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Guide to escaping an abusive relationship
An escape guide and a step-by-step guide for women who want to escape from an abusive relationship. Plus the legal actions victims can take.

We are republishing the Diotima Center’s article in the “Respect” column of VICE Greece, signed by communications manager Natasa Kefallinou. In the “Respect” column, every Monday, personal stories, opinion pieces, photographs, reports from selected humanitarian organizations, human rights organizations and individuals are published.

“I want to break up, to get away from the abuse. But I am afraid that he will kill me”, “What if he harms my children?”, “I am afraid that the divorce will be against me”, “What if they do not believe me in court?”, “He can take my children… “, “How will I manage on my own?”, “Will my children lose their citizenship?”, “I don’t even have money to sue.”

Often, when women who have experienced domestic violence visit our services, they are hesitant to divorce or even report an abusive (former or current) husband or partner.

Of course, the fact that they crossed the threshold of the Center seems like a first step in overcoming the fear and paralysis caused by the abuse. However, this is the moment when all the above fears “hit red”. This makes perfect sense, as this is one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship.

It is the phase when the perpetrator sees that he loses absolute control over the life of his partner/wife. He is enraged and tries by all means to prevent the escape. This fact makes it necessary to take protective measures, to draw up a “Safety Plan” on the part of the survivor.

Below, we will look at some indicative steps that are useful to keep in mind for women who want to escape from an abusive relationship. Of course, each escape plan can only be personalized, and adapted to the needs of each woman, since only she knows what is best and safest for her and her children.

At the end of the article, we will briefly refer to both the legal actions that victims can take, as well as the provisions of the law for their protection.

Attention, under no circumstances, should you inform the perpetrator in advance that you will leave him

In the context of a violent relationship, it is extremely possible to find yourself in a situation of immediate danger. In this phase, it is very important to trust your instincts and feelings. If you think you’re in danger, you really are.

Call the police immediately (see below) or leave quickly, taking your children with you.

However, if you are not in an urgent situation, it is important to plan your escape so that things go more smoothly. Attention, under no circumstances should you inform the perpetrator in advance that you will leave him.


Contact agencies and services that support victims of gender-based violence to receive the necessary information and support.

Call the SOS Telephone Line 15900 (city charge) or send an e-mail to . The line is national in scope and you can speak 24 hours a day, weekdays and weekends, with psychologists and social workers who will inform you about all the options you have.

Call or visit one of the 15 Counseling Centers of the General Secretariat for Equality and Family Policy or the 26 Counseling Centers of the Municipalities. The Centers provide free social, psychological support and legal counseling. The services are aimed at both Greek women and immigrant/refugee women, survivors of all forms of gender-based violence.

Don’t forget to erase the corresponding traces of calls or internet searches.


If there is a neighbor you trust, explain the situation to them and ask them to call the police if they realize you are in danger.


Teach your children not to get in the middle when there is an outbreak of violence. Explain to them how to call 100 in case of emergency and what exactly to report: full name, address and phone number.


Record in a well-kept notebook as many details as you can of the abuse incidents: date and time, location, words and actions of the perpetrator, eyewitnesses or people you spoke to afterwards, etc.


Start collecting files that “document” the incidents of abuse. Specifically: certificates or copies of complaints to the police/prosecutor’s office, doctor’s report, forensic report, etc.

For example, in the event of an injury – even if you do not file a complaint, even if the injury seems minor – go to a hospital on call. After your examination, ask for the incident to be recorded in the hospital’s incident book as ‘abuse’ and get a copy of that report.

Take pictures of the wounds and bruises on your body.

Remember that the recording of the incident is an important piece of evidence and is valuable in the proceedings that will follow (e.g. divorce).


Collect all the necessary documents, both yours and your children’s: identity card, health book, passport, cards and bank account books, driver’s license and car license, certificates e.g. birth, marital status, tax declaration, important medical examinations, work-related documents, school documents, residence and work permit.

Get a spare key for the house and the car. Keep them in a place where it is impossible for him to find them and you can take them immediately in case of escape.


Memorize the phone numbers you may need in case of emergency: e.g. Police (100 or 112), EKAV (166), Fire Department (199), SOS Line 15900 or phone numbers of organizations and hostels, trusted friends and relatives, lawyer.

At the same time, write the useful phone numbers in a notebook.

After your escape, it is necessary to get a new and confidential number. Don’t forget to disable the “location services” on the mobile device or anything else related that could “reveal” your location to the perpetrator.


Reach out to a trusted relative or friend, that you are sure will help you in case of need. Give her/him a suitcase with all the essentials you have packed (a few clothes, necessary documents and spare keys, money, one or two favorite things of you and your children’s).


