Spousal Abuse: Domestic Violence in New York State

domesticWitnessing the effects of spousal abuse is one of the worst aspects of my practice. Abuse takes many shapes and can be attributed to both men and women in a relationship; this parity is something not often spoke about in the media and many men are afraid to admit that they too have been victims of domestic violence. If you are living in an abusive relationship and have questions about how to extricate yourself from a painful, if not terrifying situation, there are a few things you should know to protect yourself and your loved ones.

If you are reading this post, I must first assume that you feel threatened in some way. Therefore, regardless of the legal options ahead of you, it’s important that you honestly assess the level of risk you are currently facing. If you believe that your life or wellbeing is in imminent danger, please follow this link, which provides information on how to stay safe in New York State.

Several browsers offer what is called “privacy windows” under the main task bars. Searching information related to domestic violence and spousal abuse in a privacy window ensures that the browser you are using will not save your search history if you are concerned that your spouse is tracking your online moves. Act normal, do your research quickly, then make a plan to reach safety.

Beyond the very clear-cut displays of abuse that we can all understand and relate to, it’s important to understand that abuse can take many shapes under the law in New York. Emotional abuse such as threatening language and behavior can be just as taxing on your mental and physical state as physical abuse, particular when it is over a long period of time. Physical and verbal abuse are extreme examples of controlling behavior but they are not the only examples. If your spouse coerces you to perform sexual acts against your will, marriage doesn’t imply consent. If your spouse controls every aspect of your financial life and leaves you in the dark about financial issues and treats you like a child with an allowance, this is also considered a form of abuse by many.

The important thing to recognize is that abuse and domestic violence takes many forms and that if you feel as though you are being victimized, there are steps you can take to lessen the danger. From the most extreme circumstances such as confidential relocation to protect someone from imminent danger, to receiving an order of protection to mitigate threats, you have options. If and when you eventually appear in court, these steps will factor heavily into the court’s decision on your divorce.

If you suddenly find yourself in danger, stop arguing and lock yourself in the bathroom.  Call 911 and tell them you locked yourself in the bathroom and that feel your life is in danger, and that you will not come out of the bathroom until the police arrive.  Always seek for the arrest to go to Criminal Court and not Family Court.  Why you may ask? In Family Court you have be there every day it is on the Court’s calendar and you need your own attorney and the other party can go and file a petition against you for a level playing field.  If the arrested party is taken to Criminal Court, you do not have to appear in Court except for the trial if there is one and it is controlled by the DA, not you, and you will not need to hire an attorney for it.

Just remember that no matter what course of action you ultimately take, your first job is to protect yourself and any children in your house from the threat of physical danger. In this respect it’s important to contact the proper law enforcement for protection. Once you feel physically safe, consult with an attorney to help you draw up a plan of action and be proactive about extricating yourself and your children from unnecessary abuse, in whatever form it takes.