Bringing order to chaos since 1996

Understanding domestic violence and how to escape


Domestic violence affects millions of partners and children across the country. It is important to understand how to safely escape an abuser.

It is a sad fact that many marriages are unhappy. Those that are abusive may be unhappier than most. Victims of domestic violence in Georgia and elsewhere often endure unspeakable suffering for years before they decide they are ready to find peace. However, escaping an abusive partner is rarely as easy as simply packing up and leaving. It is important not only to understand how abusers operate, but the steps to take that may increase one’s chances of safely getting out of an abusive relationship.

Signs of domestic abuse

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that over 10 million adults in the United States are victimized by intimate partners each year. Additionally, one out of every 15 children have witnessed or experienced abuse, and domestic violence makes up a significant portion of all violent crime.

A person does not have to be physically harmed to be a victim of spousal abuse, however. Abuse takes many forms, including emotional, verbal, sexual and financial abuse. The main mode of operation for an abuser is control. Abusive people are masters at manipulating and intimidating their partners into thinking they are powerless, in addition to undermining their sense of self-worth so they feel helpless to leave. Abusers might destroy their victims’ personal property, threaten to harm children or pets, constantly belittle their partners and isolate them from friends, family, transportation and communication. An abusive spouse may never lay a hand against his or her victim, but emotional and verbal abuse can be just as devastating and difficult to escape from as physical violence.

How a protective order may help

An order of protection is a legal court order that restricts abusers from contacting or going near their victims. Protective orders may give victims time to begin the divorce process, as well as give them a sense of empowerment and control over their lives. It is important to understand that protective orders are temporary, although victims may have the opportunity to seek additional protection from the court during future hearings.

Creating an escape plan

Before seeking a protective order, it may be a good idea to put together an escape plan. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has outlined the following steps for an effective plan:

· Gather emergency cash, clothing, documents and important items and store them somewhere the abuser does not know about, preferably outside the home.

· Learn the numbers and addresses of police stations and domestic violence shelters.

· Document evidence of abuse, including photographs of injuries, journal entries of the abuser’s behavior and police reports.

· Tell a trusted person about the abuse and enlist support.

Escaping an abuser is not easy. It is, however, possible with help from the right people. In addition to law enforcement, abuse counselors and supportive family and friends, a Georgia family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases may be a powerful ally.