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How to safely plan to leave an abusive relationship


Getting out of an abusive relationship isn’t easy, but you deserve to live free of fear. Here’s how to safely leave an abusive relationship and the local services on Sydney’s North Shore who can help you leave an abusive relationship.

‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ It’s the question many people ask when they learn that a woman is suffering battery and abuse. But if you are in an abusive relationship, you know that it’s not that simple. Ending a significant relationship is never easy. It’s even harder when you’ve been isolated from your family and friends, psychologically beaten down, financially controlled, and physically threatened.


If you are in an abusive relationship, please know that:

  • You are not to blame for being battered or mistreated
  • You are not the cause of your partner’s abusive behaviour
  • You deserve to be treated with respect
  • You deserve a safe and happy life
  • Your children deserve a safe and happy life
  • You are not alone. There are people waiting to help

Preparing to leave your abusive relationship

Remember, these are all tips to help you out. Every circumstance is different, so you need to do what’s best for you and your kids. The most important thing is that you are safe. Many situations don’t have the luxury of time to get everything organised and ready. In that case, skip to the next section for information on finding emergency shelter.

Devices & Online

  • Check for a new device you can use, either at home (think of an old one that might be lying around and not used) or at a neighbour’s place.
  • If you are physically assaulted, take a photo of the evidence to your secret device.
  • Be wary of using your current device to seek help if you’re worried there might be spyware on it. Never use it to have a private conversation about your situation.
  • Set up a new email account that you can use to talk to those you trust. Don’t use the names of important people or birth dates as the password.
  • Use different passwords for different online accounts to make sure your abuser won’t have access to everything at once.
  • Increase the security of your online accounts by changing the questions to something your abuser won’t know the answer to.
  • Sign in and out of your accounts each time you use them.
  • Always opt for two-factor authentication on your accounts.
  • Use a private browser on your device.
  • Wipe your tracks: deleted your page history, search history, cookies, cache and offline content.
  • If you are working from home, be wary about what you say to your boss or colleagues over Zoom. There’s a good chance your abuser is listening in to any work calls.

Sorting Out Finances

  • Open a new bank account with a new bank, and ensure that statements are online only and sent to a new email address, password protected, that is not linked to your phone.
  • If you have the opportunity, head to the bank and pick it up. Never get it posted to your home. If you’re unable to leave home, then wait until you have made your break.
  • Do not download the banking app to your phone.
  • Start putting what you can into that account. Any birthday money from friends or family, an unnoticeable amount from your wage (talk to work/Centrelink). Add any change you find around the house – eg a 600ml bottle of coke full of 2 dollar coins will save $1000. A bank like ING allows you to deposit money into your account at local post offices. Do not transfer to this account yourself. If you are unable to get out of the house, hold onto this and throw into your suitcase when you leave.
  • CBA, NAB, Westpac and ANZ all have programs or services designed to support your escape from a domestic violence situation, but only if you are a customer. If this is something you could benefit from and could safely do, set up an account with one or more of the big four banks.
  • If you have debit/credit cards, report them stolen so the abuser cannot access them once new numbers are provided.
  • If you do the family groceries and the abuser does not study the receipts, start buying gift cards (Visa, Woolworths and Coles) then hide them. They will assist you when you are setting up your new home.


  • Buy a cheap phone and a spare SIM card, then set that up and hide it, fully charged (on silent). You will need this when you turn your main one off to ensure the abuser cannot contact or track you.
  • If you are being physically assaulted, text the evidence to your secret phone.


  • Remember, the most important thing is getting you (and you children) out of their safely. This may mean saying goodbye to some precious possessions. These may be able to be recovered by friends and family after you leave.
  • If you have the opportunity, start posting some important items to friends and family. If you’re unable to leave the home, see if you can take them to your neighbours for safe keeping. Things like photos, jewellery, ID, passport etc.


  • If you work, and you consider it safe and your environment supportive, tell your boss what is happening so that they will understand for when the time comes, and so the abuser cannot extract information about you or your whereabouts from your colleagues.
  • Some workplaces provide DV leave, if you require it, or count it as compassionate leave.
  • If you work for a corporation that offers it, you could consider asking for a transfer.
  • If not, consider having your working hours randomized for a while to ensure you do not have a continuous or steady work schedule. This way you may be able to gain some freedom of movement.

Find a local shelter & leave safely

In an ideal world, you would have the time to look for rental places, talk to The Salvos, churches, or other places of help and get yourself set up before you leave. When preparing to leave an abusive relationship during Covid-19 lockdown, these options just are possible, and your situation is compounded. It’s better to find a local shelter to take you in temporarily, so you can find your feet again. Start by reaching out to family and friends with your new device and letting them know your situation.

There is never a right time to leave. It’s going to be hard no matter how long you wait. The most important thing is to have a new device ready, get your kids and pets organised, and try and save up as much money and get out as many possessions as possible. At the end of the day, your safety and the safety of your kids, is all that matters. If your situation changes overnight, then get out. Don’t wait for everything to be in place. Get out, call a friend, go.

With everyone at home right now, it may not be possible to find a time that your abuser is out of the house. In that case, you may have to leave in the middle of the day, when he is in the office working. Or in the middle of the night if you can sneak out of bed. Don’t change your behaviour in the lead up. You don’t want your abuser to get suspicious that something is going on. Pack the essentials only, everything else can wait.

