suitcase standing in an empty hallway

Before you read any further, you might find it helpful to look at our understanding domestic abuse article which details why abuse occurs and where to get help.

If you are in immediate danger, please contact 999.

No one deserves to be abused, nor is it possible to stop the violence by ‘just trying harder’. Remember that the abuser chooses to abuse and the only person who can make the decision to leave is you. However, there are many reasons why people in abusive relationships don’t leave, including but not limited to financial ties, immigration status, a lack of housing, peer or cultural pressures, worries about children or pets, or concerns that they won’t be believed by the police or other agencies.

Despite these barriers, people leave safely and go on to recover from their experiences with the right kind of help and support. You are not alone, and the abuse is not your fault.

What is Bright Sky?

Bright Sky is a free app offering help and guidance to people living in a domestically abusive relationship, as well as those who care about them.

Please only download the Bright Sky app if it is safe to do so and you are sure that your mobile phone is not being monitored. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, contact 999 for help.

Available in English, Urdu, Punjabi and Polish, Bright Sky offers a UK-wide directory of specialist domestic abuse support services with contact details, along with links to other helpful resources and information on topics around domestic abuse such as stalking, online safety, and questionnaires to assess the safety of a relationship. It also allows the user to immediately connect with 999.

Bright Sky app

The Bright Sky app has been developed by Hestia and Vodafone Foundation.

View website for details on how to download

 *retailTRUST accepts no liability whatsoever for the safety, reliability, durability and performance of the Bright Sky app.

Things to consider before you leave

Women’s Aid offers trustworthy guidance to anyone considering leaving an abusive relationship. You might have lost touch with friends and family as a result of the abuse, and you may not be sure whom you can trust. This is very unsettling but rest assured, there are a number of professionals who will support you in confidence.

  • Plan in advance how you might respond in different instances, including crisis situations. For example, you might find that the abuse becomes more frequent when your partner is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if their favourite sports team loses a match. Try and identify patterns (if there are any) and make a plan as to what you’ll do if the situations arise.
  • Think about the different options that may be available to you. It will be helpful to review the resources we’ve listed at the end.
  • If you have a mobile phone, save important phone numbers, and use a benign name for security such as a friend’s name or the name of a restaurant. You might want to save your GP’s number, that of the police domestic violence unit (search domestic violence + your local police force), your children’s school, your solicitor (if you have one), and the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which can contacted 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.
  • Learn about the Silent Solution. If you are in danger and with your abuser at the time, you can reach help without speaking. Simply dial 999, and when the operator asks which emergency service is required, do not respond. Your call will automatically be forwarded to a police system and you will hear an automated message. Press 55 and the operator will transfer your call to the relevant police force as an emergency. You don’t need to say anything at all – your call will be traced, and the police will attend your property.
  • Ensure that your children know how to call 999 in an emergency and what they would need to say (for example, their full name, address and telephone number). Depending on the child’s age, it is also useful to teach them how to use the Silent Solution.
  • Identify someone you can trust and where you can go in an emergency. This shouldn’t be someone you and your partner both know – ideally, it’s someone with whom you have a separate relationship. Tell them what is going on for you, and also ask them to call the police if they hear or witness you being abused.
  • If you need to go to a refuge or stay with someone who won’t allow your pet to stay, identify someone you trust to look after your pet until you can be reunited. If you don’t know anyone who can help, get in touch with the Dog’s Trust Freedom Project, or Paws Protect. Both of these organisations can offer your pet a safe, loving foster home until you are safe and back on your feet.
  • Create an escape plan including where you would go first and whom you would call. If you have children, make sure that they understand what they need to do to get away safely should you become separated.
  • Pack an emergency bag for yourself and your children and hide it somewhere safe, such as a neighbour’s or friend’s house. Woman’s Aid suggests that you include:
    • Some form of identification
    • Birth certificates for you and your children
    • Passports (including passports for all your children), visas, and work permits
    • Cash, bankbooks, cheque book, and credit and debit cards
    • Keys for your house, car, and place of work (get an extra set of keys cut and put them in your emergency bag)
    • Cards for payment of Child Benefit and any other welfare benefits you receive
    • Driving licence and car registration documents, if applicable
    • Enough of any prescribed medications you or your children take to get you through a few days until you can order more from your GP
    • Copies of documents relating to your housing tenure such as mortgage details or lease and rental agreements
    • Insurance documents, including your national insurance number
    • Address book
    • Family photographs, your diary, jewellery, small items of sentimental value
    • Clothing and toiletries for you and your children
    • A selection of small toys for your children
    • Any documentation you have relating to the abuse including police reports, court orders such as injunctions and restraining orders, and copies of medical records
  • Keep a small amount of money on you at all times, including change for the phone and bus fares.
  • If you have access to a mobile phone, keep it charged at all times. If you don’t have a phone, know where the nearest phone box is, and test it to ensure that it’s working.
  • If you suspect that your partner is about to harm you, get to an area of the house where there is an exit. Avoid the kitchen or garage where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid – if at all possible – rooms where you might be trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.

