Decision aid

It can be difficult to make decisions about what to do next when you are in a toxic relationship. If something about your relationship makes you feel uncomfortable or even afraid, it is worth taking a closer look.

We would like to support you in your decision-making process.

Safety plan

You are worried about your safety in your relationship and want to make a plan for emergencies.

Violent partners can be unpredictable.

A safety plan can help you escape a violent situation and better prepare you for an emergency.

We recommend the following:

  • Always carry some cash and your mobile phone on you.
  • Know the emergency telephone numbers (police, women's and men's shelters, victim advisory centers).
  • Inform a friend or someone you can trust and discuss your emergency plan with him/her. If you have children, think about how you can best involve them.
  • Make copies of important documents and put them in a safe place. You can also ask a person of trust to help you with this.
  • Pack an emergency bag that you can keep in a safe place or give to somebody you trust. In your emergency bag, you should put some clothes, toiletries, important personal belongings, medicine, money, spare keys, charging cable and documents such as passport/ID card, insurance cards, bank documents, residence permit.
  • If you cannot speak openly, use a code word or signal to alert your friend or person of trust. This way he/she knows when you need help. Make sure to discuss beforehand what actions your person of trust should take once you use the signal. You can also agree on a code word or signal with your children, so they know how to react in certain situations.
  • Make sure you know the escape routes if you suddenly have to leave your apartment (exits, lift, windows). Think about where you would go in an emergency (friend’s home, family, women's or men's shelter).

If you often worry about your safety, we also recommend that you fill out this questionnaire to determine the level of danger you might face in your relationship.

Entscheidung Kinder It is exactly because of your children that you should not stay.

Children

You are in an abusive relationship and have children. What can you do?

Understand the effects of violence on your children

It is extremely stressful for children to witness violence between their parents. Often, they are more aware of what’s happening than parents expect. A home that doesn’t feel safe can have damaging and long-lasting effects on a child’s health, development, and well-being. Children often believe that they are to blame for the violence. Or, like you, they may feel alone, insecure, frightened, powerless, and confused.

Protect your children

It is your responsibility as a parent to protect your children.

  • Talk openly with them. Tell them that they are not to blame for the violence. Answer their questions and ask them how they feel. Accept it if children don’t want to talk. Do not try to deny or trivialize what’s happening in your home.
  • Try to shield your children from witnessing aggression or direct violence.
  • Think about how to protect your children in emergency situations. They could, for example, stay with a grandparent, friend, or neighbour.
  • Try to create safe spaces for your children, where they can rest and don't have to be afraid.

Know where to go for help

You may believe that you will be blamed for failing as a parent when you seek help. You are not to blame for someone else’s abuse. Seeking help is being a good parent.

Both you and your children can get support and counselling for domestic violence. We strongly recommend that you do this. Here you can find a general overview of support services (also for minors) in Switzerland. Many of them work with translators.

Good to know:

  • Many victim advisory centres have employees who also counsel minors.
  • If you go to a women's or men's shelter, you can take your children with you.
  • The child and adult protection authorities (KESB) become active when a risk report is received. This happens, for example, when the police respond to a domestic violence incident where minors are involved. The KESB has a mandate to carefully investigate the situation and protect the children. Victim advisory centres as well as women's shelters can advise you on any questions you might have about the KESB and other services you may need.

Break-up

You’re thinking about leaving your abusive partner.

What should you be aware of?

Know that violence can escalate during that time. Recognize the signs.

According to experts, leaving an abusive relationship can be very dangerous. The intensity of violence and risk of homicide becomes particularly high during the period of separation.

Your partner might escalate their aggression to keep you from leaving. It is very important that you take precautionary measures to keep yourself as safe as possible. Has your partner already shown such controlling behaviour? Are you afraid to leave for good? If so, you should seek help.

Your safety is most important.

  • Call the police (117) if you feel threatened.
  • It may be safer to end the relationship over the phone or by text message. If you want to break up in person, you should do so in a public place. It can be helpful if friends or family wait for you nearby.
  • If you live with your partner, don’t say you are planning to break up with them. Leave the flat when your partner is not at home and take your belongings with you.
  • Do not meet an abusive ex alone in your/their home after the break-up – even if he or she asks for it. See if you can meet in a café or other public place.

Think about an emergency plan. You could agree on an emergency signal with your friends or family members. This can be a word, phrase, or other signal that you can use to alert them if you feel you are in danger. Pack an emergency bag with everything you need in case you have to leave the house quickly.

Entsch beziehung

Relationship

You have a bad gut feeling, but you want to stay in the relationship or have other reasons why you cannot separate from your partner right now.

Generally, experts recommend ending an abusive relationship and getting help from victim advisory centres. But we know that making such a decision can be difficult – and you don’t have to be ashamed of that. It often takes several attempts to leave an abusive partner.

