Domestic Violence: This Changes Everything


Word cloud for domestic violence with words about the issueDomestic violence is a difficult topic to discuss.

Yet it must be asked about when a marriage is ending because, if it exists in the relationship, it complicates the divorce process.

This post highlights what needs to be considered.

Using Web Sites When Seeing Help

Note there are links below to organizations working to end domestic violence and provide help. If you need to quickly exit those sites because you don’t want someone to see you viewing them, note that they will open in a separate window in your browser. You can then quickly close both this tab and that one if you need to. Several of the sites also allow you to close their window by clicking a special big “X,” the words “Quick Escape,” or pressing the Esc key. Be aware, however, computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear.

Definition of Domestic Violence

This definition comes from the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

“Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

“Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender can be a victim – or perpetrator – of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together, or who are dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.”

As shown in statistics about domestic violence from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Note that the violence can take emotional, psychological, and financial as well as physical form.

Effect of the Divorce Process on Domestic Violence

Whether you work with an attorney or a mediator, the abuser is likely to hear things that may trigger an event. There is a significant debate whether mediation can be used if domestic violence is a factor. Of course, personal safety is the highest priority, and honesty without fear of consequences is essential. However, in my experience, mediation can be successful and may actually minimize angry retaliations that can occur with escalating attorney involvement.

If there are already court orders precluding contact or other restrictions, they can often be removed to allow for mediation appointments. In some cases, attorneys may be needed to provide clients the necessary insulation and separation from each other.

How to Start the Divorce Process If Domestic Violence Is a Factor

Before you initiate a conversation with your abusive spouse about ending your marriage, it’s essential that you seek professional advice and a strategy for your safety. If you are in a potentially violent situation with your spouse, or if the violence has already started—whether it includes physical assault, verbal abuse, excessive financial control, or a combination—your safety is more important than papers and records.

An abuser will use violence, name calling, insults and other verbal abuse to make their partner feel hopeless, weak, and helpless. This kind of controlling behavior can make you believe that there is no way out of the relationship. Intimidation, threats, isolating the victim from family and friends, withholding money, using the children against you, and then minimizing the violence and blaming you for “making” them lash out are all methods of violence and domination.

You do not have to live with this.

If any of this is happening to you, take these steps to protect yourself and your children.

  • Get away from the abuser. Friends or family are most likely to help you, but if you can’t reach them or they are reluctant to get involved, call the domestic violence hotline in your area. See Resources below.
  • Take your children to a neutral place. Your parents or grandparents may be the right environment, or a friend who has children of about the same age as your own may provide a place where your children can be comfortable. A shelter may be able to keep your children’s location secret. Also check with your local services as some domestic violence shelters now take in pets as well (see Rochester Resources below).
  • Don’t destroy or throw out anything. The property in your home is marital property, and it will have to be divided equitably. If you deliberately destroy or hide something, your spouse may see that as an act of violence on your part.
  • Start working with a divorce mediator or attorney. Not only may you need a temporary restraining order or Order of Protection to keep yourself and your children safe, but you will want to move on to divorce as soon as possible. If you hope to salvage a cordial relationship with your spouse, look for a mediator with experience in dealing with domestic violence cases.
  • If more violence occurs, call the police. Your safety is the top priority. Be willing to move ahead with charges against your abusive spouse. Studies show that when the victim of abuse first tries to leave the abuser, this can be the most dangerous time in the relationship.
  • Once you are safe, contact the domestic violence relief agency in your county. The domestic violence hotlines listed below can help you find the protection you need, and law enforcement will have information about shelters and other safety measures.

If you are in danger because of the way your spouse treats you, there is no choice—you must separate from that person as quickly as possible. There are many people and organizations who are ready to help you.

National and State Domestic Violence Resources

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, or their Spanish website, any time day or night:

  • Use their online chat function.
  • Call 800-799-7233, or
  • Hearing- or speech-impaired individuals, call 800-787-3224 TTY.

If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) provides state-by-state fact sheets listing resources by Congressional District. This is the list they provide for New York State’s fact sheet on domestic violence.

These are provided by the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV):

  • National Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
  • National Deaf Hotline Videophone 9am-5pm M-F 1-855-812-1001 or
  • New York State Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline (English & español/Multi-language accessibility): 1-800-942-6906 or 711 for Deaf or Hard of Hearing

NYSCADV also has:

  • New York State Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline (English & Español/multi-language accessibility): 1-800-942-6906 or 711 for Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • This NYS Domestic Violence Program Directory that organizes domestic violence programs by county.

Resources in the Rochester NY Area

  • Emergency Help: Willow Domestic Violence Center. Hotline 585-222-7233 (24/7). All services are free and confidential. Willow also has a Pet Program that allows you to bring your pet(s) with you.
  • Emergency Help: **Call 911**
  • Town of Greece NY Police Department: Victim’s Assistance: Phone (may not be a 24/7 hotline): 585-720-0822
  • Transitional Housing: Sojourner Home, phone (may not be a 24/7 hotline): (585) 436-7100. YWCA, phone (may not be a 24/7 hotline): (585) 546-5820.
  • Elder Abuse: Lifespan.

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Photo credit: © Can Stock Photo / robwilson39

This blog and its materials have been prepared by BJ Mediation Services for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as legal, financial, or tax advice. Blog subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.