When we say “to have and to hold” in our wedding vows, we surely don’t mean having and holding onto a secret storage locker filled with household items to eventually help us start a new life–and yet that’s exactly what one brave woman found herself doing in order to escape her abusive husband.
She shared her story on Reddit in hopes of starting a dialogue about tips for leaving such a relationship, and wound up opening a floodgate of support, similar stories and cries for help.
“I was in abusive relationship for 20 years, 15 of them married,” the Redditor who goes by potterartist wrote. “We had four kids and not only was he physically and psychologically abusive, he was financially abusive. I earned about 15% of the household income, but he required that I pay 50% of the bills. Which made saving up enough to leave tough.”
So she was forced to find a stealthy way of preparing for her exit strategy.
“I started by renting a storage locker and every month I would tell him I came up short and couldn’t pay a bill or two,” she shares. “In reality, I was stocking the storage locker with used bargains I found at yard sales, on Facebook, Costco trips, etc. A few hundred a month at a time until I had everything I needed.”
That smart plan, coupled with her parents’ financial help in renting a house, made it possible for her to finally leave the unhealthy situation.
“So the kids and I got out. And I swear to you, the feeling of pride in myself I had when my BFF and I rolled up to that storage in the truck (her twin infants sleeping in the back) one Wednesday late morning to move that stuff into our new place was amazing,” she writes of the emotional moment.
Her story is an inspiration for other women who find themselves embroiled in a similarly abusive relationship.
“Against every odd, and every fu*king roadblock that fu*ker put up… I did it. And there was a whole house full of furniture, towels, toiletries, kitchen supplies, sheets, clothing, books, and electronics and everything else a home needs sitting in that storage locker that proved I could do this,” she says with understandable pride. “I never let his abuse over every bill I told him I couldn’t pay stop me. I kept going until that storage locker was filled to the brim.”
And once she had the new house set up, she couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that she did it–and hasn’t looked back.
“The kids and I moved in two days later and life’s been f*cking amazing ever since. I wish I had found that courage and determination many years before I did, but I also recognize that I could have easily never found it. So I choose to admire myself for finding it at all.”
As do others, with her story garnering more than 1400 upvotes and 300 supportive and congratulatory comments. The overwhelming response touched potterartist so much, that she ended up adding super helpful tips for women in the forum looking to follow in her footsteps.
“I had NO idea this comment would get so much attention,” she writes. “But since it did, I wanted to add some practical advice for others.
1. Get your own bank account at a bank they don’t bank at. Even if you can only put $10 in it a month, get one. What having your own bank account does for you psychologically can’t be underestimated. And then it’s there if/when you ever need to have a place to suddenly put money you don’t want them to be able to get to.
2. Keep a set of car keys hidden on every floor of your house. DO NOT PARK IN THE GARAGE if you have one.
3. Set up a code word or phrase with friends and family – something you could say in the middle of any phone/text conversation that tells them to call 911 for you immediately because I can’t right now (for whatever reason you can’t). Mine was “I need to order oil” because it wouldn’t sound off to anyone I said it in front of, but also wasn’t something I would say accidentally because my house has natural gas, not oil. And practice saying that word/phrase in your head, especially at times you feel unsafe. The more you practice using it, the more likely it is you’ll use it when you need to.
4. Stop telling yourself he won’t ever follow through on his threats. Do you think any woman who lost their life to an abuser actually thought he’d do it? Of course not. I’m not saying he will do it, my ex threatened my life for years and never did it. I’m saying stop telling yourself he won’t actually do it, because you don’t know that. And telling myself that he wouldn’t actually ever do it stopped me from taking steps I desperately needed to take for years. He’s threatening you in order to control you, and that control only works if you tell yourself he won’t do it. Because what you are actually saying is “He won’t actually do it as long as I do/don’t do (insert whatever it is he wants you to do or desperately doesn’t want you to do) “.
5. Tell people about the abuse. It’s so terribly, terribly important to talk to people about it. I know how incredibly hard it is. It’s still hard for me to talk about, and it’s especially hard to talk about out loud. It’s uncomfortable. But so important. Write in a journal at first (Journey is an easy, secure app you can use on a computer, phone or tablet). Or write it down and then burn it if you’re worried about him finding it. Or text someone. Or go to the library and use a computer to talk about it in an online forum. Just start pulling away the layers of secrecy. You need this more than you can understand for many years yet.
6. If you leave and you have kids, this next one will feel very counterintuitive… If he comes after you, run AWAY from the kids. He’s not there for the kids and running towards them brings the danger to them. Running away from them draws the danger away from them. Practice this in your head because it is so counterintuitive.
7. You don’t have to figure it out. Know that you can walk into any police station and say “I am in an unsafe relationship and I don’t know how to get out” and they will take it from there and help you figure it out. They know the services and help available to you and they know the best way to get you out safely.
8. Look at yourself in the mirror every single day and say “You are too beautiful for this”. Because you are. You do not deserve this, no matter what he says.
9. Wasp spray makes a great personal protection device. When I left, I wanted something, but definitely not a gun. So I bought wasp spray and kept one at strategic spots around the house. It’s available everywhere and sprays further than mace.
10. Just because he doesn’t leave bruises doesn’t mean it’s not abuse.
11. If you have kids, talk to them about the abuse. They know more than you think they do, and they need help processing it.
And know you are not alone. If you are in an abusive relationship–physically, mentally and/or financially–please call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 for help.