When Domestic Violence is a Factor In Your Divorce
Marriages can be hard at times but they sure as hell should not hurt! Domestic violence in marriages can take on many faces. Spousal abuse as a form of domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior that is used to gain or maintain power and control. This abusive behavior is not just limited to a physical act of violence but can also be mental, economic, or sexual in nature. Incidents of abuse are rarely isolated and typically escalate and become more frequent over time. When domestic violence takes place, the abused spouse may experience physical trauma, unregulated aggression, anxiety, chronic health problems, mental illness, and psychological disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
According to the United Nations, domestic abuse is a global concern and a world health issue, especially for women. Recognizing and acknowledging signs of abuse is the first step to seeking the help and support victims need.
Although support outside of the marriage is essential, spouses who experience abuse in their marriage often feel:
may be too scared,
may be too embarrassed or
may be too confused
to seek such support, doing everything they can to keep the peace including, removing themselves from their friends and family.
If you are experiencing abuse at the hands of your spouse, it is NOT your fault.
Your partner is responsible for their abusive actions, words, and behaviors, NOT you! But leaving an abusive marriage can also be difficult, especially if there are minor children involved. Even before deciding whether you would like to proceed with a divorce action, your safety has to be the top priority.
If you are in immediate threat of violence, calling 911 and involving law enforcement to ensure your safety is crucial. Law enforcement across the country takes domestic violence with a great deal of concern and can help you remove yourself or your spouse from your physical presence, allowing you the opportunity to seek civil orders of protection from the court, including temporary restraining orders (TRO).
TRO’s legally prohibit your spouse from having all forms of physical contact with you including:
Before filing a civil action though, it is extremely important that you consult with an attorney. If you can not afford an attorney or are unsure how to obtain one, you can reach out to your local domestic violence program for assistance.
If you are not in immediate danger but want to begin the process of planning to leave the abusive marriage, putting a safety plan in place is essential. Safety plans help survivors strategize what they will do to stay safe, including keeping children safe if there are children involved, when they are ready to leave the marriage for good.
Safety plans are unique to each individual based on their individual needs and concerns but can include gathering essential documentation, evidence, and documentation of abusive incidents, a list of ready community resources, support networks, having legal and domestic violence advocates on hand, as well as a ready packed bag and a planned place to go.
Making the decision and taking the action necessary to leave an abusive marriage can be very scary. And even though you may have physically escaped your abuser, the abuse may not stop. Post-separation abuse can be just as hurtful. When abusers can no longer control their victims, they may engage in escalated threats through declarations of outcome. These declarations of outcome can include: weaponizing the children, intimidation, economic abuse and using the system. If you leave me, you will never see your children again, is a familiar declaration of outcome used by an abuser to maintain power and control. And often, victims who are conditioned by their abuser to self-doubt and question themselves may very well halt their divorce action out of fear.
The best antidote for these threats is to affirm for yourself, just because they say it doesn’t mean it’s true.
At The Split Society, we are committed to helping individuals of domestic abuse get the support and information they need to rebuild their strength and confidence so they can engage competently in the decision-making process, putting themselves and their children's health and well-being at the forefront.
Domestic Violence Resources
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence