After just one date, I was smitten. She was gorgeous, spontaneous, fun, sexy and a little mischievous. Over the next three years, I would also learn that she was an alcoholic, a classic narcissist and an abuser.
My story isn’t that different than millions of other victims of domestic violence. The abuser doesn’t start hitting you during those awkward, exciting, hormone-fuelled honeymoon months when a relationship blooms.
They wait until you are completely isolated, invested emotionally and financially before they reveal the monster within. They know the deeper you’re intertwined, the higher the walls that keep you in, and they need you as a prisoner. They need a ready meat bag to feed their inner demons.
Where my story is different, and how it may help others rotting in the dungeon, is how I planned my escape.
The usual well-intentioned armchair quarterbacking advice of ‘Just leave!’ or ‘Walk out the door and never look back!’ are unicorn and rainbow sound bites that fail to face reality. The needs of your children, cash flow, employment, financial stability, safe shelter and food tend to dull the colours of the rainbow, and reveal the unicorn to be an ass.
For male victims (who represent at a very minimum 33% of all domestic violence victims) the community support network is next to non-existent, so having a well-planned exit strategy can literally save your life.
I had told her it was over, put the house up for sale and ‘moved’ into the basement. I later learned that I was entering the highest risk phase of domestic violence in terms of my physical safety. I had to install a lock on the basement door after being woken by a barrage of glass bottles being thrown at me while she was in a drunken rage.
I needed to get out, and fast. The longer a victim stays in that environment, the greater the chance they will be hurt, but also every second they spend with the abuser under the same roof without witnesses, is an opportunity for the abuser to falsely accuse the victim of whatever their abusive little malicious mind can concoct. Escape from my prison with no walls had begun.
Secure your assets. Immediately close all joint financial accounts. Your abuser will drain them in an effort to hurt you, or limit your resources. Joint loyalty cards, video and audio streaming accounts are to be treated the same way. Try to secure a short-term, low interest or no interest loan if cash is tight. You’re going to need extra cash over the next few months.
Gain control over household services if you can. If both are authorised to make changes to an account, have the abuser’s authority removed. They can and will change passwords, stop paying bills – the list goes on.
Recruit your moving ‘army’. When you physically move your possessions out of the joint household, you want it to be a blitz, not a slow drip. I enlisted about a dozen guys and four trucks. When D-Day arrived, we mustered at a nearby coffee shop and stormed the house en masse. We were literally in and out in less than 45 minutes.
Pre-tag. If possible, use a bright coloured painter’s tape to identify your possessions inside the domicile. As your army moves through your house, they know that anything marked with coloured tape goes out to the trucks. No wasting time asking pesky questions.
Cover your ass. Have one person film the entire move and every item that comes out of the residence. I will stop false accusations of theft or property damage from ever gaining traction.
Blind side the abuser. Never, ever, ever let them know when you plan on physically moving. When the abuser finally realises that you are truly leaving is when they are likely to be the most violent.
Storage facilities and moving ‘pods’ are your friend. Get everything out, and I mean everything, even if you have to store it temporarily. Mundane household products that are legally yours are not to be left behind. You’re never going back there and you don’t need to be spending hundreds of dollars on cleaning supplies, sundries and toilet paper in the coming weeks.
Control your mail. Obtain a temporary post office Box and officially forward all your correspondence through your postal service.
Finally, never disclose your new address and take steps to mitigate how many people know it, at least for the next six months. While it may seem extreme, becoming familiar with counter surveillance techniques can help you identify if you’re being stalked. If you are, open a file with the police immediately.
I got out. My escape was meticulously planned. The Blitzkrieg moving day and attention to administrative details removed her avenues of contact with me.
I’ve never looked back and the air outside my prison with no walls smells sweet. Where before I walked on eggshells, there is a spring to my step once again.
Image credit: Freepik
Andrew Wilson is a researcher and advocate for male victims of domestic violence.
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