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3 ways to protect yourself when leaving a violent spouse

Living with someone who has a violent temper and who treats you aggressively is terrifying. You never know when something might set them off, leading to their hurting you. Many people stay in abusive relationships in part because they worry about what will happen when they leave.

Abusers may escalate attempts to intimidate and control when someone tries to leave a relationship. To better protect yourself and any children involved, there are three steps that you can take as you prepare yourself to leave.

Document the abuse

Since it will take time to prepare for a safe exit from a relationship, you can start creating a written record of the mistreatment you endure. Details like the time and date of an incident, the names of witnesses, the location and what injuries you suffered can help you prove the domestic violence you have long endured.

If you do not feel safe keeping such records at your home, you may have a friend or family member willing to maintain that record on your behalf, as well as photographs of your injuries or of damage to your property. Digital evidence, including angry voicemails and threatening text messages can also help.

Establish a trustworthy support network

The best way to protect yourself is to have someplace safe to go and people who will help you during this difficult transition. Local family members, friends who have fallen out of contact because of your controlling spouse or even local domestic violence activists can help you secure a place to live.

Involving as few people as possible and having a plan in place before you try to leave your shared home will increase your chances of getting out successfully and protecting yourself during this dangerous time. 

Make use of legal protections

You can go to court and show the evidence of the domestic violence in your home to secure an order of protection. You can potentially secure an order forbidding your ex from sending abusive messages on social media, showing up at your home or calling you to harass you at work. Although an order does not prevent someone from engaging in misconduct, it will impose penalties if they violate the order.

There are also things you can do during your divorce proceedings to protect yourself, ranging from keeping your current address off of the paperwork to asking for sole custody of your children so that they aren’t put in harm’s way. Taking steps to protect yourself will reduce the risks you face when you are ready to leave a relationship fraught with domestic violence.

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