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Ending an abusive and violent relationship is one of the bravest things you'll ever do.

This might be an overwhelming time for you and you may not be sure where to begin. Ending the relationship can be complex, especially if you and your children want to keep living in your home. It may even take you several attempts before you finally break up for good.

Remember that it's your right to feel safe and be treated with respect in a relationship. The abuse and violence is never your fault. Domestic violence is a crime.

There are many reasons why you might want to stay in your home and have the abuser leave the residence. Each person's situation is different. You may not want to move away from your support system of family and friends, the school your children attend and the community where you live. Whatever the reason, it's best to take it one step at a time and put the safety of you and your children first.

What you can do

Ending an abusive and violent relationship will take planning and support. Here are some things you'll need to consider.

1. Don't tell the abuser

DO NOT tell your abuser that you want to end the relationship or even that you're thinking about it. The period just before and just after breaking up can be the most dangerous for you and your children. It's important you're aware of this.

2. Talk to a support worker

Contact a support services worker to talk about how to leave the relationship in the safest way possible for you and your children. They can help you create a safety plan and also refer you to other support services available for you and your children, and explain how to get an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order). Read more about this in Apply for an AVO below.

A support services worker is available to talk to you 24/7 by calling:

Domestic Violence Line
1800 65 64 63

1800RESPECT
1800 737 732

3. Stay safe

Right now, you need to make sure you and children are safe. We have helpful information about how you can do this:

4. Apply for an AVO

An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is a court order to protect victims of domestic violence who are fearful of future violence or fearful of their safety. It bans the person causing you fear from assaulting, threatening, stalking or intimidating you. If the person breaches (breaks) the AVO, then they may be charged with a criminal offence.

An Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) is made to protect a person where a domestic relationship exists between the parties. Exclusion Orders within an ADVO, allow you to remain at home while removing or prohibiting the violent person from living in the same home as you - the protected person. Read about how you can get an AVO.

5. Staying Home Leaving Violence program

Women and children escaping domestic and family violence often end up homeless. The aim of the Staying Home Leaving Violence program is to prevent this by removing the violent offender from the home. The reality is it's the offender who is responsible for their own abusive behaviour. Not a spouse, ex-partner or child.

The program works in cooperation with NSW Police to remove the perpetrator (the violent partner) from the family home so that you and your children can stay safely where you are. It also provides support such as improving home security, safety planning, help in managing finances, and help with the legal process. There are 27 locations across NSW where this program is available. Find out more about the Staying Home Leaving Violence program, where the 27 locations are, and who to contact.

6. Security at home

Once the violent partner is out of the home and there is an ADVO out against him, you'll need to ensure that your home is secure. Here are some security measures you can take:

  • Change the locks, or install extra locks, on all the doors and windows.
  • Increase overall security of the home by installing outdoor lights with a sensor that triggers when someone walks past.
  • Trim shrubs and bushes form entrance ways and ensure pathways are visible and well lit.
  • Keep torches and spare batteries in an easy to reach place in various spots around the home.
  • Consider installing a loud, outside alarm that can be activated from inside the house.
  • Make sure everyone in the home talks about suspicious calls or occurrences.
  • Keep in touch with neighbours and ask them to let you know if anyone has been hanging around your house and to contact the police if they hear any violent incidents or have any concerns about your safety.
  • Get a dog. A family dog can be one of the least expensive and most effective alarm systems. Some breeds are better watch dogs, but any breed will bark at an intruder. If this has been a family dog known by the person who has used violence, consider getting another one as well. However, you may also need to consider how to keep your dog safe from the perpetrator.
  • Keep your outside area clear of garden utensils such as rakes, shovels, ladders or wheelie bins. Keep the shed door locked.
  • Is there a safe room in your house that you can lock and that has mobile phone coverage? This could be the toilet or laundry. Install a lock to make it a more secure place for you and your children to wait for the police to arrive.

The Northside Community Service has a Domestic and Family Violence Safety Planning Guide that is a printable booklet that has helpful information on staying safe at home and work for you and your children once you've left the violent relationship.

The Planning for your safety booklet, created by Bega Staying Home Leaving Violence, is also printable and has some useful tips on staying safe.

7. Next steps

You might also want to consider these next steps:

Helpful services

Law Access NSW

Provides free legal advice, assistance, referral and representation for women on family law, domestic violence and sexual assault. The service also provides help with applying for legal aid.

Law Access NSW
Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm
Phone: (02) 8833 3190
Free call: 1300 888 529 
TTY: 1300 889 529
Translating and Interpreting Service: 131 450

Other legal services

There are other legal services you can access, some are specifically for Aboriginal women, children and young people, the LGBTQI community, persons who have disability, and multicultural and multilingual women.

Helpful resources

Women and Family Law by Women's Legal Service NSW is a plain-English guide to family law in NSW and covers topics such as divorce, children, AVOs, violence, child support and property settlement. The guide is available on web pages, eBook for Kindle or iPads, and as a downloadable and printable PDF.

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