When you’re ready to leave the relationship

Although leaving the relationship as soon as the abuse begins is the best option, the reality is that abuse often starts gradually and may be difficult to recognise at first. Only you can decide when the time is right for you to leave, so don’t allow anyone to force you into a decision before you’re ready.

By this point, you will have either told a trusted friend that you’re going to leave, you’ve spoken to your GP for support, or you’ve contacted a specialist who can help. You will also have an idea of where you can go, whether it’s a friend or family member’s house, or a refuge.

What is a refuge?

Anyone who needs to escape from domestic abuse can go into a refuge at any time. People from all walks of life go to refuges – younger, older, male, female, transgender, those in heterosexual and same sex relationships, and people with or without children are all welcome. In some cases, you might be able to choose the refuge (subject to space and availability), and some refuges are specifically for people from particular ethnic or cultural backgrounds (for example, black, Asian or South American women). Many refuges also have disabled access and staff and volunteers who can assist people who have special needs.

It’s not advisable to go to a refuge local to your area to minimise the risks of the abuser seeing you and potentially finding out where you’re staying. You can get advice on refuges from the National Domestic Abuse Helpline 24 hours a day on freephone 0808 2000 247.

If you’re a man leaving a domestically abusive relationship, the Respect Men’s Advice Line can refer you to a refuge – you can call them on 0808 801 0327. Please check their website for hours of operation.

Finances

Money and housing are major considerations when deciding when to leave an abusive relationship. If you are in need of financial assistance, you may be eligible for a retailTRUST non-repayable grant to help you leave an unsafe situation. Click here for more details.

You may also be entitled to certain benefits to help you re-establish yourself. Turn2Us offers information on what kind of financial assistance you might be able to access.

Tips to ease the transition

  • Before you end the relationship, tell a trusted friend or family member of your plans. It’s crucial that the person you tell won’t let your partner know of your intentions before you leave. In some cases, especially if you don’t have any people in your life whom you feel that you can trust implicitly, you might prefer to rely on the support of one of the charities listed below or speak to your GP. It’s really important that someone knows what’s happening and where you’ll be contactable once you’ve left the home.
  • When you’re ready, end the relationship over the phone or email if at all possible. If you must do it in person, make sure that you have other people you know and trust with you at the time – this could be friends, family members, or the police.
  • Stick with your decision. It’s not unusual for an abuser to try and win their ex-partner back with gifts, flowers, and promises never to do it again. But remember that if abuse has happened once, it will happen again. The abuser might be on their best behaviour for a few days or even weeks after you return, but they will inevitably begin the abuse cycle all over again, and often more violently than ever before.
  • As soon as you can, change your mobile phone number, email address and any social media accounts. Only give out new information to trusted friends and family members.
  • Speak with your local police service by calling 101, the non-emergency phone number. They will be able to give you advice on how to stay safe including guidance on home security and personal safety.
  • Remember – you’re not alone. There are plenty of people who are experienced in helping people recover after an abusive relationship, so do consider working with a qualified domestic abuse counsellor to help you start to heal and move towards a happier life.

