. says

    Monitor note:

    thinksanddrinks @ 30:

    (Loading it up as a car bomb to trap him, while entertaining and satisfying, would be illegal.)

    Please remember not to write anything that could be interpreted as a threat or an invitation to self-harm.

    IV. You will be banned from the blog if: You make threats of physical violence or harassment.

    The Rules

  27. thinksanddrinks says

    I said it wouild be illegal. Sheesh. Please get a grip. In fact, if saying what I said is grounds for being banned, fuck off.

  28. chigau (違う) says

    thinksanddrinks #32
    Read “The Rules” at the link in Caine’s #31.
    It’s not really about you.

  29. jdmuys says

    to #27 left0ver1under:

    qtweb doesn’t look like it will work on my computer. Before you ask, yes, it has an Apple on it. You just made an unwarranted assumption.

    That being said, many modern browsers have a private browsing option that doesn’t leave any trace. On Safari on my Mac, it’s “Private Browsing” in the “Safari” menu.

  30. Parse says

    left0ver1under @ 27

    Kimbeaux’s point about libraries is good, though an abuser might control the spouse’s movements to prevent that. AFAIK, using a “free” email service won’t leave traces of email on the hard drive, and the username and password can be remembered, the abuser unable to see it or prevent memorization.

    Depending on the abuser’s level of paranoia and technical expertice, they may resort to a key logger (which will serve up the username and password) – or even use force on the victim to get them to turn over the credentials, if they think they’re keeping a secret.
    If there’s no choice but to use the home computer:
    – Use a private browsing window for all important business
    – Try to make a second reason to be online (such as looking up recipes, store reviews, online shopping/browsing), and do that in a non-private window while doing the actual, private business. It won’t leave suspicious gaps in browser history, and it provides an excuse (if needed) as to why they’re on the computer.

  31. yubal says

    There were useful contacts/advice posted above.

    Getting help is important. What is also important is to prepare the exit in case it has to be in a hurry. I throw a few things out.

    -get photocopies of ALL documents and store them safe, e.g. with the relative who wrote PZ, even if you think you can grab the originals. You never know if you can get them when it happens or if you will forget some in the hurry. Vaccination records for the kids? School records to enable smooth transition to a new school? Tax records? All of it! You need a copy of everything you have on paper at home.

    -create bank accounts you can wire money to the day you move out. That is NOT illegal if your account is mutual and you should secure most of the cash (<-verify that with your local laws before you take advice from the internet!). Get the money out of the bank as soon as it arrives. You DO want to have cash in your pocket, not in a bank.

    – record the abuse. Establish evidence in any way possible. e.g. Talk with your children about "why daddy was angry yesterday?" and videotape that. That might save them several hours talking to a stranger and also builds your case. Delete all pictures/films from your devices after you secured them.

    – use a flash drive to store relevant information, never on a hard drive. Use password protection for the flash drive. Make backups with your relative or someone else you can trust.

    -borrow a phone from a neighbor/friend/relative if you think he checks the phone records. Or just have your relative register one for you. You need a new number anyways.

    – make sure you are organized and have enough cases, bags etc. for the moment you leave. Have someone standing ready to help you! Your time window might be as small as "his daily ride to the liquor store".

    good luck.

  32. laurentweppe says

    Also, if there are any pets, having a plan to move them would head off emotional blackmail on that front.

    Great advice: hurting the pets as punishment/threatening to hurt them to assert control is one of the most often used and less often mentionned domestic abusers’ vicous trick. Vengeful exes can hurt their own children to retaliate, so pets are in no way safe.

  33. roland72 says

    I’ve never been in a situation like this, but please don’t blithely advise people “you must get out now” or anything like that. The problem being, if they don’t get out? Then is the continuing abuse their fault? There are no easy solutions.

    I think that Captain Awkward is a useful resource here. In particular, I think the commenter Marie, who escaped from a situation something like this, has good things to say. This thread may help:


  34. roland72 says

    I should say there are many other threads in Captain Awkward which touch on what to do when your boundaries are being violated – in both relatively trivial and serious ways – and links to various resources. Much of this could be relevant. Also there was a good thread on what calling an abuse helpline is actually like – this could prove useful too.


    I would think that finding a safe place to access this is a good idea – the library springs to mind as a possibility, as others have suggested.

  35. cullen says

    The statements about police not really investigating and the ex being in control, danger to pets, future financial stability, getting the kids into new schools, etc etc etc makes this much harder…

    Still, hard as it is – get the kids out, get yourself out, then worry about everything else. Take some cash with you if you can. Go to a relative’s, go to a shelter, do whatever just get out.

