FAQs about leaving an abusive relationship

Domestic violence is a tragedy that should never happen to anyone. Unfortunately, countless people in California and across the country are victimized every day by abusive partners or parents. Victims of abuse may wish to get out, but escaping an abusive marriage is rarely easy.

Who is affected by domestic violence?

The statistics provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are disturbing. Violence by one intimate partner against another makes up 15 percent of all violent crime in the country. About 20 people every minute are physically abused by a partner or spouse, adding up to over 10 million victims each year. It's estimated that one out of three women and one out of four men will be victims of some type of domestic violence during their lives.

Abuse is not limited to causing physical harm against another. It comes in all forms, ranging from physical and sexual abuse to verbal, emotional and financial abuse. Abuse mainly boils down to one partner completely controlling the other. An abuser may terrorize and cause lasting harm to victims without ever raising a hand against them. Instead, he or she may insult, belittle and destroy the self-esteem of an intimate partner. Abusers may isolate their victims, threaten to take the children, destroy personal property and make victims constantly feel frightened they are going to anger their tormentors at the slightest provocation. All of this is to make the victim dependent on the abuser so he or she is less likely to leave.

How can a protective order help?

A protective order, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, is a legal document issued by the court that prohibits the accused abuser from going near or contacting victims while the order is in effect. Protective orders do not guarantee safety from an abuser, but they send a clear message that further abuse is not welcome and that the abuser will be breaking the law if he or she violates the order. A protective order may give the victim time to begin the divorce process and seek a parenting plan that protects children from further abuse. It is important for victims to take their partner's personality into consideration and try to determine whether he or she would be likely to disregard a protective order.

What can a victim to do escape domestic violence?

There are other steps victims may take to help them get out of an abusive relationship. These include:

  • Documenting evidence of physical attacks, such as bruises and other injuries and keeping copies of police reports and hospital records
  • Setting aside emergency cash, clothing, important documents and other belongings in a safe place unknown to the abuser
  • Contacting law enforcement and domestic violence agencies for help

A California family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases may be able to help victims start the legal process to escape an abusive marriage. Leaving abuse behind isn't easy, but the right resources and advocates can make it possible.