Although they often occur in silence and in secret, abusive relationships are an epidemic. Leaving an abusive boyfriend can be emotionally and financially difficult, and the primary goal is the safety of you and your family. After you've left an abusive boyfriend and achieved relative stability in your new life, you may realize that you have left behind personal belongings. Getting your things back may require support in the form of friends, family and law enforcement.
Know Your Rights
Familiarize yourself with your legal rights, including those for protection of you and your personal property. State law varies in terms of what is considered personal property once you have ended a relationship. In general, personal items that you own can and should be taken with you when you leave the relationship and, if applicable, the residence. If, however, you don't have the ability to take your personal belongings with you when you leave, it's important to consult with legal counsel to determine what steps you need to take to get your items back, legally and safely.
Obtain an Order of Protection
File for an Order of Protection against your abusive ex boyfriend. An Order of Protection is administered in court and limits the behavior of an individual who is abusive. Each municipality has its own version of an Order of Protection. The level of protection offered may depend on several factors, including the amount of time spent together, children, and prior history of reported abuse. In some cases, the Order of Protection may also include a stipulation that your abusive ex boyfriend is required to compensate you financially for personal belongings that were destroyed, sold or damaged.
Request Law Enforcement Accompaniment
Ask local police to accompany you as you retrieve your things. It's likely that your request to reclaim your things from your abusive ex will be met with verbal -- and possibly physical -- resistance. In order to protect yourself from the risk of physical harm, you have the right to request that a police officer accompany you. If possible, and if you have a paper trail, bring previous reports that have been filed against your ex to provide factual information that supports your request. Once you have procured law enforcement assistance, schedule a time for you and the officers to get your things.
Elicit the Support of Friends and Family
Rely on the emotional support of your friends and family. Although you need to use the law to be sure you get your things back safely and legally, having the support of friends and family in the process can help you stay strong. The end of a relationship, despite the relationship's abusive characteristics, is still experienced as a loss. It's normal to feel a sense of pain for the lost relationship, much like the loss experienced after the death of a loved one. Friends and family members can offer a safe space for the expression of your grief, while also providing objectivity.
- Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness: Barriers to Leaving an Abusive Relationship
- MassLegalHelp: Who Gets the Personal Property If I Move Out?
- Crisis Connection: Stages of Leaving an Abusive Man
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Safety Planning
- It's My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence; Meg Kennedy Dugan and Roger R. Hock
- University of Oregon: Abusive Relationsips
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images