- April 28, 2008 at 11:20 pm #257469
Not sure how the link to the article got stripped off but let’s try that
How to Survive a Physically and Financially Abusive Husband
Protect Yourself Physically and Financially
By Angie Mohr, published Apr 26, 2008
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I still have moments in my life, twenty years later, when my body instinctively
reacts in illogical ways. I flinch when I hear glass break. I cannot put my
whole face under the water in the shower. I jump and struggle not to scream when
someone sneaks up behind me. It has been twenty years since I have had to heal a
broken bone or hide ten dollars in my underwear drawer or cover a bruise with
makeup. There are still reminders, physical and psychological, that will be
there for another twenty years and another forty, but I am safe. Twenty years
ago, an abusive boyfriend morphed into an abusive husband that modeled himself
after his own rum-drenched father.
It is difficult to nail down the real magnitude of the domestic abuse cancer
that invades our society. There are statistics for reported abuse, yet most
domestic abuse goes unreported. According to the Washington State Domestic
Violence Fatality Review Project in 1999, women who have initiated a separation
or divorce were the victims of half of all domestic abuse reports.
If you’re in an abusive situation, you know that it can happen to any woman. It
doesn’t mean you’re weak or you’re stupid. But when you’re finally ready to do
something about it, there are some practical considerations to keep in mind.
Knowing how to protect yourself in an abusive situation can help you escape it
Before You Leave:
Understand your financial situation
If you are going to be able to survive on your own, you will need to get
financially savvy quickly if you aren’t already. Make a list of everything that
you own and you owe, both personally and with your spouse. List out account
numbers, balances and any other information that will be important to be able to
provide the bank or other financial institution later.
Set up a personal bank account
Open a bank account in your name only (preferably at a different bank than the
one that you bank with now) in order to establish a banking relationship that
does not include your spouse. Squirrel away some emergency money over time so
that you will never be stranded without funds.
Establish your own credit
Setting up a bank account is a first step in establishing your own credit. The
next step is to apply for a credit card in your name only, even if it has a
small limit. Use it and pay it back frequently to build up credit history. This
will help your overall credit history if your domestic partner decides to trash
your joint credit.
Take photocopies of all important documentation
There is always the possibility that you will have to leave your spouse in a
rush, so make sure ahead of time that you have copies of all critical
information. This includes copies of income tax returns for both of you, birth
certificates, marriage certificate, mortgage and house deed, all insurance
policies and automobile registrations. If you have children, make copies of
school records and immunizations. Open a safe deposit box at your new bank and
store the photocopies in it. Also, keep an extra card for your new credit card
account in your safe deposit box.
Discuss your situation with a lawyer
Know ahead of time what the legal repercussions will be of leaving your spouse.
A lawyer will be able to walk you through the probabilities of what will happen
to joint assets and liabilities. Also, if any further abuse occurs, your lawyer
will be able to document it for police or other legal action.
If you live with a physically abusive spouse (and even if you don’t) it’s
important to learn how to protect yourself. Take a self-defense course so that
you can escape potentially dangerous situations or at least minimize the
physical damage. Once you have taken the step of leaving your abusive spouse,
the violence may escalate so knowing how to protect yourself will pay off.
Do not tell anyone you are leaving
You may want to share your plans with friends and family, but I highly recommend
that you tell no one except your lawyer that you are planning on leaving until
after it happens. There is always the possibility that information on your plans
will leak out and reach your spouse and this could escalate the violence or, at
the very least, thwart your preparations. The element of surprise will help you
to successfully leave your spouse.
When You Leave:
Close all joint bank accounts and freeze credit accounts
Immediately upon leaving, close or have your name removed from all accounts that
you can that your spouse can drain of cash or run up credit on. Withdraw all
cash balances and move them to your new bank account. Remove your name from all
utility and telephone accounts. Keep a cell phone in your name only and put a
password on that account so that your spouse cannot make changes to it.
Ultimately, the lawyers will sort out who gets what but in the meantime, don’t
leave you spouse the ability to harm you financially.
Do not tell anyone where you are living
For the first while after you leave your abusive spouse, do not tell friends and
family where you are living (but definitely keep in touch with them and reassure
them that you are alright). Your spouse may be looking for you and information
has a way of slipping. Keeping yourself (and your children) physically safe is
the most important task. Make sure your new residence is secure and has
deadbolts on the doors and lockable windows. Install a security alarm if it
doesn’t already have one.
Discuss your situation with your local police department
If you feel that your spouse will continue to threaten you, speak with your
local police department. Although they will most likely not be able to do
anything in the way of protecting you, letting them know ahead of time will help
them put a case together if your spouse attempts to harm you in the future. They
may also have more information on protecting yourself physically.
Protect your children
Discuss with your lawyer the possibility of getting an interim custody order for
your children. Notify the schools that you have such an order and that the
children are not to be released to anyone except yourself. Have it noted in your
children’s school files that you and the police are to be contacted in the event
that someone presents themselves at the school to pick them up or to see them.
Protect your source of income
Once you have successfully left your abusive spouse, he may attempt to damage or
harm you in other ways if he cannot physically do so. One way to do that is to
jeopardize your job. Let your boss know the situation and that you have left
your spouse. Explain that if he calls or shows up, you will let the police
handle it and that you will do your best to minimize any disruptions at work.
You may find that your boss and co-workers are very supportive during this
Having the courage to leave an abusive spouse may be one of the most difficult
and important things you ever do and being prepared ahead of time will help you
to make it easier for you and your children.
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