    It would be nice to do as much as possible to ‘soften’ the exit for the abused person, but the reality is physical safety is paramount and the reasonable expectation of someone currently in an abusive situation thinking clearly enough to do all those things to set up a soft exit for themselves is pretty unlikely IMHO.

    Also, the chance of discovery of preparations to leave might mean an immediate escalation of the violence. Perhaps fatally.

    Solidly in the ‘get out now’ school of thought.

  36. carlie says

    thinksanddrinks, stop. You are not only violating the published commenting rules, you are most definitely not helping. This thread specifically was put up to get resources to help someone who is in actual trouble, and it doesn’t need you throwing a tantrum all over it.

    If the sister who emailed in can afford to, she could get a cheap pay per use phone for her sister to use. The cheapest flip phones can still be gotten for around $20, and another $20 buys enough minutes for research calls to shelters and such. She just shouldn’t keep it at home. And she can be reassured that many (if not most all) shelters for domestic abuse do not give out their address, so the abuser can’t show up there. With regard to documents to accumulate, I second the advice to photocopy and stash the photocopies somewhere (like the sister’s house) so that they’re all just there waiting if needed, and the spouse doesn’t notice their absence, and if she doesn’t have time to grab the originals before leaving at least she has the info.

    I’ve seen a couple of comments upthread about going to the sister’s house when she leaves – I’d say absolutely not. When she’s ready to go, she needs to go straight to a shelter. Her relatives are the first place he’s going to go looking for her, and they won’t be any more capable of stopping an abuser in a rage than she is. And it goes without saying, but don’t let on a single bit to the kids, at all. They need to have zero knowledge of it until they’re in the car and on the way out, because kids just can’t not let something slip.

  37. ceesays says

    Cripdyke and MouthyB so far are the two people whose advice should be listened to, speaking as someone who has been there and got out – allayou saying “leave” need to realize that it’s far easier said than done, and you may not realize the full controlling extremes that abusers go to in order to keep their victims right where they are – walking away with little more than the clothes on your back is about the best you can expect, and once you do that, you are in the most danger you have ever been in in that relationship, and by danger i mean of losing your life.

    And please don’t mistake the laws about this to count for any realistic protection or justice.

    Leaving is what ultimately has to be done, but I can’t even begin to explain how difficult it is to actually pull off. But you know what helps? a good network full of people who know the situation and are willing to support the escaped survivor, and in lieu of that –

    Money. And there is no WIC in the U.S. at the moment, if I’m reading the political situation correctly.

  38. says

    The knee-jerk reaction: get out now! Realistically that’s not as easy as it sounds. This person is likely isolated. I was. Whether she isolated herself due to embarrassment or fear or whether he isolated her. She is. She needs a network of people rallying around her. She needs a safe place. Likely not the local women’s shelter because he will probably find her there. She needs financial assistance because without money she is at his mercy.

    A few questions:

    1) Is it the abused sister who wants to know what organizations she can turn to because she wants the abused to get out?

    2) Is the abused ready to get out and does she want to know what organizations there are?

    3) If the abused is ready to get out, why is the sister emailing you to find organizations? Google search will easily turn them up.

    The reason I am asking these things is that, it’s okay for the sister to encourage the abused to seek help. But if she isn’t ready to get out it may cause a rift where more isolation occurs. I know. I’ve been there. The first place the abused needs to be able to turn is her sister/family. The very first thing this woman needs to do is let her know that she is loved, she is worth something and that no matter if she’s ready or not she’ll be there for her.

    In a lot of these instances the “support system” gives up on the abused because they aren’t ready when they are. That’s the last thing she needs.

  39. smhll says

    Many abusive partners will invade privacy. Some abusive partners will go so far as to take away keys or even lock their partner in.

    So, (B), if you are using your car for escape, it can be helpful to have a spare key that is hidden in a non-obvious place. (I know the electronic ones cost a lot, though.)

    And (A), my friend who recently got divorced had a husband who went so far as to put a keylogger on her computer. I think that enabled him to track her password changes and access everything she wrote.

  40. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says


    The knee-jerk reaction: get out now! Realistically that’s not as easy as it sounds.

    QFT your entire comment, especially this part.

