According to statistics, in almost 20 percent of marriages spouses may slap, hit or assault each other. When adding in the number of individuals who are also emotionally and verbally abused, the numbers rise even higher. These statistics are often inaccurate as domestic violence oftentimes goes unreported, sometimes because individuals are unaware of the abuse. For those who are aware that they are being abused, however, the most dangerous time for them could be when they leave the relationship.
Types of Domestic Abuse
There is more to domestic violence than just physical threats. There are multiple types of domestic abuse, and some may be more difficult to recognize than others.
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse can include a wide range of aggressive behaviors, such as punching, slapping, throwing objects, damaging personal property or even forcing a spouse to use drugs or alcohol. This type of abuse can be particularly dangerous as it can sometimes become life-threatening.
- Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse can include such behaviors as name-calling and insults. Jealousy, humiliation, shaming and stalking can also be considered emotional abuse. This can often be harder to recognize than physical violence.
- Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse not only can include forms of rape but also physical assault during sex or targeting one’s genitals.
- Financial Abuse: Financial abuse is comprised of any behavior that maintains power over a partner’s finances. This can range from damaging a partner’s credit score to harassing their partner in the workplace, which can ultimately result in the loss of the victim’s employment.
- Technological Abuse: Technological abuse can involve hacking and manipulating a partner’s personal accounts and emails, tracking a partner’s whereabouts without their knowledge or recording them without their consent.
Sometimes in domestic violence situations, victims can develop a phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome, which causes them to emotionally bond with their abuser. This can cause victims to view their abusers as less of a threat and could also cause them to view anyone outside the relationship, such as family or friends, in a negative light. This can make it difficult for someone to escape domestic abuse.
Taking Steps to Protect Oneself
Those who are trapped in abusive relationships may not realize what options they have to protect themselves. However, proper planning, such as documenting incidents of abuse, and following certain legal procedures can help to keep a domestic abuse victim safe.
- Preparing to leave – Once a victim has made the decision to leave, they should consider bringing a few things with them. This includes a list of safe contacts, cash, credit cards and checkbooks in the victim’s name, legal documents such as birth certificates, deeds and leases and insurance policies. The victim should also consider bringing along any documentation of past abuse, such as photographs or medical records.
- Getting to Safety – Once a victim has left their home, they will want to stay in a location where their spouse cannot find them, such as a shelter or the home of a friend their partner does not know. A victim should also make an immediate attempt to get a restraining order placed against their abuser. This order should also give them custody to prevent accusations of kidnapping.
- After Leaving – Once the victim is safe, they should begin looking for legal counsel. If they cannot afford it, they may be able to get help from a shelter. They should also change phone numbers, and if they are contacted by their abuser or if their restraining contract is violated, police or the courts should be contacted immediately.
- Divorce – When filing for divorce, an individual has two options: fault and no-fault. No-fault divorce states that, legally, neither party is responsible for the failure of the marriage. However, domestic abuse can be considered fault in a divorce. This can cause the courts to take the abuse into consideration when dividing assets as well as assigning custody. In some cases, visitation may still be awarded to the other spouse. In such cases, an individual can move to have restrictions, such as required supervision or public meeting locations, on the visits.
Most of the time domestic violence can take a turn for the worse when a relationship ends. As described above, it is important for you to take steps to be safe before you start a divorce. Seek help through your local domestic violence resources and get advice on what to do next. If divorce is the next step find an experienced local divorce attorney to represent you and act as a strong advocate for you during this difficult time.