Domestic violence – An escape plan and a protection order may help

Victims of domestic violence may find it difficult to leave their abusers, but they may seek a protection order and help from domestic abuse advocates.

Many people endure humiliation and live in fear on a daily basis in their own homes. Domestic violence plagues countless families across the United States, including in Florida. Far too many domestic violence victims feel trapped in their relationships, not knowing where to find help or how to get out. It can be difficult to end an abusive relationship because abusers go to great lengths to control their victims and prevent them from leaving. However, there are organizations dedicated to helping those harmed by domestic violence escape from their tormentors and end the cycle of abuse.

Domestic violence is a large problem across the state of Florida. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported 6,213 offenses related to domestic abuse in Broward County last year. These included 1,114 cases of aggravated assault, 127 incidents of threat or intimidation and 26 stalking charges.

Defining domestic violence

In domestic violence, the abusive partner in an intimate relationship often threatens or causes harm to the other partner. However, there are many behaviors that can be difficult to recognize as abuse, states the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. These can include the following:

• Belittling, insulting and putting down a person to make him or her feel worthless

• Taking away independence, such as restricting the victim's access to the phone, car, Internet or family and friends

• Threatening to hurt the other person or to harm the children

• Destroying the other partner's personal possessions

• Losing one's temper over trivial things

Emotional and verbal abuse may seem minor in comparison to being physically struck, but its purpose is to increasingly place the victim under the abuser's control. Also, an emotionally abusive relationship can turn physically violent at any time.

Planning an escape

It is important for victims to take the steps to protect their children and themselves. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, creating an escape plan is the most effective way to leave an abusive situation. Victims should try to put aside emergency cash, clothing, documents and other important items in a safe place that the abuser doesn't know about. They should know the locations and phone numbers of police stations and abuse shelters. It is also a good idea to have proof of physical attacks, such as taking pictures of bruises and getting statements from emergency room doctors.

Once victims are ready to leave, a protection order can legally protect themselves from retribution. Protection orders state that the abuser is no longer allowed to come close to the victim or attempt to contact them. Violating that order provides additional proof of abuse and may lead to the abuser being arrested. It can also give the victims a sense of empowerment that is invaluable in starting a new life. It may help Florida residents to speak with an experienced family law attorney when seeking a protection order and dealing with issues pertaining to divorce, including child custody matters.

Keywords: domestic violence, protection order, escape plan