How can I safely divorce when there is domestic violence in my relationship?
Domestic violence is a rampant problem in our society that cuts through all cultural, racial, and socioeconomic lines. When someone is being abused, it is often not obvious to even their closest friends. The secrecy is compounded by the fact that the individual is often ashamed of what is happening and feels that he or she is to blame for the abuse. When an abused spouse wants to leave their abusive marriage, there are significant safety concerns.
A safety plan is a plan created by an abused individual that includes practical ways to remain safe while in their relationship, when planning to leave, and after they have gone. Safety planning encompasses dealing with the emotions of your situation, connecting with loved ones, and taking legal actions.
When a spouse abuses the other, it is likely that the abuser will keep close watch on their partner’s emails, texts, phone calls, and whereabouts. The abuser may have installed spyware on computer and phone devices that allows them to access and read all of their partner’s communications. If possible, discussions and research about leaving should be in person or on phones or computers and email accounts that the abuser cannot access.
Part of the abusive relationship involves isolating the victim from anyone whom the abuser believes would influence or interfere with their control over their partner. This situation can be problematic as the abused person may not feel that they have a support network. If there are loved ones whom you have lost contact with because of your partner, reconnect with them and ask for help. Other resources are national domestic abuse organizations such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which are equipped to help you build your safety plan, and local groups who can assist you such as The Women’s Center and the Center for the Prevention of Family Violence in Waukesha, and Sojourner Family Peace Center and the Task Force on Family Violence in Milwaukee. It is not hard to find local groups online.
Abusive partners frequently keep their victims financially dependent upon them by controlling all of the household money and credit. Assess your financial situation, and determine what resources you have and if credit is available to you. If you don’t have money or credit, determine if you can safely divert funds into a separate account for your support and establish a line of credit.
One the most dangerous times for abused spouse is when he or she leaves the relationship. Abusers will often try to get to their victims by following them or accessing them through their children. If you have left, be aware of your surroundings and avoid going to isolated locations alone. If you have children, you will need to discuss safety measures with them and create procedures which will help protect them during and after this process.
If you are in immediate danger you should call the police and get out right away. Violence is never acceptable, and you should not hesitate to take action to keep yourself and your children safe.