    Where are you going to go? How are you going to care for your children? School? Daycare? Can you work or find a job or do you need skills training first? How far can you go? What precautions do you need to make sure he doesn’t find you? Will he follow your family/friends around and be lead to you? Is there some asshole in your family that’s sympathetic to the whole “he’s the father he has the rights to see the kids” that could find out where you went and snitch on you? If you take the car to run further away, is there a way to hide it if the husband calls the cops to declare you missing and is your name on the car so you can take it?

    One thing a lot of people don’t realize is shelters usually have wait lists too. Homeless or DV, I’ve been told several times there was no space and to just keep calling. So if you plan is to run to a shelter, you have to call first. (Or have someone, like your sister making the call) Otherwise, you finally make your break only to find out there’s no space. :(

    And this is just the tip of the iceburg. Like if you have kids in school or daycare, and he’s legally the father with rights, once he finds you he can just go and pick them up. Unless you have some sort of protection from that. When I went to get a protection order, they wouldn’t include my daughter since she was an infant and he hadn’t hit her. I was told I had to go to family court “to solve the drama”. (How old are the kids anyways? Are they brainwashed like father like son situation that will fight to stay with their father? That’s a whole nother thing to think about…)

    It’s a shitty situation to be in, and I’m so, so sorry. The only thing I can say is call the hotlines, without knowing a smaller location area. The hotlines also have resources for lawyers and other things besides shelters. If there’s a shelter that has security, you can go there as well. I personally favored the shelters with security and daycare on site over the DV shelters because of that protection. That’s how I got around the whole “he can pick up my child from daycare if he finds her” problem for the first 5 years. (Maybe DV shelters in your area are better though)

    My situation was so different than yours though (probably) that my solution won’t be of any help.

    But just in case, fyi: We were homeless as a family so we went into a shelter together. This one has security and a daycare on site, just down the road my school/work. It took a month but he hit me again. It was the worst attack yet. I couldn’t do anything til morning (slept with his arm around my neck holding a knife) but that’s when I put my child in daycare on site, told the front guards and called the cops. The cops did their usual “Why didn’t you call earlier? I’m sorry sir, I have to arrest you. I understand there isn’t any marks but that’s how it goes. You should be out tonight anyways.” Went to my campus and told the security there and gave them the relevant paperwork. I had co-workers and fellow student walk with me all the time just in case. He was trespassed off property and arrested for being there. So the most dangerous part of my day became the way back and forth, but I got through it, until I could find a better solution and disappear.

    Seven years later, I think I’m out and fine. I finally get an apartment instead of shelter hopping and the bastard has found me again.


    At least I have the Horde. :)

    *snuggles in piles of hugs*

  41. pHred says

    I have no useful advice to offer. I ran across most of the continental US to get away from my situation but there were children involved. (Technically I was the child involved actually). I had no idea what I was doing and would not suggest that strategy to anyone.

    But I did want to offer a large carafe of virtual hot chocolate and fluffy stuffed animals for anyone who needs them.

    Take care.

  42. pHred says

    Sorry that should have said *no* children involved.

    Here is more virtual chocolate to apologize for my inability to actually read my preview properly.

  43. Joshua says


    I am the brother who emailed PZ. I would like to thank him for making the post, and I would like to thank everyone else for the helpful comments.

    To clarify, my sister lives in the U.S. in Washington State. Also, she is not afraid of violence or reprisal if she leaves him and she is not in a situation where she needs to take extravagant steps to hide her activities from him. She just feels trapped by finances. She is not completely dependent on him financially she does have a job, but she doesn’t feel that she earns enough to support all of her kids without his help.

    I will relay the information that you all shared and hopefully she will be able to set up a plan that doesn’t involve putting up with the problem.

    Again, Thank you all.

  44. says

    Thank you for clarifying, Joshua! What a relief that she isn’t in a violent situation! Though emotional, verbal and financial abuse can be just as bad and leave just as many, if not more, scars. Bruises heal, words rattle around in your head, well, maybe forever. It’s been a few years and I still hear them in my head just like they were this morning.

    Hopefully, yes, she can figure out a plan to get herself out if that’s what she feels is necessary. It sounds as though she can afford to be strategic about it, though, which is a major plus. Having a plan – a plan to save some money, if possible – can be invaluable. It will not only rescue her from the situation, but give her something else to focus on until the plan can be executed.

  45. Stella says

    It may be dated by now, but this book was very helpful to me in 1987:
    Learning to Leave: A Women’s Guide
    by Lynette Triere and Richard Peacock. It was especially useful to me in sorting out the emotional challenges of separating, and I used to keep several copies on hand to give to other people in similar situations.