Try to train yourself to escape safely. Locate the road that will take you away from home quickly and safely. Make a rough plan of your house, where you will take into account windows, doors and exits.

Think in which room you could have access to a phone and an escape exit at the same time. Can you lock this room from the inside?


Try to recall your personal safety plan as often as you can.


After running away, avoid staying at the home of someone the abuser knows. If you don’t have a home or money, contact one of the 21 Shelters of the General Secretariat for Equality and Family Policy and the National Center for Social Solidarity (EKKA), which have a secret address.

To be referred to a shelter, you need to call 15900 or a counseling center. Because staying in a shelter requires medical examinations and a psychiatric evaluation by a public hospital, procedures that take several days – if you are in an emergency, contact the Athens Municipality’s Shelter for Abused Women, which operates on a 24-hour basis.

You can stay in the shelters – whether you are Greek or foreign – with your children (in the case of boys, if they are up to 12 years old). There you will receive free counseling, psychological and material support (e.g. food, clothes).

It is important to know that shelters are a temporary solution, until you get your own home and financial independence. Thus, the hosting lasts up to three months, with the possibility of extension only if there are serious reasons.

The complaint process: Domestic violence is a criminal offence

  • It is important to know that domestic violence is a very serious criminal offense punishable by strict penalties under the Greek law (Law 3500/2006).

The acts punishable under the above law are: physical harm (1-15 years sentence), forcing a family member to commit an act, omission or tolerance that she is not obliged to do by using force or threats and domestic threat (six months-five years), insulting her dignity, with a particularly humiliating word or deed (up to two years), threatening a witness or a family member, with the purpose of obstructing the administration of justice (three months-three years).

Rape outside or inside a marriage (5-20 years) and indecency (up to 10 years) are punishable under the Criminal Code.

  • It is important to know that domestic violence is an ex officio prosecutable offense, so it is not necessary to file a lawsuit. According to the law, the complaint or information, statements of witnesses and any other element, which the Prosecutor will be aware of, is sufficient in order to bring a criminal prosecution.

However, since in practice a criminal prosecution is usually not carried out on the basis of a complaint or witness statements alone, it is important that complainants persist and file a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office or the police. That’s the only way the process will move forward.

Finally, given that this is an ex officio prosecuted offense, you must know that once a case file is filed, the process cannot be interrupted.

  • If your (former or current) husband or partner or another family member abuses you in any of the above ways, you can report it to the police or the prosecutor’s office. Immediately afterwards ask to receive a copy from the incident record log book. The police are obliged to receive your application and provide you with the copy.

When you go to the police station, you should know that the police authorities are obliged to: investigate the complaint, record the incident in the book of offenses and incidents, and inform the Prosecutor in writing.

Of course, we know from our experience that the victims are often discouraged by the police authorities: “Go home”, “make up with him”, “don’t you think about your children?”, “why get into all this trouble?” are some of the stereotypical phrases you may hear.

In this case, insist that the police are obliged to accept your complaint, because according to Law 3500/2006 domestic violence is an ex officio prosecuted offence. If, despite this, you continue to face problems, call your lawyer or 15900 so that the police can be informed.

Finally, if you are injured, the Police must refer you to the medical examiner, if they don’t, ask for it yourself. Don’t forget to ask for a copy of the forensic investigation.

  • It is important to know that the law provides you with multiple protections, prohibiting the person who abuses or threatens you from approaching you, your children, relatives or witnesses anywhere (at home, at school, at work, etc.).

If you feel that you, your children or someone close to you is in danger, ask the Court of First Instance to issue a restraining order, which includes: relocation, prohibition of access to your places of residence and work, etc. Any violation of the restraining order may result in arrest and/or fines.

  • In addition to a complaint, you can also file a domestic violence lawsuit at the police station or the prosecutor’s office. In fact, this action is quite important in case of divorce because it proves the strong erosion of the marriage. Attention: The lawsuit is filed without a fee.
  • In fact, if your lawsuit is filed within the framework In fact, if your lawsuit is filed within the framework of “catching him in the act”, the police are obliged to search for, arrest and take the perpetrator, within 48 hours, to the prosecutor, who will refer him to trial. In court you can request the imposition of restrictive conditions until the trial
  • For all of this, it is good to contact a lawyer, who will inform you in detail about your rights, the protection that the law can provide you with and the procedure you must follow, depending on your own needs and the situation in which you find yourself.

In the event that you do not have the financial means to pay a lawyer, contact a counseling center that will inform you of the procedure you must follow in order to be appointed a free lawyer by the Bar Association of your area.

And don’t forget

No perpetrator is omnipotent. No victim is weak.


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