Domestic abuse and the workplace

Your working life may be one of the only things you feel positive about right now. You might worry about telling your manager or someone from your HR department, but don’t discount the help that your employer can offer you in confidence. Your employer may be able to:

  • Temporarily change your working pattern if your childcare needs have changed, you need to attend court appointments, or sessions with a domestic abuse counsellor.
  • Accommodate a temporary change to work department, area or tasks.
  • Arrange and agree to a period of leave.
  • Offer you the use of a computer or phone to seek external support.
  • Provide a safe space for you to have conversations or meetings with the police or other support providers.
  • Accommodate a temporary transfer to another store. This is especially important if you are living in a refuge and can no longer travel to work easily.

Abuser contact via work

If you work in a store, the abuser will have direct access to your place of work which may be helping them control, intimidate or make threats against you. In stores and other sites where access is restricted, they may use the work phone line in an attempt to contact you. You should speak with your employer who will be able to:

  • Refuse to put external calls through to you.
  • Move you to a more secure area of the store or site.
  • Issue an exclusion order, banning the abuser from entering the store.
  • Notify reception or security staff if they’re known to come to your place of work and ensure that the abuser cannot access you.
  • Contact the police if they persist in trying to enter your place of work.
  • Arrange for a security guard or other member of staff to escort you to your car at the end of the shift or take you to the bus stop.

What if you and the abuser work together?

If you work with your ex-partner, let your line manager or HR team know that you’ve left and are concerned that they might harass you. Your employer has a duty of care to ensure that you, your colleagues and customers are protected from abuse.

If this is a new area for them, and they don’t know how to support you, they can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline to discuss safeguarding and best practice.

 Organisations which can help you 

Support for women and men

Refuge

refuge.org.uk 

0808 2000 247 

Available 24 hours a day

  • Confidential emotional support, advice and information for women experiencing domestic abuse
  • Community-based services such as outreach and child advocacy supporters.
  • Referrals to emergency accommodation and safe houses.
  • Local support groups and one-to-one counselling

Support for women

Women’s Aid

 

womensaid.org.uk

 

Online services only

  • Guidance and information for women of all ages experiencing domestic abuse.
  • Online local services locator for emergency accommodation and safe houses.
  • The Survivor’s Handbook.
  • Specialist COVID-19 advice.

Support for men

The Men’s Advice Line

 

mensadviceline.org.uk

 

0808 801 0327

 

  • Confidential helpline for men of all ages experiencing domestic abuse.
  • Local services locator for emergency accommodation, counselling and support groups.
  • Webchat and email are also available.

Support for men

ManKind

 

mankind.org.uk

 

01823 334 244

 

  • Confidential helpline for men of all ages experiencing domestic abuse.
  • Local services locator for emergency accommodation, counselling and support groups.
  • Webchat and email are also available.

Support for women affected by honour-based abuse

Karma Nirvana

 

karmanirvana.org.uk

 

0800 5999 247

  • A confidential 24-hour helpline for anyone affected by honour-based abuse or forced marriage.
  • Advocacy programme to help affected women navigate the court system and other relevant bodies.

Support for the under 25s

The Mix

 

themix.org.uk

 

0808 808 4994

 

  • Confidential helpline offering emotional support and practical guidance for all aspects of wellbeing including domestic abuse.
  • Webchat facility and peer support forums.
  • Signposting to local services.
  • Guidance on a range of life issues including housing, childcare, financial wellbeing and mental health.

Support for people from the LGBTQIA community

GALOP

 

galop.org.uk/domesticabuse

 

0800 999 5428

 

  • Confidential helpline offering emotional support and practical guidance.
  • Trans-specific service for people coping with domestic abuse.
  • Guidance relevant to issues such as housing, how to report domestic abuse and financial issues.
  • Support accessing local services, including safe houses.

 

For anyone who is isolated and experiencing abuse of any kind

SupportLine

 

supportline.org.uk

 

01708 765 200

 

  • Confidential helpline offering emotional support for anyone who is isolated and experiencing violence, whether from their partner, a neighbour, a friend, a family member or another.

Rape and sexual assault

Rape Crisis

 

rapecrisis.org.uk

 

0808 802 9999

 

  • Free and confidential support for men and women affected – directly or indirectly – by rape and sexual assault.
  • Helpline, online advice and help with reporting sex crimes.
  • Access to local counselling services and support groups.