Whether you want to distance yourself from an abuser for safety reasons or you just want a fresh start, relocating locally or to a different city, state or area of the country is a big undertaking. To help you decide where to set up new roots, ask yourself these eight questions.
1. Will I be safe? Above all, consider your safety. Pick a place your abuser is unlikely to find you. However, if you have children with your abuser, make sure you know your state’s laws before moving with your children out of state. Be selective when telling family and friends where you’re headed, and ask them not to share your location with others. Your move will be worth it if it means you can breathe easier once you get there.
2. Where is the nearest domestic violence organization? Expanding on number one, it’s a good idea to check out where the nearest domestic violence program is located in relation to where you want to move, and determine if it is easily accessible. Here, you will find both emotional and practical support for after you leave, such as advocates, support groups, help with obtaining an order of protection, lay legal assistance, or referrals to other organizations that can help with donations if you’re in need of anything as you transition.
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3. How much will it cost? The farther away you plan to move, the more it will most likely cost you. Of course, costs also depend on the amount of belongings you plan to haul. Moving a studio apartment’s worth of items across town can cost as little as gas money and pizza for your friends who own pick-up trucks. But moving a larger household cross-country will be much more. In fact, the average cost to move a household 1,225 miles is $4,300, without accounting for the cost of gas, though renting a Uhaul truck for a few days can be under $1,000.
4. Do I know anyone there? Starting fresh in a new city can be liberating and a chance to reinvent yourself, but consider how lonely being away from family and friends might be. If you plan to move to a city where you don’t know anyone, have a plan for connecting with people once you get there. Consider joining a group through Meetup, look for your neighborhood’s Facebook page where you can connect with new neighbors, ask if your church has a sister congregation in the area, join a local moms group or enroll in a class.
5. Will I be able to find a job? Ideally, you’ll line up a job prior to relocating, and if you do, ask for soon-to-be employer if they’re willing to reimburse at least some of your moving costs. But if you don’t have a job to go to, research the local job market before deciding on a new place. Find out what kind of jobs are available, if they pertain to your skills and whether the salary will support your lifestyle. Which brings us to…
6. What is the cost of living there? Before moving, you’ll likely do your due diligence on how much it will cost to rent or buy a home in the new location. But don’t stop there. You’ll also want to compare costs for everything from groceries and gas to car registration and healthcare. Fortunately, there are plenty of cost-of-living calculators online, like this one from CNN Money.
7. Are there good schools nearby? If you have children, you’ll need to pay special attention to this one. Research area schools online or ask a local real estate agent for advice on which school districts are best. Remember to consider not only academics, but whether or not a school offers accelerated programs and what types of extracurricular activities are available. If you’re looking to learn a new skill or trade, you’ll also need to consider what higher education facilities are nearby. It might also bode well to mention that your children were witness to domestic violence and see if a school counselor on site has experience in helping children recover from trauma.
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8. What sort of community services and recreation are nearby? Moving away from an abuser is an ideal time to rediscover yourself and your own interests. If you wish to take up tennis again, you’ll probably want to steer clear of areas that see snow eight months out of the year. If outdoor activities interest you, see what communities have to offer by way of hiking and biking trails. If you love the ocean, now’s the time to head nearer to the shore.
Are you trying to get out of town but don’t have the means for a big move? Talk to an advocate at a local shelter, who may be able to connect you with resources to make it happen. And read “ Movers Help Domestic Violence Survivors Get Out” about a California company committed to helping survivors put miles between them and their abusers. Another option is to contact Angel Flight West, a company that connects survivors with volunteer private pilots to help them relocate.
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