Leaving an abusive relationship can be a dangerous time as the abuse may increase. To ensure you leave as safely as possible, make a safety plan where possible even if you’re not planning to leave straight away. Try to leave when the person abusing you 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 residency if you have any children.

Call the police on 999 if you have to leave in an emergency or if you have been assaulted. They may be able to arrest the abuser which could give you some time to leave safely.

There are a number of options if you are thinking about leaving.

Moving into a refuge

Refuges are safe houses for women/men and children escaping domestic abuse. There are separate refuges for women and men (and their children). Some refuges have self-contained family units but most refuges will usually give your own room with your children.

There are over 500 refuges across the UK. You will usually not be able to stay in a refuge in your local area for safety reasons. You will need to be at a safe distance from the areas that the abuse has associations with.

The address of the refuge is kept secret and no-one is allowed into the building other than the people who live there and the refuge staff (or professionals given permission to visit by the refuge). A refuge is a place where you are safe and where you can get help from people who understand your experience.

What about my pets?

The decision to leave an abusive relationship is made harder by the thought of having to leave a loved family pet behind as refuges are not usually able to accept pets. To organise care for your pet takes time and a lot of planning. If you need to leave your home quickly and do not have time to organise fostering. It would be recommended to think about any family, friends or neighbours who could care for your pets in the meantime.

How to get a place in a refuge

Call the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 and they will help you find spaces in refuges across the UK. The police, specialist support workers and housing advice at your local council can also put you in touch with a refuge.

I want to stay in my own home

Along with legal measures to stop the abusive person coming into your home, other steps may be taken to help make the home safer such as

  • Changing the locks to stop someone getting in the home 
  • Fitting more secure locks, door chains, and peepholes for the front doors 
  • Reinforcing doors and door frames 
  • Installing window locks, bars, and grills 
  • Install alarms, CCTV and security lighting 
  • Have a reinforced and lockable safe room in the house, from which the police can be called

Housing support from the Local Authority

You can apply to the council housing department as a homeless person if you cannot stay in your home because of domestic abuse.

If you are a council tenant, contact your local housing office for further information regarding what help is available through your local housing office. If you are a Registered Social Landlord /Housing Association tenant contact your Housing Officer who will be able to give advice and support.

It is important to get support to help you leave safely. You can call the helpline numbers on this page or contact the organisations on the Get help now page. For independent advice regarding housing issues you can contact Shelter