How do you escape a violent relationship?

Abusive spouses are usually difficult to leave, because they attempt to control their victims’ lives. It may help to create an escape plan.

Many marriages end in divorce, but not all divorces are peaceful, relatively speaking. Unfortunately, far too many couples in Florida and across the country are involved in abusive relationships. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence affects millions of men, women and children in the country every year. The problem is so serious that 15 percent of all violent crimes in America are attributed to domestic abuse.

What is abuse?

Most people associate family abuse with physical intimidation and harm. However, it is not always so easy to recognize abuse. A partner may get along with his or her spouse a great deal of the time, but become unexplainably angry over trivial matters. Abusers often take complex steps to keep their victims under their control, including the following:

  • Isolating them from family and friends by not allowing them to have a job, car, phone or Internet access, or by moving them away
  • Controlling what they wear, eat, watch on television and do for fun
  • Making them feel as if they are at fault for everything that happens
  • Threatening to harm children or pets or destroy personal property
  • Belittling, insulting or putting down the other spouse - even saying it's "just teasing"

Domestic violence can also affect children for a lifetime. This is why it is imperative to protect children from abusers by obtaining a parenting arrangement that reduces their exposure to the abuse. Before leaving an abusive relationship, it may be best to create an escape plan. The National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends victims contact law enforcement before attempting to leave an abuser, and to tell a trusted family member or friend of their plans as well. It can also help to set aside some emergency money, clothing, documents and other items in a safe place before leaving. Knowing the addresses and phone numbers of the police station and abuse shelter is a good idea.

Once the escape plan is in place, the final step would be to obtain a protective order. This is usually done by visiting the courthouse and filling out an application. Protective orders restrict abusers from contacting their victims, and provide additional legal protections. The first protective order is usually temporary, and a hearing is scheduled later to allow the accused abuser to tell his or her side to a judge. After this, another protective order may be issued based on evidence of the abuse.

Escaping an abuser can be a frightening and drawn-out experience. It may help to contact a Pensacola family law attorney who has experience in domestic violence cases.