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Obtaining a protective order is one step in leaving domestic violence

It is important to understand the signs of domestic violence and to make an escape plan before leaving an abusive relationship.

Many marriages are difficult, but few are as potentially dangerous as those in which one partner is abusive. Domestic violence is a serious problem across the United States, including in Texas. It may not be easy to end an abusive marriage, but getting out may protect the victims and stop the cycle of violence with children.

The statistics surrounding domestic abuse are disturbing and tragic. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million victims are physically harmed each year by their intimate partners. Domestic violence perpetrated by spouses or romantic partners make up about 15 percent of all violent crimes across the country. Children are especially vulnerable victims of domestic violence, with about one in 15 American children witnessing or experiencing abuse in their homes.

Recognizing abuse

The signs of abuse may be more subtle and insidious than physical harm. Abusers often seem charming at first, but gradually exert control over their victims. In addition to physical attacks, an abusive relationship may include emotional, verbal, financial and sexual abuse. Abusers will often go to great lengths to keep their victims under their control and prevent them from leaving. This may include restricting their access to transportation, communication and money. They may also forbid their victims from seeing family members and friends.

It is recommended that victims create an escape plan before attempting to leave. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has provided the following tips on leaving an abusive relationship:

  • Let a trusted family member or friend know about the abuse and that a plan to escape is in order.
  • Gather items essential for an escape, such as emergency money, clothing, documents and other belongings, and keep them in a safe place.
  • Document physical attacks and evidence of injuries, such as photographs of bruises. Report these incidents to law enforcement if possible.
  • Learn the phone numbers and addresses of police stations and abuse shelters. Contact a shelter to discuss escape plans with an abuse counselor.
  • Obtain a protective order from law enforcement.

Protective orders, also known as restraining orders, can be valuable tools for those attempting to leave an abusive marriage. They provide legal protection that forbids the abuser from approaching or contacting the victims. This may give a victim time to work out a more long-term parenting arrangement that protects children from the abuser.

An attorney may be able to help

Leaving an abusive marriage may be one of the biggest challenges of your life. However, escaping violence to make a fresh start can also be one of the most liberating and positive changes you can make. It is important to speak with a family law attorney in Texas who has experience in domestic violence and protective orders, as well as your local law enforcement.

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