Leaving domestic abuse

If you want to leave a violent or abusive partner or relative, first plan for your safety, then for housing and money.

Want to cover your tracks online? Find out more from Women's Aid or leave this page quickly.

Make a safety plan

Make a safety plan even if you're not planning to leave straight away.

Try to leave when your partner is not at home, so they can't try to stop you. Try to arrange a place to stay before you leave and get advice about custody if you have any children.

Call the police on 999 if you have to leave in an emergency because you are assaulted. They may be able to arrest your partner, which will give you some time to leave.

See Women's Aid advice on how to make a safety plan.

Stay safe after leaving

You may be worried that a violent or abusive person will try to find you or continue to harass or threaten to you after you have left. Take steps to protect yourself from any further abuse, violence or harassment.

To reduce the risk of an abuser finding out your new address you can:

  • tell your children not to tell anyone where you are staying
  • tell your child's school and let them know who can collect the children from school 
  • tell only trusted friends what has happened and ask them not to pass on your new address or telephone number
  • avoid using any joint bank accounts as this may reveal your location
  • make sure your address does not appear on any court papers – your solicitor or refuge worker can advise you how

To reduce the risk of meeting your abuser, try to avoid places where they might expect to find you, change your routines and reschedule any regular appointments. Change your mobile phone number and avoid social media. Dial 141 before you make a phone call to make sure your number is kept secret.

If you have to go to a place where you think your partner might find you, try to go with someone else or let someone know where you are going. Choose a safe route where there are other people around.

Homelessness help in an emergency

You can apply for homelessness help from the council if you don't have anywhere to live or are threatened with homelessness. The council has to give you accommodation immediately while it makes enquiries into your situation.

You can contact the free National Domestic Violence helpline to check if you can get a place in a women's refuge. The helpline is run in partnership by Refuge and Women's Aid.

Find out more about homelessness if you are facing domestic violence.

Refuges

If you are a woman who needs to leave an abusive relationship you may be able to find a place in a refuge.

Refuge provision for men is much more limited. Find out what is available by making a homeless application to the council or by speaking to Men's Adviceline.

Money and benefits

Your financial situation is likely to change if you leave your partner.

It's possible to get financial help as a single parent or a single person. You can claim housing benefit to help pay for rent. You can claim if you are working or claiming other benefits. You may also be able to apply for tax credits or benefits to help with other living costs.

You must report your change in circumstances if you already claim benefits.

Contact your local Jobcentre Plus or your council's housing benefit office to report changes.

You may be able to get a budgeting loan to help you to pay for essentials.

Help with housing costs

Housing costs could be one of your biggest costs. You may be able to get housing benefit to help pay the rent. The amount you get depends on your circumstances including your income, savings and the people in your household.

Don't forget to tell the housing benefit office about any changes in your circumstances. You may be able to get housing benefit on two homes for a limited period, if you still have to pay rent on the home you have left.  If you intend to return to your former home once it is safe to do so you can get housing benefit on both homes for up to 52 weeks. 

Child maintenance 

You can apply for child maintenance from your former partner if you have children.

If you are afraid that your partner may threaten or mistreat you or your child if they are forced to pay child maintenance, get advice before making a claim.

Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your local area.

Further information about housing rights

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