On behalf of Shelly McKeon
It isn’t easy to escape an abusive relationship, but having a plan and getting help from authorities may make it easier.
Domestic violence is an epidemic that affects not only residents of Maryland, but countless families across the country. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence points out that over 10 million people – men, women and children alike – are physically abused by a family member every year. Violence against an intimate partner makes up 15 percent of all violent crime.
The latest statistics provided by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence reported 17,931 victims of domestic abuse-related crimes in 2010. Between July 2010 and June 2011, 43 Maryland residents were killed in domestic violence altercations.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is often characterized by physical abuse against a family member. However, abuse is not limited to causing someone bodily harm. Many abusers cause extensive psychological and emotional damage by belittling, insulting and threatening their victims, without ever laying a hand on them. An abuser’s aim is to exert complete control over every aspect of his or her victim’s life. Therefore, it is usually difficult to leave an abuser.
How can victims escape an abusive relationship?
Victims of abuse may desperately want to leave, but not know how to safely do so or how to protect the children by seeking a parenting plan that shields them from further harm. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests victims first plan for an escape by setting aside emergency money in a safe place, if possible, and seeking help from a trusted family member, friend or abuse advocate. It is a good idea to memorize the phone numbers and locations of domestic violence shelters and police stations. Recording evidence of abuse, such as taking pictures of physical injuries, may help if law enforcement is later involved. It may also help to obtain a protective order.
How does a protective order work?
A protective order is commonly known as a restraining order. This is a legal document issued by the court that restricts the accused abuser from contacting or going near the victims. Protective orders are not guaranteed to protect victims from an attack. They provide legal protections that may result in the abuser being arrested if he or she violates the terms of the order. Protective orders are usually temporary the first time they’re issued, but they may give the victim extra time to begin divorce proceedings and find a safe place to live, if necessary.
Maryland residents who feel trapped in abusive marriages are not without help. Law enforcement, domestic violence centers and family law attorneys with experience in domestic violence may be the most important advocates to help abuse victims find freedom.