I get asked so much for this vital information, so here is a basic outline of ways you can help.
Please do encourage them to leave or call law enforcement or a shelter if they feel their life is in danger, or offer them shelter. It is not easy or simple to leave but it helps survivors to know they have options. Often they believe they don’t.
It is important to remember that leaving abuse is a three part stage where deciding to leave and leaving are not separate stages from the preparation stage. Survivors can never really relax for the rest of their lives. They will forever have to look back at their previous life and make sure their tracks are covered.
That sounds dramatic but sadly our lives are hyper connected and we are tracked by government and stores and banks more than we realise. Because of this, one of the most important ways you can help someone leave is to assist them in removing their data from data broker sites. This needs to be revisited every 3-6 months. Why? because that market is shady and unethical and because when the USA government had a shut down for example- legal loopholes opened up for data brokers because important legislation was not re signed or updated. Here is a list of sites that you can use to remove your data. It can take 6 weeks or more and is a long and frustrating process, sadly. The world is set up for convenience not safety.
Social media: I advise people to lock accounts and ensure they cannot be tagged in images. Facebook and others can often be a lifeline, so it is hard to tell people to delete accounts. It is worth helping them to set up multi factor authentification with yubikey for example. The use of a password manager is helpful if you forget passwords and also adds an extra layer of security. It has been known for abusers to take over accounts and isolate survivors by posting offensive statements.
I also advise against reward cards or loyalty schemes . The data they collect could be used to track your habits and location.
If they are planning to leave, they should arrange for their mail to be forwarded, if possible, to a safe place. It is well worth contacting customer service and asking for paperless. I say this because I asked for paperless when I set up a bank account, I told customer service that no paper should ever be sent to my address: they agreed, but a compliance issue meant my ex received a detailed bank statement. The account even got transferred to him when I called to report it. So…even the best laid plans can go awry.
My biggest ask right now is that banks and government would offer more financial support to survivors. One of the biggest issues is financial abuse and hardship. Many survivors do not have their own bank accounts or credit history. It can take months to re-build and it affects the ability to rent or to get services like phone or internet provided. I would love for survivors to be offered special credit agreements, help with payment deadlines and solid financial advice. It helps to have a debit and a credit card. Banks like Monzo and Bsocial do offer excellent,secure account options and are easy to set up.
You can lock down your instagram and only use encrypted communications but if you can’t find a safe place to live and work or afford food, heat etc- you are still vulnerable. So we need to look at how we support survivors once they leave and onward. It can be daunting and terrifying to know you will leave abuse but will jump into financial insecurity.
So if you are looking to help, I hope that gives you some basic ideas of how to do so. Thank you, it will mean a huge amount to a survivor to know that you are there for them. And do reach out to the expert organisations- they have trained volunteers and know where local shelters and help will be available. But thank you, it matters and you are helping.