Domestic violence is more common than anyone can imagine and affects millions of American households each year, including men, women as well as children. Under Florida Statutes §741.28 (2) “Domestic violence means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”
A significant portion of victims of domestic violence and abuse are unwilling or feel unable to prosecute their aggressors because of the fear of violent retaliation from their spouses. And unfortunately, thousands of them remain in an abusive marriage, putting at risks their own lives as well as their children’s. The state of Florida takes a hard stand against domestic violence. Still, the control that these aggressors have on their victims often stops them from taking action. Domestic violence can manifest in several different ways:
- Physical and verbal abuse,
- Psychological abuse,
- Sexual abuse or rape,
- Child abuse,
- Child endangerment,
- Pet abuse, and
- Property damage.
Sadly, many children who have been abused, or have witnessed abuse of a parent, become abusive partners themselves, or victims in violent and abusive relationships. It is a vicious cycle that never ends. The National Domestic Violence Hotline statistics show that violence or abuse happens:
- On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.
- 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- A child witnessed violence in 22% (nearly 1 in 4.)
- Among victims of child abuse, 40% report domestic violence in the home.
Fortunately, there’s something as a victim you can do – TAKE ACTION! Although it might be terrifying and tough, find the courage to take action. Don’t become a part of the statistic. If you fear for your safety, leave the house. Find a safe place for you and your children until you can figure things out calmly. Once you have decided that divorce is your way out, you must proceed cautiously:
- Develop your own Safety Plan. Using the National Domestic Violence Hotline Path to Safety tips and you can also print this Safety Plan Brochure. Find someone you trust to help you carry out your plan – your parents or siblings, your best friend, or maybe a church member, someone at your doctor’s office, or a teacher from your children’s school. Include your children and pets in your plan. Take care of yourself, physically and emotionally. You need to be strong for your children and be ready for the divorce process ahead, because violence can escalate during a marital separation or once divorce paperwork is served.
- Break the News. Let your spouse know about your decision over the phone, or in a public place with a friend standing nearby to help deter to your spouse. Prepare ahead for a safety exit after discussing the divorce in case your aggressor gets angry.
- Seek Legal Help. Make a police report. Keep case numbers and document evidence to be used in divorce proceedings. Obtain a restraining order, if necessary. This order of protection will legally prohibit your aggressor from contacting you or going near your place of work and residence. In some cases, a restraining order forces the respondent to vacate the residence, which solves the immediate housing problem.
- You can reach out The National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by dialing 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or via online chat.
- You can also visit WomensLaw.org and search state by state for information on laws including restraining orders and child custody information.
- In addition, the federal government maintains a Women’s Health Website dedicated to helping women who are victims of domestic violence. The site features a red “escape” button you can click if an abuser is nearby.
If you and your children are enduring physical and psychological abuse because you are living in a violent environment, divorce is your only way out. Don’t think twice and seek help right away. Divorce should be a last resort, but in these cases, it is the best and only final solution. If you or someone you know is in an unsafe situation, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives. If you are not sure if getting a divorce or mediation would be the best option for you, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.