If you are not ready to leave yet, we recommend the following:

  • Find the reasons why you are staying: There are many reasons that can prevent you from leaving an abusive partner. Understand what is preventing you from leaving. In many cases, victims have become dependent on their partner, financially and/or emotionally. Many feel shame and are afraid of the consequences.
  • Inform yourself: Know and understand the signs of an unhealthy relationship. The faster you can recognize the toxic patterns of your partner, the sooner you can get support. Our relationship check can give you clues.
  • Document the abuse: Keep a log of all incidents. Take photos of your injuries, make screenshots of abusive messages, save threatening voice notes. This will give you a record of what is happening and will help you if you want to pursue legal actions. However, make sure you keep this information in a safe place where no one else can access it. Above all, make sure that your partner cannot find anything. You might send the evidence to a person of trust, so you don’t have to keep it yourself.
  • Get support: Abusive relationships can be emotionally draining. Seek professional support or confide in a family member or friend. Don’t carry this burden alone.
  • Put your safety first: Emotional abuse can lead to physical abuse. Your safety must be a priority. Think about what to do in an emergency situation. Sooner rather than later.

Criminal complaint

Are you thinking about filing charges against an abusive partner?

Here's what you need to know.

When can you file a criminal complaint?

It is important to distinguish whether an offense is an official offense (German “Offizialdelikt”, French “délits”) or an offense prosecutable on complaint (German “Antragsdelikt”, French “plainte”). An official offense is prosecuted by the authorities’ initiative. If the police learn of an official offense, they will automatically initiate prosecution. In the case of an offense prosecutable on complaint, you as the person concerned must file a criminal complaint. In both cases, you can go to the police to report the offense.

Official offenses in the area of domestic violence include:

  • Slight or aggravated bodily injuries
  • Repeated assaults (such as slapping, hitting, pulling hair, etc.)
  • Threats
  • Coercion
  • Homicide or attempted homicide
  • Sexual assault and rape

Offenses prosecutable on complaint include:

  • Property damage
  • One-time assaults (for example, a slap in the face)
  • Trespassing
  • Harassment (for instance through stalking)
  • Sexual harassment

In the case of offenses prosecutable on complaint, you can withdraw the criminal complaint; in the case of an official offense, only the criminal authority can do so.

Why should I file a complaint?

When a complaint is filed, the authorities investigate whether a criminal act has taken place. If so, the accused person will be brought to justice. We recommend that you seek advice on whether to file a complaint. If you are unsure, you can still reach out to experts (e.g. from victim advisory centers or women's shelters) so that they can best prepare you for the process and answer all your questions.

How can you document the violence?

It can be helpful to record incidents of abuse, espeically if you want to pursue legal actions. There are different ways in which you can document violent behavior:

  • Take screenshots of threatening or abusive text messages, emails, or social media content.
  • Take screenshots if you are being terrorized with phone calls
  • Save threatening or otherwise abusive voice messages
  • Save medical reports if you have sought medical attention for domestic violence
  • Write down incidents of abuse in as much detail as you can remember. A personal log or journal can help you record incidents. This can also help you when calling the police.
  • Take photos of physical injuries (bruises, scratches, or other). It should be clear that you are the person with the injury. You may want to ask someone you trust to take pictures of your injuries. Make sure that you sign and date each picture.
  • Make sure that you save the documents in a safe place where no one else can access them. Above all, your abuser must not be able to find anything. You may consider sending your evidence to a person of trust, so you don't have to keep it yourself.
Entscheidung gesundheit I just wanted to disappear. Stay hidden behind my curtain.

Health

You're not feeling or sleeping well. You feel emotionally numb. You are easily startled.

Physical and emotional violence in a relationship can have long-lasting and far-reaching impacts on your health and well-being, especially on your mental health:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Depression, fatigue and lethargy
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Feelings of despair and powerlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

These consequences can greatly affect and limit your quality of life. You may have little energy to go about your daily life and experience difficulties to concentrate on your work or studies.

If you find yourself in a toxic relationship, you might feel all alone in the world. It can be relieving to confide in those around you or seek professional help. Victim advisory centres can help you find a therapist in your area.

More information

You're not sure if you are experiencing violence in your relationship?

Toxic relationships are not always easy to identify. In many cases, such relationships burn hot in the beginning, they can feel exhilarating and passionate. Your partner may shower you with attention and affection. Once the relationships dynamics change, it might be difficult to recognize the warning signs and unhealthy behaviors. Particularly emotional abuse such as constant criticism and controlling behavior often go unnoticed and are not recognized as violence.

However, many victims report a feeling of unease and that there is something amiss. If you feel a similar way, we advise you to inform yourself as thoroughly as possible. The better you can identify your partner's toxic behavior patterns, the sooner you can get support and make the right decisions for you.

This is domestic violence

You are not to blame

You are not crazy

Quiz: How healthy is my relationship?