Leaving an abusive relationship

If you are being subjected to domestic abuse of any kind including coercive controlling behaviour, physical or emotional abuse, it’s important to tell someone and remember you’re not alone. We deliver a range of courses that aim to empower women and can help you to process the experiences you are having at any stage.

It’s never too early or too late to leave an abusive partner. Your safety matters — if you do decide to leave, it is best to plan your exit carefully.   

Sometimes abusers will increase their abuse if they suspect you are thinking of leaving and may also continue to do so after you have left. Consequently, this can be a particularly dangerous time. It’s important to remember that ending the relationship will not necessarily end the abuse, but will be your first step to a new life.

What do I need to do to leave?

If you are thinking of leaving and can’t do it today, you can take steps now to prepare yourself to get out safely when you are ready.


Develop a list of safe friends (those whose address is not known to your partner) and safe places to go

Create a code word to use with friends, family, or neighbours to let them know you are in danger without the abuser finding out.

If possible, agree on a secret location where they can pick you up.


Have another mobile phone nearby- If possible have an additional mobile phone you can use e.g. a ‘pay as you go’ handset.


Memorise the helpline phone number or numbers of friends and family

Memorise the National Domestic Violence Helpline, which is a 24 hour, 7 day a week free phone number:

0808 2000 247 24

If you can memorise some of your friends’ or family’s numbers, then you will still be able to contact them when you leave, even if your partner takes your phone.


Try to collect the items to take with you, in case you need to leave quickly

Cash and identity documents, such as passport and driving license, are important but not essential.

Below is a suggested list of items which you can store away if you are able to hide them.

If you are in immediate danger leave without them.

  • Extra set of car keys which you can grab if your partner takes away your usual keys
  • Any medicines that you or your children need
  • Any evidence of the abuse or violence e.g. threatening notes, pictures of your injuries or damage to your property
  • Additional identity documents e.g. Birth certificates, immigration papers for you and your children
  • Clothing and sanitary items for a few days – an overnight bag
  • Financial information e.g. bank statements, mortgage statements, lease details e.g. for a car
  • A written copy of phone numbers or important addresses in case you cannot get to your mobile phone or address book

Additionally, consider opening your own bank account and storing money there if you can  do so safely.


Protect your online security

Stay safe and ensure your partner can not track your history on any device at home.

  • Use a computer at a public library to download information, or use a friend’s computer or mobile phone.
  • Try to save copies of all paper and electronic documents on an external USB drive which you can hide.

Read our section on covering your tracks for more advice.

When you leave an abuser, the most important thing is the safety of you and your children. If you are able to plan ahead, it will help you to have important information with you to support you wherever you go. The documents will also enable you to gain quicker access to any benefits.

For further advise and information, take a look at the Women’s Aid page on Making a Safety Plan and our tips on remaining safe once you’ve fled.

Where will I live?

We can provide emergency accommodation (refuge) for women escaping an abuser with nowhere to go.

Find out more on our emergency accommodation page.

For a full list of services we can provide, take a look at our services page.

Remember: you are not alone

Nottingham Central Women’s Aid has helped countless women and their families escape from abusive situations. Read about some of the women we have helped on the stories page.

To find out more about what support is available once you have left, read our page on life after leaving.
Life after leaving

If you need advise on recognising abusive situations, take a look at our page on recognising domestic abuse.
Recognising abuse