Should I stay or go? Leaving an abusive marriage

Domestic violence affects millions of people in the United States. It is important to take steps to escape safely from an abusive relationship.

Ending a marriage usually involves difficult emotions, no matter how amicable the divorce. For those who are subjected to spousal abuse, obtaining a divorce can be a nightmare. It is often extremely difficult, and sometimes nearly impossible, for victims of abuse to leave their tormentors on their own. Fortunately for Utah residents hoping to escape abusive marriages, there are resources available to assist them in leaving safely.

Domestic violence is a serious problem affecting millions of people across the country. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that about one out of every three women and one in ten men have been subjected to domestic violence during their lifetimes. Before seeking a divorce from an abusive spouse, it is important to understand the different elements that can go into an abusive relationship, as well as methods that may be effective in helping them leave.

How do I know if I am being abused?

Authorities say that domestic violence against intimate partners are responsible for 15 percent of all violent crimes in the country. However, abuse does not need to be physical to still qualify as abuse. Abusers often use manipulation, intimidation and threats to control their victims. Victims often describe living with their tormentors as having to "walk on eggshells" all the time - not knowing what they might do next to make their abuser fly off the handle, no matter how careful they are.

What should I do before leaving my abusive spouse?

It is often wise to create an escape plan before leaving an abuser, since this may help victims know how to handle an emergency or where to go when they need help. According to the Domestic Violence Hotline, an escape plan can include the following:

· Informing a trusted person about the abuse and asking for his or her help and support

· Documenting evidence of abuse, including photographs of injuries, police reports and journal entries of the abuser's behavior

· Putting emergency cash and belongings in a safe place unknown to the abuser

· Learning the locations and phone numbers of abuse shelters and law enforcement agencies

When a victim feels it is time to leave, the next step may be obtaining a protective order from authorities.

How does a protective order work?

An application for a protective order may be issued from law enforcement or a local court. This is a court-issued document that prohibits the abuser from contacting or going near the victims while it is in effect. The order is generally temporary, but may give victims time to prepare a defense. A later hearing will be scheduled, during which both parties will have an opportunity to present their sides to a judge.

Escaping an abusive spouse can be a complex and frightening process. It may help to speak with a family law attorney in Salt Lake City who has experience in domestic violence cases.