What are the steps to take in escaping an abusive spouse?

Domestic violence affects millions of men, women and children. It is not easy to leave an abusive marriage, but there are people who can help.

Many marriages are unhappy and end in divorce. Sadly, for Texas residents who have endured domestic violence, it can be extremely difficult and even dangerous to end the relationship. It is rarely advisable to leave a violent spouse without first having an escape plan and seeking help from those who are experienced in the area.

Spousal abuse is an epidemic across the country. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about 20 people every minute are physically harmed by their partners. An estimated one in three women and one in four men are abused at some point during their lifetimes, and about one out of every 15 children each year are exposed to intimate partner abuse. Law enforcement authorities claim that domestic abuse accounts for 15 percent of all violent crimes in the country. These statistics illustrate why an escape plan is vital for victims' safety and freedom.

Recognizing the signs of domestic abuse

Abuse does not have to be physical in nature to qualify as abuse. An abusive spouse may use threats or insults to control his or her victims. The goal of an abuser is to maintain control over the victim and prevent him or her from leaving. Often, abusers attempt to isolate their victims from friends and family and restrict them from access to jobs, money, transportation or communication. Victims may say they live in constant fear of the slightest misstep provoking their partner into becoming angry or violent. Domestic abuse may be physical, emotional, verbal, financial or sexual in nature.

Creating an escape plan

The National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends that victims of domestic violence do the following before attempting to escape an abuser:

· Tell a trusted person about the abuse and ask for help.

· Set aside clothing, important documents and cash in a place outside the home that the abuser does not know about.

· Document physical evidence of attacks and record the abuser's behavior in a journal, also to be kept in a safe place.

· Learn the phone numbers and addresses of abuse shelters and police stations.

It may be helpful to seek a protective order after leaving an abuser. Protective orders are legal documents that forbid the abuser from contacting or going near the victim for a specified amount of time. These orders are initially temporary, but may be extended or made permanent during later court hearings.

Leaving an abusive partner is not easy. Fortunately, there are agencies and professionals in Texas who are willing to help victims of abuse find their way to freedom. A family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases may be a valuable ally during this time.