6 ways to protect yourself after leaving an abusive relationship.

6 ways to protect yourself after leaving an abusive relationship.

Have you ever heard that saying ‘Teach your daughter to shoot because a restraining order is just a piece of paper”? Apprehended Violence Orders or AVO’s are your legal protection from someone who you believe may or will harm you and/or your children, property, pets, family members, loved ones.

Many victims of Domestic Violence have had dealings with AVO’s. Even though the Courts can impose the Order preventing the perpetrator from abusing, threatening, intimidating, molesting, harassing, contacting and approaching the victim, many will tell you an AVO is just a piece of paper and offers no real protection to an abuser who wants to get a hold of you.

A 35-year-old man was arrested in a Newcastle hospital just 2 days ago for breaching an AVO. Police were at the hospital speaking to a woman who had been admitted for treatment. While there, they stopped a man who was attempting to visit her. He was carrying a bunch of flowers and a bag. When checks revealed the woman had a current AVO against him with a condition restricting him from visiting her, he was immediately arrested. His bag was searched and two knives were located.

Newcastle police avo knives

He was taken to the local police station where he was charged with contravening Apprehended Violence Order, two counts of possessing a knife in a public place, breaching his conditional bail and refused bail. (Courtesy Newcastle City Police District)

She’s safe from him while he spends the night in custody but what happens if bail is granted at his court appearance the following day? What happens if bail wasn’t refused? What happens the police weren’t speaking to her when he attempted to approach? What if nobody was there? What do you do?

You take measures to protect yourself because unfortunately, an AVO is just a piece of paper, and paper doesn’t protect you.

Leaving home for a period of time or securing your house

I’m not an advocate of the victim ‘having’ to leave the family home when leaving an abusive relationship but I am an advocate of staying alive. You may need to stay with family or friends after escaping. You may need to go into a refuge. You may decide the safest option is to move to another location.

After escaping my relationship with police intervention and an AVO I didn’t go home for a week. I took my children to an undisclosed safe location. I did go home after a week and my house was assessed for safety and security solutions under the ‘Staying Home, Leaving Violence’ program. My house was secured with changing my locks, deadbolts, window locks, sensor lights, my electricity meter box was locked and I was given a personal alarm to carry.

Friends and family stayed overnight with me for the first few weeks so I wasn’t alone. I did move out of the house a couple of years later to a different region.


Tell people

Everyone who needs to know should know. Silence hides violence and wanting your privacy could get you hurt here. Tell friends, your workplace, TAFE or Uni, children’s school and anywhere you regularly frequent that you have a current AVO in place and if your abuser makes an appearance the police need to be called on sight. This is not a wait and see what happens type of event. Call 000 immediately and tell them you have an enforceable AVO and you are scared for your safety. And then make a statement for the breach of the AVO.


Carry your phone

I’m not ashamed to say my phone was all but glued to me. I carried my phone to the washing machine. It was always nearby. I slept with it in my hand. If he appeared, I needed to contact someone ASAP. Call 000 if you feel any sense of danger. Do not call the local police station, it is 000 in an emergency and any threat to your wellbeing is an emergency.


Learn self-defence

You don’t need to go and join the local boxing or karate club. If you want to go for it but if not, please at least look up on YouTube some self-defence moves. Practice punching and using your elbows and knees. Know how to get out of a wrist hold. Learn how to protect yourself so it becomes an automatic reaction in a hairy situation.


Change your routine

Sometimes it’s just better to just switch it up if you’re worried. Drive a different way to work/school. Park in a different section. Avoid frequently visited places. Buy your groceries from the next town over. Even if you’re not worried your abuser will come looking for you to hurt you, it won’t hurt to avoid all potential confrontations, at least in the beginning.


Tighten your social media settings

If you don’t want to deactivate/delete, even for a short period of time, then increase your security and privacy settings on all of your social media accounts. Make your account private, change your settings to ensure you review tags and posts before they go ‘live’, turn your location off, don’t check-in, don’t post about your intentions, plans or whereabouts. And think carefully before telling others what your plans are too because unfortunately, not everyone is your friend. Separations can be messy at the best of times and you may need to take a step back until you work on who is neutral and who is not. May victims report thinking someone was their friend only to find they were the very person feeding information and comments to their ex. Use your brain and always, always listen to your gut.