It's normal to think "nothing bad could ever happen to me." "He won't really make good on his threats." "She would never actually do anything that crazy if I break up with her." In a lot of cases, that's true - the talk is bigger than the action, but the problem is, you'll never know for sure until it's too late.
No one ever thinks they'll be a victim of abuse. Surprisingly, many abusers don't even think they'll hurt someone...until it happens. That's why it's so important to be prepared and take some simple steps to be safe.
Breaking up is never easy and especially when there is abuse involved. Here are some of the reasons why it can be so tough to end a relationship:
- Love: You care about your boyfriend or girlfriend. There are good sides to that person and sometimes, they're loving or good to you, but it's important to remember that no relationship is worth feeling afraid or being hurt.
- Fear: You might be scared that your boyfriend or girlfriend will hurt you or themselves if you try to leave them. Keep reminding yourself that the abuser does this to control you and you can reach out to others for help.
- Embarrassment: It's not easy to admit that the relationship you are in isn't healthy, especially if you're worried about losing friends because of a break up. You might also be worried that your parents will overreact if they find out. That's why it's so important to reach out to trusted friends and adults who will support you.
Ending an abusive relationship can be hard on you emotionally. It can also be dangerous. Abusers need to believe they're in control and when they're not, they often become even more angry and dangerous. If you're thinking about ending an abusive relationship, you need to have a safety plan in place.
- If you don't feel safe, don't break up in person.
- If you decide to break up in person, do it in a public place. Let someone know where you are going and ask them to be nearby in case you need help. Have a cell phone with you.
- Keep it simple. There isn't anything you can say to make it better, just tell them why you want to break up and then leave.
- Build a support network. Let your friends and parents know that you are ending the relationship. If you're concerned that your ex might stalk you or try to corner you alone, be sure your friends and parents know that. Arrange for someone to walk with you from school and avoid any situations where you are left alone. Stick with a friend at parties or events that your ex might attend. Talk to your teacher or counselor - they might be able to adjust your class schedule or come up with other ways to make you feel safe.
- Be prepared to deal with how you're going to feel. You might miss your boyfriend or girlfriend a lot. They have probably become an important part of your life and it's not unusual to feel lonely after breaking up with them. Reach out to your friends and try new activities to make it easier for yourself.
- Set your profile on social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace to private. Ask your close friends to set their profiles to private, too so that your ex can't follow your activities through their profiles.
- Talk to the counselors at the House Of Ruth Maryland
- If you're in immediate danger, call 911
While cell phones and computers have made it easier to stay in touch with family and friends anytime, anywhere - they've also provided a cheap and easy way for abusers to stalk, threaten and harass their victims. Emails, instant messaging, social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, cameras, listening devices and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are all readily available weapons that abusers can use to control and make life miserable for their victims. Many abusers consider it a personal challenge - a way to provoke, instill fear and constantly remind their victim of their presence even when the relationship is over.
Here are some ways to protect yourself:
- Protect your cell phone and email with a secure password that would be difficult for anyone to guess. Change your passwords often.
- If you have a website or blog, use a stat counter to monitor your online visitors. They are free and can identify an IP address, location and the Internet service provider used if you need to identify someone who is harassing you.
- If you are ending a relationship, especially if they have been abusive, reset every password you have to something no one could possibly guess.
- If you suspect you are a target of cyber stalking, get your computer checked by a professional.
- Record all incidents of harassment: time, place and what happened. Don't delete any messages. If things get worse, they could be used as evidence.
- Keep your cell phone with you at all times. Block outgoing caller IDs and do not accept "private calls." Memorize emergency numbers in case you need them at a moment's notice.
- If they keep sending messages, contact the person's Internet service provider. They may be able to terminate their service depending on their policy.