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Home / Articles / Escaping Violence / 6 Questions to Help You Escape Abuse and Find a Safe Place

6 Questions to Help You Escape Abuse and Find a Safe Place

It’s not always an easy move when it’s time to find a new place to get away from an abuser

moving out after domestic violence

This piece was originally published in 2015. It was updated in 2024. 

You’ve decided you need to leave an abusive partner. But if you’re sharing a home, this can feel especially daunting as you’ll have to figure out where to go. Uprooting your life, even temporarily, is no small feat. But you know that your safety and, if children are involved, their safety, is of the utmost importance. 

For some, the answer of where to go is obvious—perhaps you have family who are ready to take you in or you’ve covertly saved up enough money to move to your own place. But often, finding a safe place to go is more challenging than that. 

The fact is, the most dangerous time for a domestic violence survivor is when they leave. That’s when the abuser realizes they’re losing control over the survivor and often takes drastic—and sometimes deadly—steps to regain it. Even if an abuser hasn’t been physically abusive in the past, it’s important not to underestimate what could happen when you actually leave. 

That’s why having a safety plan in place and choosing a safe place to go are vital steps to take to ensure your safety. When considering your next move, here are six questions to ask yourself:

1. How quickly do I need to get out? 

        Trust your instincts here. If you feel like you need to leave in a hurry, then don’t hesitate. If your abusive partner has threatened to kill you, take this threat seriously. Consider leaving immediately. Go to a friend or loved one’s home (preferably somewhere an abuser wouldn’t know to look) or call your local shelter and let them know you’re in immediate danger. You could also head to a motel for a few nights, if able. Turn off tracking on your phone, don’t use a credit card the abuser has access to and take all other necessary precautions

        If ever you are in imminent danger, call 911. Responding officers can refer you to an emergency shelter and stand by while you collect some of your belongings.

        If you don’t need to leave urgently—and it’s safe to do so—reach out to an advocate, so they can help you plan your escape for a date ahead. They can brainstorm with you safe places to go, what you need to bring with you, recommend a shelter that fits your needs or connect you with housing vouchers. Find an advocate near you by entering your city or ZIP on our home page

        2. Would an abuser come after me at a loved one’s house? 

          If an abuser has ever made threats against your family or friends, it’s best not to go to one of their homes if the abuser knows where they live—it could put your friend or family member at risk. In such cases, going to a shelter or staying with someone the abuser doesn’t know could be the best bet.

          In addition to safety, another reason going to a shelter may be better than staying with a friend or loved one is knowing you are surrounded by people—including staff and fellow residents—who understand what you’re going through. 

          “Let’s say a survivor isn’t able to sleep at night and needs someone to talk to at one o’clock in the morning,” says Lesley Samuel-Young, vice president of domestic violence residential programs at Urban Resource Institute in New York. “At a shelter, that person could find somebody with whom he or she can speak at any time of day or night.”

          3. How close to my original home do I need to be? 

            If you have a job, consider how long of a commute to work is feasible. If you are escaping with children, is remaining close to their daycare, school district and/or extra-curricular activities important to you? If so, seeking out a shelter or other safe housing option in your area could be the best thing for you and your children. On the other hand, if you’re worried about an abuser showing up at your child’s school, try looking for a shelter that provides schooling options until you can figure out a more permanent solution. 

            4. Do I need to find somewhere that will let me bring my pets?

              Survivors will often stay longer with an abusive partner because they don’t want to leave their pets behind and possibly place them in danger. It can also make choosing a place to go a little more difficult, though not impossible.

              “If somebody is a pet owner, that is certainly going to weigh on whether they go to family or friends, because family or friends may not be able to accommodate additional pets or have them for very long,” Samuel-Young says. 

              The good news is that shelters are increasingly becoming pet-friendly, so be sure to speak with an advocate about options. If you can’t get into a shelter that will accommodate your pets, read up on other tips for pet safety planning.

              5. Do I need additional services? 

                If you need childcare assistance, drug or alcohol counseling, employment assistance, immigration advocacy or other specialty services, ask your advocate to help you find resources that provide these services. 

                According to the database, about 80 percent of shelters provide some level of counseling or support groups. That’s important when it comes to healing.

                “All of our programming offers the opportunity for building community because people are going through or have gone through similar traumatic events,” Samuel-Young says. “They have the opportunity to share and make friends, which promotes healing and helps with the resilience of residents.”

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                6. What else do I need to consider?

                If it’s safe to do so, reach out to shelters in your area prior to leaving to narrow down your options. When you call, have this list of questions to ask when considering a shelter handy. 

                If you believe escaping to a different city or state is necessary for your safety, read “Flying the Survivor Skies” about a nonprofit that will fly survivors to a new location, free of charge. And once you get settled somewhere, look into how to keep your new address hidden from an abuser