If you have attempted to leave an abusive relationship before, you are aware of the threatening, controlling and intimidating tactics your spouse uses to keep you under his or her control. Like many New Jersey residents in the same situation, you may have given up hope of ever being free from physical or emotional abuse.
Leaving an abusive spouse can be difficult, but you should understand that it is possible with careful planning and a team of allies that you can trust. The National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends abuse victims take the following steps as part of their escape plan:
- Notify a trusted family member or friend of the abuse and ask for help.
- Learn the addresses, phone numbers and websites of nearby domestic violence shelters and police stations.
- Start discreetly storing important documents, belongings and keepsakes in a safe location out of the house.
- If possible, begin setting aside emergency cash in a place your abuser doesn’t know about.
- Save evidence of the abuse, such as screenshots of threatening text messages and photographs of injuries.
- Acquire job skills, education or employment training if you are able.
When you feel ready to leave, it is important to seek a protective order from the court. This document gives you temporary custody of your children and prohibits your abuser from contacting or approaching you while it is in effect. You will have a few weeks to prepare your defense until a court hearing, during which time you can talk to a judge about the abuse you suffered and apply for a longer-lasting protective order. During this time, you may decide to stay in your home or go to a shelter for safety and privacy.
As mentioned above, you need allies on your side when you are preparing to leave an abusive spouse. These can include the friends and family members close to you whom you can trust, as well as law enforcement, counselors, and experienced legal counsel.