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Packing Your Bags

Contemplating leaving an abusive partner? Here is how to start preparing

  • February 17, 2016
  • By domesticshelters.org
Packing Your Bags

If you are not in immediate danger and are considering leaving your abusive partner, there are several things to keep in mind. First, connect with an experienced domestic violence advocate to create a safety plan. You can find a local advocate at DomesticShelters.org by entering your ZIP code.

Also, you know your abuser best, so think carefully through your situation and circumstances and do what is safest for you, when it’s safest. The suggestions below may help you plan ahead and are things to consider having with you when you are able to get away from your abuser. Consider hiding them in a secure, private place, or leaving them with a trusted friend. If you’re in danger and need to leave immediately, only take what you have time to grab, if you are able.

Keep in mind that you may not be able to return home again safely once you leave and should never do so alone. Again, talk through a safety plan with a domestic violence advocate or ask to be escorted by law enforcement if you do need to return home after leaving.

If you are able, think of other items you may need in addition to those on this list as you go through your daily routines.

Important Paperwork

● Birth certificates and social security cards for yourself and your children

● Driver’s license and/or passports

● W2s and paystubs

● Work permits

● Government benefits card

● Green card or immigration papers

● Marriage, divorce and custody papers

● Legal protection or restraining orders and records of any police reports you have filed

● Health insurance cards and medical records

● Your children’s school records

● Immunization records

● Financial records and bank account numbers

● Apartment rental agreement or lease, or house deed

● Car title, registration, and insurance documentation

Tip: Keep photos of these documents in a secure digital file. In some cases, photos will be sufficient proof of documentation, and in other cases, the photos will make it easier for you to replace the document if you need to leave without it.


● Cash and prepaid credit cards that can’t be traced

● Credit cards and the PIN numbers you need to withdraw cash

● ATM card

● Checks

● Small valuables you could sell if need be


● A post office box or safe address where you can forward your mail

● Phone calling card

● Prepaid cell phone or a cell phone with a new contract and number

● Your address book or cell phone contacts

Tip: If possible, secure new doctors, dentists, orthodontists, veterinarians, schools and other locations for yourself, your children and your pets so your abuser can’t find you in those places and make a list of the contact information for each to take with you.


● Current medications and prescriptions for yourself and your children

● Eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and any other medical devices you or your children need

Other items

● Pets, their records, and any needed items like food, a leash, bedding and medication

● Keys

● Clothing

● Small toys or books for your children

● Any keepsakes you would like to have

Tip: Leave a spare set of car keys with someone you trust in case the abuser takes yours to try to prevent you leaving.

It may feel like an overwhelming list, but do the best you can. Womenshealth.gov offers a printable list of items to bring and important phone numbers to have with you once you leave.

For more information on getting help and staying safe, you can also visit the Get Help page on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.