March 13

How do I get away from my abuser and make sure they never hurt me again?

Sadly, the leading cause of injury to women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44 is domestic violence. Domestic violence injures more women than car wrecks, muggings, and sexual assault or rapes combined.

If you are in an abusive relationship that has turned violent, you have one priority: Get out. Your safety and the safety of your children come first, period. Domestic violence shelters are places where your identity is kept secret, and your abuser cannot locate you. 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also recommends that you:

  • Keep a contact list of “safe” people.
  • Memorize the telephone numbers of people you may need to call for help.
  • Keep quarters for a pay phone, as you may be without a cell phone.
  • Keep cash for living expenses as well.
  • Establish a code word with family and friends so that you can tell them to call for help without alerting the abuser.

If you have to leave quickly, immediately go to the court for a protective order (otherwise known as a restraining order) to legally keep your abuser away from you. If you can, it’s best to hire an attorney. If you have children, be absolutely sure that the restraining order specifies that you have custody. Otherwise, your abuser could accuse you of kidnapping.

A protective order is a court document that prohibits your abusive spouse or partner from specific behavior (including touching you, attempting to contact you directly or through a third party, or coming anywhere near you). It also orders your abusive spouse or partner to perform specific actions (including leaving your home and paying temporary child support). You are not required to testify, and your abusive spouse or partner does not have to be present. If your abuser violates the restraining order, the police may arrest and charge them with the violation.


When a judge issues a restraining order in Florida, a court hearing is set within fifteen days. At the hearing, the judge decides whether to give you a “final” order. The final order is usually good for a year, after which it may be modified or dissolved. If your circumstances do not qualify for the injunction for protection against domestic violence, discuss other options with your attorney.