  46. says

    All great advice re: getting your ducks in a row as much as possible, especially as far as tax returns, ID etc., before you decide to leave—or have to leave rightthissecond. The catch, as others have pointed out, is that when you are in survival mode, it is beyond difficult to see past the haze of fear and confusion enough to focus on even taking simple and practical steps. But still, it’s really good advice: anything you can anticipate and plan for beforehand is one less daunting obstacle afterward. Wish I’d heeded it instead of leaving with nothing but my handbag and having to cajole and scheme in dealing with my ex to get access to every. fucking. thing. I have no kids, but I do have a much loved cat; although the ex never threatened to mistreat her (and I doubt he would…although neglect was a distinct possibility), he certainly used her to get access to me, and to manipulate and control me in other ways. I eventually got “custody” in my divorce.

    For some good news re: pets, there has been a continuing trend in more shelters taking in pets, and for good reason:

    Today, national data show that more than 40% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations out of fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind. Plus, more than 70% of pet owners who enter shelter report that the abuser has threatened, injured or killed family pets.

    *throws another pile of hugs to JAL*

  47. says

    I don’t want to understate the severity of my sister’s situation. She is in danger. There is violence. Its just not the ‘fly into a rage, kick holes in doors, punch wife in the face’ kind of violence. The problem is that he has apparently raped her in the past, he tried to rape her again, and in the process injured her shoulder bad enough that she may have to have surgery, and he may try to rape her again. This is why it is important to me that she leave him soon and why I want to make it as easy for her as possible to be able to make that choice.

  48. reeniebess says

    She’s “not in danger, just” being raped and kept in economic slavery? Ummm… Guess what –she IS in danger of violence and she is already experiencing it! These forms of abuse *usually*, not just “often”, escalate when the person tries to leave. How do I know? First, I was in such a relationship, and then later worked at a DV shelter for years.
    One poster’s advice to not push the victim to leave is correct. In giving advice it’s important to offer it sincerely but non-judgmentally. Expect it to apparently be ignored! In most cases it DOES take many tries to leave and STAY gone. Give your sister no indication that she is upsetting you when she is initially unable to leave. Expect rationalizations out the wazoo. Her pride demands that she not admit how stupid she feels for “letting herself” get in this situation.

  49. says

    @reeniebess #56
    I never said she was not in danger. Just that the danger isn’t of the nature people are describing. Yes there is the possibility that he could escalate if she tried to leave him, but as of right now its not like he is trying to monitor her life so she can safely talk on the phone etc without having to take extreme precautions to protect herself. Also, I’d appreciate it if you would be more careful with your use of quotes. Your quoted material isn’t anything I said.

  50. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    @ Joshua #57

    She may be inhibited about telling you everything. Living with a partner that abusive skews your thinking. She may minimize the problems out of shame or thinking she is being “too harsh on him”. I’m glad you are on her side, though because she needs help.

    Here are somethings I didn’t see covered as yet:

    1. If you have a USB, set up PortableApps on it. Run your web browser from there (Firefox, Chrome, is there for sure). You can also use a word processor on the USB, and store documents on the USB. When you use PortableApps, you leave no traces on the computer. Works with Windows. There are sites for Apple, but I don’t use Apple products so I am not familiar with them. Google should help you there.
    2. Take pics. You can send them to the microcard in a smart phone or access a Google plus account to send pics to the cloud. Take the microcard when you go if you are concerned about him tracing your phone. Take pics of the things in the house that could disappear and you can’t haul them now. Put a dated newspaper on a flat surface if you are photographing some special stereo or computer stuff he has and may try to claim is not valuable. Photos of license plates are useful, motorcycles, cars, boats, trailers, trucks. Get the lot. If you are scared about taking papers, take pics of the papers. Take pics of the house itself and take older ones with you. Tends to rebut the allegation that you were lazy/bad housekeeper/etc. Take lots of pics.
    3. If you can, carry cash on your person. Two $50 bills can get you a cab out of there in a rush if you have to. Emergency bag ready, if you can do so safely.
    4. Best advice, get out as safely and quickly as you can. Take yourself and kids, if you have them. The rest is details.

    Speaking from about 25 years of dealing with domestic violence cases as a lawyer, and maybe 10 years volunteering at shelters for women.
    Note: As for taking videos of the kids talking about daddy being angry, you might not want to do that. I have seen court situations where tapes of the type came up and were not seen as convincing, but rather as manipulative. Also it is really hard to question kids without unconsciously directing them. Maybe something of the kind could be done later on the advice of a lawyer.

