Doctor’s Note: Today’s column includes a discussion of domestic violence and a brief description of physical abuse.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I met someone just before COVID hit. They got serious a lot quicker when I did. They were also living with an ex-partner rent free. When their ex-partner found out they were talking to me, they got thrown out and I offered to let them stay with me. There were red flags early on. They said they loved me quickly and started talking marriage after a few weeks.
I attempted to break up with them, but they came back hours later and, foolishly, I agreed to talk to them. I took them back. Now friends have lost respect for me (some of the things my partner said about me after I broke up with them were… bad). I attempted last month to break up with them again, and they got angry. They put their hands around my throat until I couldn’t breathe and made me say that I belonged to them. They said that if we ever broke up, it would be them breaking up with me. I am truly scared now. But I feel I cannot go to the police. It’s not just the current climate; not that long ago, I was raped and reported it to the police. They victim blamed me and did nothing.
My partner does not work. They do not provide anything to the relationship except stress, which is multiplied because they have untreated OCD. This makes their life hell, and by proxy, mine as well. I’m constantly walking on eggshells.
If I were back home, I would know where to go and what services to access, but I moved to a new state for work at the beginning of the year. The only people I know are my work colleagues and a few people online who are involved in the same geekdom as me. I honestly don’t know what to do, and how to do it safely.
Trapped in Quarantine
DEAR TRAPPED IN QUARANTINE: This is a horrifying situation TiQ and your priority needs to be to get out as quickly, safely and cleanly as you possibly can. And to do that, you need a plan.
First and foremost: I strongly suggest you get in contact with the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800)799-7233 or www.thehotline.org. They have trained domestic violence advocates available 24/7 who can listen to you, connect you with resources in your area and help you get clear of this person. There are a number of ways that you can get in touch with them, including online chats and text services if you worry about being overheard or can’t find a time when you’re alone and able to contact them. They can help you find a shelter or places you can go to get out, put you in contact with lawyers and legal services in order to file a protective order against them as well as tenant’s rights associations who can help you either get them off the lease (if they’re on it) or help get them evicted from your place.
I also suggest you keep a journal of their behavior. If they’re threatening or abusive, then write it all down — dates, times, behavior, what he said, what they did… everything. Document everything, keep photographs of bruises or injuries and keep it all in a safe place. Preferably one they don’t know about. Documenting their abuse and threats will make it easier to get a protective order and help you in the event that you decide to press charges.
Next: do you have any coworkers you can trust enough to help you get out? Can you let them know what’s going on? Are there people at work who can, at the very least, hold on to a bug-out bag for you or who you can leave supplies with so that you can leave at a moment’s notice? You are going to want to make sure that you have your important documents (driver’s license, insurance papers, copies of your lease or rental agreement, medical history, passports, car insurance and registration, bank statements, credit cards and ATM cards), a prepaid phone, your jewelry, an emergency supply of cash, several days worth of clothes and medication and any important sentimental items or pictures. Having these in a place that your partner can’t get to them will help make it easier to make a clean getaway from them. If you have a laptop or computer and you can get it out of the house, I’d recommend doing this too. If you can’t, then I strongly suggest changing the settings so that the computer requires a password to log in or any time the screen saver comes up. Locking them out of your computer makes it harder for them to get to your information and either track you down or trash your life.
Getting out needs to be your first priority. If they’ve already been violent with you, then you have to work under the assumption that they will do so again. Your physical safety needs to take precedence. Once you’re in a safe place — even if it’s a hotel or motel, preferably one that’s registered under a friend’s name and paid for with either cash or someone else’s card — then it’s time to focus on protecting yourself in the future. Getting an order of protection — something that you can apply for at courthouses, women’s shelters and volunteer legal associations — will be an important step. Having that in place and giving copies to your employer, friends, neighbors, co-workers or other people who they might contact helps restrict their access to you and increases the odds of consequences if they violates it. You have a very understandable reason to not trust the police, but having that order on file and on hand makes it much easier to have them arrested and charged if they come after you. It’s not a magic spell that will prevent them from harming you, but increases the likelihood that if they attempt to intimidate you or threaten you, they will go to jail. And if they threaten you or you’re afraid they’re going to get violent before you’re able to get out, then CALL THE POLICE.
Again, these are all things that the domestic violence advocates at the NDVH can help you with. Talk to them as soon as you can, then make a plan, and then get out as quickly and safely as you can. Take care of yourself and your physical safety first, then get them out of your life and out of your apartment.
This is an awful situation and I’m so sorry that you’re caught up in it. Get clear as soon as you can, TiQ. And then write back and let us know how you’re doing.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org