How to Safely Leave an Abuser, Step-by-Step, Written by a Survivor

Here’s how to GTFO. You are not alone.

Leaving an abusive partner can feel impossible, but it’s not. While abusive situations are often tricky and difficult to leave, there are things you can do to prepare your escape. Freedom, healing, support and protection are things you deserve. And they are possible for you.

Related: What We Can Learn From Criselda Dudumashe’s Story of Domestic Abuse

Sexual violence and domestic abuse in South Africa is so real, an estimated one in four women in this country have survived domestic abuse. If you are experiencing abuse, you are NOT alone.

Guide to GTFO of an Abusive Situation

This survivor (who goes by the name “Maddy”) has created a guide that covers all the elements of leaving an abuser, Bored Panda reports. It includes financial advice, what to do about your kids, housing, the police, and setting a leaving date. Her escape plan has gone viral on Facebook and it lists instructions on what to do before and after you leave. So here it is.

Related: South Africans Show Support for Babes Wodumo After Video of Alleged Abuse

1. Money and Your Phone

Abusers have been known to cut their victims off financially. Particularly if you’re co-dependent, an abuser can make you feel helpless, and money is one of the ways. Here’s what you can do:

Abusers are often possessive, they might be monitoring your calls and messages, they will likely try and harass you after you leave. So get a separate, cheap phone:

2. What to Do About Your Things?

Start moving important possessions slowly, so that the abuser won’t notice. Here are some tips:

When it comes to packing, it’s essentials only. Don’t linger.

3. Your Friends, Your Family and Your Job

Reach out. Lean on the loved ones that you trust.

Consider being open with your employer, ask about domestic violence or compassionate leave, ask about transfers.

4. Living Arrangements

What about your house, or your flat? If you live together, you might see this as a huge obstacle. Don’t get discouraged. It helps if you start looking for a new place to live before you leave. Again, reach out. Family, friends and churches are things to think about.

If you’re using social media to help you find a place, have someone else do it from their account so that the abuser can’t track you.

5. Inform the Police

In the case that things go wrong, having the police informed is crucial. Violence, rape (partner rape is real), and threats to your life – are a reality that you need to cater for.

6. If You Have Children…

What to do about the kids? If you’re worried about your safety, you’re likely worried about theirs too.


It’s time now. You’ve planned. Set the date.

You’re about to leave, so here’s a quick checklist of what you should have (ideally) set in place.

8. So, Now That You’ve Left…

Still a couple things you need to do. You’ve got this.

If you are experiencing abuse or know someone who is, these helplines are here for you, in addition to Maddy’s advice.

Helplines in South Africa:

  • POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse): 011 6424 345
  • Gender-based Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428 (emergency line) or *120*7867# (please call me facility)
  • Tears Foundation helpline: *134*7355#

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