Steps to take in escaping domestic violence

It is important to create an escape plan before leaving an abusive partner. This can also involve seeking help from authorities.

Getting a divorce is one of the most difficult life events for anyone going through it. When domestic abuse is a factor, the difficulties are multiplied. Abusers spend a great deal of time and effort ensuring that their victims are under their control and will never leave. When a victim of abuse has had enough and makes efforts to escape, an abuser may redouble his or her efforts to regain control, and this may continue after the victim has left. Therefore, it is important for victims of abuse in Illinois to come up with an escape plan before leaving. A successful plan usually involves assistance from victim advocates, law enforcement and others.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has shown the prevalence and seriousness of domestic violence in the United States. Every minute, about 20 people across the country suffer physical harm by an intimate partner. This amounts to more than 10 million victims every year. It is believed that one out of three women and one in four men are victims of some form of domestic abuse during their lifetime. Additionally, one out of 15 children witness or are involved in domestic violence each year.

How do I know if I or my children are being abused?

Spousal abuse can be more complex than physically striking a partner. An abusive person may never lay a hand on his or her spouse, yet cause lasting emotional harm that can be as devastating as physical injuries. An abuser may threaten to harm children or pets, destroy the victim's personal possessions and belittle or insult the victim to undermine his or her self-esteem. Abusers often restrict or deny their partners access to the telephone, Internet, transportation, a job or friends and family. Victims often live in constant fear of angering their spouse over the slightest thing.

How should I prepare to leave my abusive spouse?

Before taking the steps to end a marriage, domestic violence victims should formulate an escape plan. The National Domestic Violence Hotline advises the following steps in an effective escape plan:

· Let a trusted family member or friend know about the abuse and ask for help.

· Find a place the abuser does not know about, preferably not in the home, and use it to store emergency cash, clothing, documents and other belongings.

· Learn the numbers, websites and locations of domestic violence shelters and law enforcement agencies.

· Gather evidence of abuse, such as photographs of injuries and journal entries of things the abuser said and did.

Just before leaving an abusive spouse, it is recommended to seek a protective order.

Can a protective order keep me safe?

A protective order is a legal document issued by the court that prohibits the abuser from contacting or going near the victims. This may give the victim valuable time to prepare the divorce case, as well as a sense of empowerment and control. If the abuser violates the protective order, he or she may face criminal penalties. Protective orders are not initially permanent, but victims may seek additional protection as they expire.

The road toward freedom can be difficult, but assistance from a strong support system may make it possible. An experienced Illinois family law attorney may be an important advocate in escaping abuse.