Domestic violence: Shelter releases step-by-step guide for women ready to flee abusive relationships


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Not wearing scarves or long jewellery during a violent argument, staying away from the kitchen where knives might be easily accessible, and ditching smartphones that can be tracked via GPS.

It is frightening advice, but can be the difference between life and death during violent arguments.

A new booklet full of hard won wisdom on how to safely leave abusive relationships is being released in hardcopy and online by Darwin women’s shelter, Dawn House.

For a former client of refuge, Claire (not her real name) the step-by-step plans are exactly what she needed when fleeing her violent former partner.

“I literally ran out of the relationship I was in … I drove my car out through fences. I left a lot, I lost a lot,” Claire said.

By the time Claire arrived at the doors of the refuge, she was 15 kilos underweight, terrified, but finally safe.


Technology the ‘new frontier’ of abuse

Alex Richmond is the community educator at Dawn House, and said the resource helped women who, due to trauma, could not plan a safe escape.

“When people are highly traumatised, thinking through really complex arrangements like how exactly you’re going to leave a relationship that’s this violent and this frightening is really difficult to process,” Ms Richmond said.

She said there was also information for women who might still be living with a violent abuser, and how they could stay safer while still in the relationship.

“It’s important to remember that these women didn’t fall in love with someone because they violently assault them — they fell in love for the same reason that anybody does,” Ms Richmond said.

The booklet aims to share the experience gleaned from years working in the sector, and Ms Richmond urged women to consider how even their smartphones could be used as a weapon.

“More and more we’re seeing sort of the new frontier is technology-facilitated abuse, so that’s using technology to stalk and monitor and harass the victim,” she said.

Claire said because of the tight control inflicted on her, she simply did not know there was help available.

“I needed to get away from the relationship I was in to think straight, because I was just burying myself, and having been in a shelter — it did give some space to breathe — and to think about what my options were,” Claire said.

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