Although domestic violence affects millions of families across the United States and many here in California as well, there is still a lot of stigma attached to reporting it. Too often, people experiencing abuse at the hands of their spouse may avoid reporting issues to the police, seeking medical care or even telling their family members about how dangerous their marriage has become.
When they reach a point where they need to leave for their own safety or to protect their children, the victims of spousal abuse often find it is difficult to get people to believe their claims. While anyone fearing for their immediate safety should take action right away to protect themselves, walking away from an abusive marriage isn’t always the best way to handle it. You may want to spend some time considering how to gather evidence that can protect you during and after a divorce.
Documenting what you are going through can help
For many people, the most clear-cut and simple form of documentation is either medical records or police reports. These are professional, official records of abuse, or the effects of abuse, that can help sway the opinions of a judge and secure you a protective order. Seeing a psychologist or therapist who must keep your concerns confidential can also create an official record of what you have gone through in your marriage.
However, if you have not sought medical or legal assistance or do not feel that it is safe to do so, there are other ways to document abuse. Printing or creating screenshots of threatening or abusive emails and text messages is a good start. Similarly, creating a written journal that outlines episodes of abuse and your daily experience can help establish a pattern of behavior.
Speaking to a divorce attorney before you initiate proceedings is a good decision. Once your attorney understands the nature of the abuse you experience at home, they may be able to help you figure out creative but valuable methods by which to document and prove that abuse.
Take the time to create a plan for your safety after leaving
When people discuss spousal abuse, often the most pressing question is why the victim didn’t leave sooner. The reality for abuse victims is that leaving can be the most dangerous thing they can do. Spousal abuse is often about power and control.
Leaving the household or ending the relationship removes the power and control from the abuser. That can push them to do erratic and dangerous things. Statistically, the two years after leaving an abuser are the most dangerous time for the victims of domestic abuse. That is when they are most likely to end up severely injured or even murdered at the hands of their ex.
Because of this risk, victims intending to divorce their abuser need to proceed carefully. Ensure that you have somewhere safe to go after you file. Remaining in the marital home may be a good decision for stability for your children, but it can also make it easier for your ex to harass or stalk you.
Domestic violence shelters can offer resources that keep you safe during the divorce proceedings. Obtaining a protective order can also create legal consequences for your ex if they threaten, stalk or abuse you after you file for divorce.
Leaving behind an abusive marriage is not easy. However, if you take the right steps, it is possible to do so safely. Documenting abuse helps ensure that you will receive protective orders from the courts and that the courts will consider the abuse you experienced when determining the best way to handle child custody and similar issues.