Leaving an abusive marriage – FAQ

Leaving an abusive situation is not easy, but can be possible by creating an escape plan and seeking help from others.

Domestic violence is widespread in New York and other states - every year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, over 10 million people are abused by their partners. Violent crimes have been connected to domestic violence in 15 percent of all cases nationwide. Divorce is rarely an easy time of life for anyone, but when spousal abuse is part of the picture, it often requires outside help. Abusive spouses will usually go to great lengths to prevent their partners from leaving the marriage.

What are the types of domestic abuse?

Most people associate spousal abuse as the act of physically hurting a partner. However, there are other ways to cause harm in a relationship. Abusers may emotionally or verbally abuse their loved ones, often belittling them, insulting them and making them feel as if they are worthless. They may restrict them from seeing their friends and family members, or not allow them to have access to a phone, computer or transportation. They may make threats in order to get the victim to do what they want. Domestic violence does not have to escalate into physical harm, but often it does.

How can I prepare to escape an abusive marriage?

It requires careful planning to end a marriage when domestic violence is involved. As stated above, abusers will often not make this easy. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, an escape plan might include the following:

• Gathering evidence of abuse, such as taking photographs of injuries and writing down the abusive behavior in a journal

• Letting a trusted family member or friend know about the abuse and the plans to escape

• Contacting a domestic violence shelter for advice

• Putting money, clothing, important documents and other personal items in a safe place that the abuser does not know about

• Learning the locations and phone numbers of law enforcement offices and shelters

It may also help, before leaving, to seek a protective order against the abuser.

How does a protective order work?

A protective order is also known as a restraining order. These are legal documents that give victims of abuse temporary legal protection. An abuser is prohibited from contacting or approaching the victims, including where they live, work and go to school. The subject of the protective order will be allowed to present his or her case in a hearing at a later date, and victims will have the option of pursuing additional protections.

If you are preparing to leave an abusive marriage, it can be invaluable to have advocates on your side. These include law enforcement and domestic violence counselors, in addition to a New York attorney with experience in domestic violence cases.