What are the safest ways to leave an abusive marriage?

It is rarely easy to escape an abusive relationship. Victims of abuse need to create an escape plan and seek help from others.

Domestic violence is a serious problem for those living in Texas and across the country. Every year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, over 10 million people in the United States become victims of family abuse. Authorities report that 15 percent of all violent crimes are committed against a victim by an intimate partner.

In addition to the adult victims, domestic violence can affect vulnerable children for a lifetime. Children may be left with long-lasting emotional scars from abuse, and often grow up to either become adult victims or abusers if they do not receive help in time. This is why it is crucial to protect children from domestic abuse by seeking a parenting arrangement that shields them from their abusers.

However, leaving an abusive marriage is rarely that easy. Abusers are usually masters of control, and by the time a victim is ready to leave, they may feel entirely trapped and controlled by their tormentors. Abusive people use a number of tactics, including intimidation, coercion, emotional manipulation and isolation to keep their victims under their control.

Creating an escape plan

How, then, can a victim end a marriage that is abusive? It may help to begin with an escape plan in advance of leaving. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has provided the following tips on what to include in an escape plan:

  • Emergency cash, clothing, documents and other important belongings stored in a place unknown to the abuser
  • Evidence of abuse, such as injuries and property damage, kept in a journal and reported to authorities
  • Help requested from trusted family members or friends

It may also help to learn the phone numbers and addresses of abuse shelters, counselors and law enforcement.

Seeking a protective order

When a victim is ready to leave the abuser, it may be a prudent idea to obtain a protective order. This is a legal order issued by a judge that protects the victim from contact by the abuser. When the order is in place, the abuser is not allowed to approach victims at their homes, schools or workplaces or to attempt to contact them. Violating a protective order may result in charges against the abuser. After a protective order is issued, a hearing will be set, during which the abuser may have his or her chance to speak to the judge. It is important to gather all evidence of abuse during this time, in order to have the best chance at extending the protective order.

When you are preparing to leave an abusive spouse, you will need all the support you can get from authorities, family members and friends. During this difficult time, a San Antonio family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases may be able to assist you in getting the help you need.