Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Leaving a Physical Abuser

Recent news coverage concerning a man in Colorado who killed a process server with a bat and tried to choke his kids to death is a fresh reminder of the dangers of living with an abusive spouse who is physically violent. The process server was delivering a restraining order as well as divorce papers. Clearly the wife was ready to take steps to end abuse but an adequate safety plan was not in place for the safety of herself and her children.

In case anyone who reads this blog is currently living with a physical abuser, I want to review some basics. If you aren’t in this group you still might find it helpful to read since you don’t know when a family member, friend, or neighbor might come to you for help.

Important Facts on Leaving a Physical Abuser:

  1. Abuse will continue to get worse over time. Some batterers worsen slowly and some quickly.
  2. If you leave successfully and then return, the odds are extremely high that the abuse will become much worse.
  3. Leaving a physical abuser is a catalyst for the most dangerous abuse. The majority of domestic violence homicides happen when the partner attempts to leave.
  4. If the abuser has ever threatened you with a weapon or has threatened to kill you or your children, the danger level is especially high and you need extra help to leave safely. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE/7233).
  5. A safety plan should be in place. Have one or two people who know that you are leaving, why you are leaving, and where you are going.
  6. If there has been any physical abuse at all, I advice leaving when the abuser is absent from the home. Leave a mild letter that says you and the kids are taking a trip. Specify when you will contact him via phone to touch base. You don’t need to say where you will be. This letter will avoid charges that you’ve kidnapped the children.
  7. Any note you leave for your spouse should be short and calm in tone. It is not the time to make accusations or get even. Saying you want some time to think is enough.
  8. If it is important to have a restraining order served, arrange for it to be served after you are already safely away. Restraining orders really deter some abusers and other abusers totally disregard authorities and legal orders.
  9. Sometimes abused women are determined that they should stay in their home and keep control over all their possessions. If you’ve only experienced verbal and emotional abuse, this might work out for you. But with physical violence and sexual violence in your shared history, I advice letting go of the house. You will be safer hidden in a shelter or at a friend’s home than trying to be safe in the house that he feels entitled to keep.
  10. If you need to be in hiding for a few weeks or couple of months, use cash, don’t log onto old email accounts, use a post office box, and always use a pay phone when contacting the abuser or any of his relatives.

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Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft