Breathing space

How can I collect things I left behind?

Our belongings often become more than just items in our home. In addition to having monetary value, they can gain sentimental value over time. If you had to leave belongings behind when separating from your harm doer, it’s normal to want them back.

When deciding if and how to collect your belongings, remember your safety and well-being matter more than any possession. YOU are the most important consideration! This module was created to help you explore options to safely collect your belongings based on your location and circumstance.

Civil standby services

Many police stations provide civil standby services, where a police officer will accompany you to collect your belongings and help keep the peace. This can provide an extra level of physical safety, as well as ensure there is a witness to any disputes that may take place. In most instances, you will have 15 to 30 minutes to collect your belongings and the option to bring someone to support you and also serve as a witness.

The rules for civil standbys vary across jurisdictions. To qualify for a civil standby, some police stations will require you to have:

  • A legal order that forbids you and your harm doer from being in contact with one another like a restraining order or no contact order in place; or
  • A court order mandating that your harm doer returns your belongings.

On the other hand, some police stations will provide civil standby services to anyone in their jurisdiction as long as there are available police officers. To learn about civil standby procedures in your area, you can call the non-emergency number of your local police station. Questions you can ask include:

  • Do you offer civil standby services?
  • Who is eligible and how are they scheduled?
  • How much time will I have to collect my belongings?
  • Is there a way to ensure I’m not left alone with my harm doer?
  • Can I bring someone to help me collect my things?

Legal support

Legal support can be accessible and affordable (sometimes even free!). WomensLaw is an organization dedicated to making legal information and resources accessible to survivors of domestic abuse, and you can use their Places That Help Tool to find legal support in your area. 

You can also contact a direct service provider in your area, who can help connect you to local legal support.

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