  51. says

    Joshua @ 57, you might want to consider creating a WP account or logging in some other way, which does not include a hyperlink in your nym. Just a thought, given the situation.

  52. Pteryxx says

    to Joshua #54:

    She is in danger. There is violence. Its just not the ‘fly into a rage, kick holes in doors, punch wife in the face’ kind of violence.

    …and that’s supposed to make what difference? That’s supposed to be reassuring?

    Destroying items or parts of the house or leaving visible damage happens to be the kind of violence most likely to convince police or a judge to take the victim seriously. The lack of it doesn’t mean a damn thing as far as safety.

    My abusive ex-partner didn’t do much physical damage, just yelling and threats. He still choked me unconscious when I turned my back and tried to leave the room. The abuser’s most likely to do something extreme when their partner tries to leave. How the abuser acts the rest of the time is not indicative.

    This is why it is important to me that she leave him soon

    …pardon, it’s important TO YOU that she leave? How important is it right now to HER? Does she know you’re asking for contingency plans here? Has she said that she’s trying to get away, or are you trying to feed her the info to encourage her? I appreciate that you want her to be safe and get away from this person, but you need to be careful not to accidentally make the situation worse.

    I strongly suggest that you not only alert her to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, but that you call it yourself, so you can explain the situation confidentially in as much detail as you wish, rather than bring up specifics in a comment thread like this one. Ask them how you can best help.


  53. Eric says

    SafePlace for Austin, TX-area residents. It is a great organization doing great work.

    Assuming U.S. and assuming not Austin-based, then I second the earlier references to the Nat’l Domestic Abuse Hotline.

  54. says

    Okay, Joshua. I am not criticizing what you’ve said here. Hear me loud and clear when I say, YOU ARE DOING GREAT! Thank you for standing with your sister. Had I not had someone standing with me I probably would never have left. When you are in the situation it is very hard to think rationally, even when you think your thinking rationally.

    You did say this, though:

    Also, she is not afraid of violence or reprisal if she leaves him

    When I decided I wanted out, even though my husband had been violent and could fly into a rage, I was sure he wouldn’t kill me. After all he hadn’t to that point. Even though when I told him it was over, face to face, and he took a gun and some bullets with him, I was sure he wouldn’t kill me. I called my friend who was standing in my corner to tell her he’d left and that I was relieved. Her very first words to me: “Get your shit together and get over to my house now! Desperate people do desperate things. What if he comes back?!?”

    She should be afraid of reprisal. Because desperate people do desperate things. He may seem calm and collected, but to maintain his control of the situation you do not know what he will do. She, on the other hand, needs to remain calm.

    I am not telling this to scare you. That same friend had to convince me that, even though my husband had never struck me with his fist, being choked and having my hair pulled out by the roots was abuse. Stupidly I was never afraid he was going to “really hurt me”. I wasn’t afraid. WTF?!? My friend had to point out to me that he could lose control and not know where to stop. What about the next time? All I’m saying is: Just because the violence isn’t “that bad yet” doesn’t mean it won’t be the next time. This sort of thing usually escalates.

    I know that you already know all of this or you wouldn’t be trying to help her get out. I reiterate to you: Is she ready? Is she making a plan? Or are you making plans for her? Ask her if she wants to leave and if she’s ready to leave yet? And be patient with her if her answer isn’t what you want it to be.

  55. says

    I have some more questions:

    If she is ready to get out, does she have a place to go? Does she have close friends or family in the area? If she gets out successfully now or very soon what are her immediate needs: Money? Childcare? A second job? What is her skill set? I’m asking this for a specific reason. I’m in Georgia so I can’t help with much of that, but I’m willing to do what I can if and when she’s ready.

  56. says

    This will be the last time I will post in this thread. First I want to say that I really appreciate all the advice everyone has provided. I really care about my sister, and I fear for her safety. Any help that I can get her is better than nothing.

    For those posters who want to take this appeal for help and turn it into some sort of argument. Fuck you. Anything I have said about the situation my sister finds herself in has been intended to make it more clear what her circumstances are, not to make excuses for his behavior or the situation.

    What little I have shared of her situation was meant to explain how things are for her now. She is free to come and go as she wishes. He is not monitoring her phone. She can freely talk about the situation when she is not around him. What I said above was only intended to explain that this is the current state of things.

    Rape is horrible and I do not appreciate it being suggested that I, in some way,l think that it is less horrible than generic physical abuse.

    Again, Thank you PZ for the post, and thank you to everyone else for all your helpfull responses. I will occasionally look back in to see if anyone has any further advice.