Statistics show that almost a quarter of divorce cases in the United States are due to domestic violence. Abuse can have many forms – financial, emotional, sexual, and physical. Whatever it is, you don’t have to endure it. You can and you should get out of an abusive marriage. Read on to find out how.
Domestic Violence in Marriage
For many couples, marriage is the beginning of a happy ending. But for some, marriage is their worst nightmare. Conflict is a normal part of an intimate relationship. In fact, arguing suggests that you have a healthy marriage. But abuse is a different thing. It is not, and should never be, a pattern in your relationship. Domestic violence has no place in marriage and in any other form of an intimate relationship.
Recognize Abusive Patterns in Your Marriage
Domestic violence is defined as any kind of behavior that a person uses to control their spouse. It has two elements: threat and control.
Abuse can take several forms:
● Sexual – includes any sexual acts that are forced on one partner by the other.
● Physical – violent actions like hitting or beating. Physical abuse becomes more frequent and severe over time.
● Psychological – these include behaviors like intimidation, controlling or isolating their spouse from friends and family, and making unreasonable demands.
● Emotional – this involves constant criticism, insult, name-calling, and undermining one’s self-esteem.
● Financial (economic) – this may include preventing one’s spouse from going to work, accessing the family home, destroying their property, not giving financial support, and not involving the spouse from all financial decisions in the family.
Leaving is Hard
You might hear it from friends, family, and other people concerned about you – just leave. You want to. But a big part of you just can’t do it. It’s hard. And it’s scary. It may sound counterintuitive but a lot of women in abusive marriages find it so difficult to leave their abusive partners. There are many reasons for it.
One, society normalizes unhealthy behaviors that people in abusive relationships may not even realize that they’re being abused. Another reason is that abuse can destroy your self-esteem. It can make you feel helpless and unable to make a fresh start. Some people can’t leave because of their children. They might think they will not be able to raise their kids all by themselves. While for others, leaving is dangerous. Very dangerous. In fact, shocking statistics revealed that women are 70 times more likely to be killed after leaving their abusive partner.
The first and most important thing that you should do is to get help. If you’re too scared to get out of an abusive relationship or not sure where to start, it’s good to know that help is available. Reach out to the National Domestic Violence through their Hotline 1-800-799-7233(SAFE). Reach out to a friend or family member if you are afraid to make the call yourself. Let someone know what is going on. If you need immediate assistance, call 911 or your local emergency service.
Document the Abuse
If you are filing a lawsuit against your spouse (which you should), you need proof to support your claim. Hard evidence can help you request a restraining order from the court, win a custody battle, file a divorce, and ensure that the abuse will never happen again.
Plan to Leave
Be prepared to leave anytime. Do not wait for your abuser to cause you more harm especially if the abuse comes in physical form. If you are suffering from other forms of abuse, such as psychological or economic abuse, plan your next steps without letting your spouse notice it. For example, if you are being deprived of money or access to your family resources, consider borrowing cash from a friend or applying for a personal loan online. Don’t think you can’t get a fresh new start in life just because you don’t have money. Remember, help is always available.
Don’t Blame Yourself
Remember that it’s not your fault. You might feel like you are the cause of your spouse’s negative behavior towards you. But no. You’re not responsible for the actions of your partner, regardless of what he says. No one deserves to be abused.
Tap your Support System
Recovering from abuse can be a long, difficult process. You need the support of your family and friends. Talk to someone you can trust. Alternately, you can seek help from a professional counselor or therapist, especially if the abuse has caused you trauma, anxiety, or other mental disorder.
Find a Place to Go
Make a plan on where to go. You want to have a safe place for you (and your children) to stay. There are domestic violence shelters that can provide for all your basic living needs, including food and childcare. While the length of time you can stay at the shelter is limited, most shelters can help you find a permanent home, a job, and get a fresh new start in life. The shelter can also refer you to other services that you might need, such as counseling, legal help, healthcare, financial assistance, educational opportunities, etc.
Protect Your Privacy and Ensure Your Safety
As you begin another chapter in your life away from your abusive partner, you want to feel safe and secure. You may need to relocate, change your contact details, and stop all communications with that person. If you have children, you may need to transfer them to another school. If your abuser is a dangerous person, consider getting a restraining order or protective order against him.
Healing and Moving On
Moving on from an abusive marriage is never easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. The scars of domestic violence run deep. It might take months or years to recover from the pain and trauma. And in many cases, you will need help from professionals. Counseling, therapy, and support groups can help you process what you’ve gone through and start your life all over again.