If you need somewhere to stay immediately, contact Link2Home. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. They can help with emergency temporary and crisis accommodation, including refuges. Phone: 1800 152 152

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter

HKWS offers accommodation for a period of three months with an expert team of professionals providing tailored case management to help women reclaim their lives and create a safe and happy future. This includes access to health, legal, education and employment services. The Shelter can support up to 10 women at a time. Women who cannot be immediately housed can access the HKWS Outreach Program.

Mary’s House (Naremburn)

Mary’s House Refuge supports up to five families, accepting women and their children escaping domestic violence and is able to connect to external services to secure the safety and welfare of pets.

Phone: (02) 8937 2094


Delvena Women and Children’s Refuge (Lower North Shore)

Delvena can accommodate five families in a boarding house model of communal living. The refuge has five bedrooms, several kitchens, several bathrooms and a welcoming living area, playground and backyard for the children.

Phone: (02) 9971 4499

Manly Safehouse

A ‘pop-up’ safe house for women and children escaping domestic and family violence is open on the northern beaches, to cater for an expected rise in demand as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

Phone: (02) 9971 4499

Bringa Women & Children’s Refuge (Northern Beaches)

They provide crisis accommodation to women and children escaping domestic violence for up to three months while providing case management to address the complex needs of mothers and their children. In 2015 Bringa Women and Children’s Refuge was converted from the boarding house model of communal living into modern self-contained studio apartments.

Phone: (02) 9971 4499

Dignity Emergency Accommodation (West Ryde)

Emergency crisis accommodation that provides a true home-like environment – complete with all the creature comforts, from home-cooked food to fresh sheets and clean towels. Guests can even bring their pets along to some of their properties.

Phone: 1300 332 334

Bayside Women’s Shelter (South East Sydney)

A 6 bedroom shelter accommodating women, with or without children, who are escaping family and domestic violence in the South-East Sydney area.

Email: [email protected]

    Start contacting services


    Once you get yourself into a local shelter, you can let Centrelink know and fill out any necessary paperwork. Make sure you ask their advice on all the payments available to you to ensure you’re getting the best help possible.


    • Let the police know of your plan in case something goes wrong. They can also help you get the remainder of your things later.
    • File for a DVO. You may require proof of one either pending, or in place when it comes to the kids’ school. With everything online at the moment and no in-person school, you have the gift of time on your hands for this one.


    Kids are affected by abuse, even if it is not aimed at them directly. Do not concern yourself with how they will cope with the changes; just know they will be much better off for them.

    • If you have kids, take them with you when you leave.
    • Changing school is your best bet, but with everything currently online, take your time with this.
    • Act for Kids can provide support.
    • Get a custody order in place ASAP.


    • If you have pets, talk to your local RSPCA or Rehoming group, as they will find a free foster carer to care for you animals until you are settled.

    Once you are out of the house:

    • Change all internet banking passwords
    • Change all social passwords
    • Change all the email addresses linked to your social accounts to the secret one you set up
    • Change all secret questions and answers across all media and banking
    • Change PayPal passwords
    • Block on all social media
    • Block the abuser’s number
    • Turn off location settings on all devices, apps and maps
    • Turn that phone off and turn on the spare phone
    • Contact anyone you need to from the new phone and keep your number on private
    • Change your name on social media along with your profile picture (something generic)
    • Block anyone who is friends with both of you
    • Get a PO Box and get your mail redirected or have your mail already set up to online only, and to your new email address
    • Remove the abuser from being your next of kin from everything (work, Dr’s, etc)
    • Remove the abuser from your superannuation
    • Change your car rego and any identifying traits of your car, or sell it
    • Contact your doctor and get a mental health care plan, most, if not all states will provide you with 10 free sessions.

    Stay strong!

    The abuser is the most dangerous when they realise they have lost control of their possession (that is, you).

    The abuser will try anything and everything, even suicide threats to get your attention. Do not fall for the games, as the abuser is just craving any information on your whereabouts to feel like they are gaining some control back.

    It is vital that you cease all contact until you are strong enough to ignore the bullshit that the abuser will try to use to lure you back. You know it is bullshit, do not sprinkle glitter on your feelings. You are worth more than that!

    More help when leaving an abusive relationship:

    Facebook support groups for Domestic Violence

    Give & Take may offer you:

    • A safety check as a priority
    • Immediate free legal advice
    • Emergency Accommodation Assistance
    • Food and Clothing
    • Mobile phone & new number
    • Travel and Transport
    • Removalist
    • Storage
    • Volunteers to assist with packing (Dv Free Service)
    • Financial Assistance (for those living in The Hills)
    • Mediation
    • Counsellor and Clinical Forensic Psychologist
    • Application help for Centrelink and other funding grants
    • Offer you a postal mailing address you can use
    • Advocate for you and on your behalf
    • Refer you to other organisations and services
    • Assist you with claiming compensation
    • Refer you to a social worker if needed
    • Housing and Accommodation options
    • 24 hour online and/or phone support
    • Meet up for your convenience
    • Link you to our domestic violence secret support group
    • Immediate planning to suit your personal situation
    • Assistance moving forward (employment and training/education options)

    Please consider your own safety and the safety of your children before following any general advice; please ensure you have thoroughly evaluated your own situation when considering these suggestions as they are not intended to replace advice from a professional nor will they be the correct choices in every situation. You are strongly encouraged to reach out, if safely possible, to a person or expert familiar with your situation for more specific support and advice.


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