Your life in one bag?

Pack your and your child(ren’s) life in just one bag! Can you do it?

I’m asking you this question not because I like to challenge you, but for you to think about exactly what you would take with you if you were about to flee an abusive relationship. What would matter? Would you need to restart your life? What would you need to survive?

Quite often the women we work with who have to flee because of domestic abuse are often overwhelmed by the prospect of what they should take and what they should leave behind. Could taking a particular object or document make the perpetrator more suspicious that they are leaving or have left, or could there be repercussions of not taking something that they would need later, as you would not be able to go back straightway or never.

Through many years of working with domestic abuse survivors I have often had conversations with women who wanted to take their furniture, their electrical goods that they have had to work so hard for, etc. Quite often survivors were torn between what was of sentimental value and what they could need to start the next chapter of their life.

I remember a lady who wanted to take a family heirloom – her grandfather’s clock. This was not just any old small pocket sized clock, oh no! it was a clock the size of a six-foot person! She went through an internal conflict about what to do, she could not afford storage, the guilt and feelings of bereavement of never being able to see this clock saddened her deeply, it was her only memory of her granddad who she adored so much and she used to feel his presence with the clock.

She had to leave without it. As she kissed the clock goodbye she gathered her Benefits letters, her passport, her phone and her charger, she knew not having these would cause her major delays in accessing money and she consoled herself by knowing that her granddad would have wanted her to be safe more than to cherish his clock. That’s exactly what I told her!

If you are thinking of leaving, or know someone who is about to, then this list includes some of the things that could really help a person fleeing an abusive situation.

It’s sad and unfair that domestic abuse survivors have to lose all their possessions but to many it’s a small price to pay for freedom and safety.

By the way, the lady with the grandfather clock was reunited with it eventually! She went back a few months later with a police escort and a friend let her keep it at her house for a while.

Useful things to take with you when fleeing:

  • Some form of identification
  • Birth certificates for you and your children
    Passports (including passports for all your children), visas and work permits.
  • Money, bankbooks, cheque book and credit and debit cards.
  • Keys for house, car, and place of work. (You could get an extra set of keys cut in advance of fleeing, and put them in your emergency bag.)
  • Cards for payment of Child Benefit and any other Welfare Benefits you are entitled to.
  • Driving licence (if you have one) and car registration documents, if applicable.
  • Prescribed medication.
  • Copies of documents relating to your housing tenure (for example, mortgage details or lease and rental agreements).
  • Insurance documents, including National Insurance number.
  • Address book.
  • Family photographs, your diary, jewellery, small items of sentimental value.
  • Clothing and toiletries for you and your children.
  • Your children’s favourite small toys.

You should also take any documentation relating to the abuse – e.g. police reports, court orders such as injunctions and restraining orders, and copies of medical records if you have them.

Have a safe journey where ever you decide to go xx

Sujata, domestic abuse Services Coordinator