An incident of domestic violence may be the last straw that a spouse needs to leave a marriage. Sometimes the tension of the marriage becoming toxic results in spouses exchanging many barbs. Or perhaps one spouse really needs to feel in control and bullies the other partner. When the bully spouse senses that his spouse is preparing to leave, violence can erupt.
In many marriages where violence has been a factor; physical and/or emotional, the one who has been the victim needs to rebuild her tools to cope with her spouse and with life in general. The victim often suffers from lack of self-esteem which interferes with her ability to manage the many tasks that accompany leaving a marriage. Much of the criticism from the bullying spouse is based on her perceived shortcomings. These clients tend to be hyper vigilant to getting every fact completely correct to avoid being criticized again. For example, when I prepare a petition on their behalf and fail to notice that one of their children has had a birthday and is now a year older than he was at the beginning of the case, the client will be very upset. They have difficulty letting go of the notion that if they are not perfect, they will be criticized. In fact they need to learn that they no longer have to accept the judgments of their spouse.
Domestic violence victims can help themselves considerably by join groups of other survivors of domestic violence and learning from their experiences. This gives them a source of support, coping skills and hope that they can positively change their lives and the lives of their children. Having a personal counselor is also very helpful in making the transition away from the abuse.
It is extremely important that DV victims learn that the court system has limited resources to protect them from their abusers. After the divorce is completed, they will no longer have the protection of their lawyers and other helping professionals. Right from the beginning, they need to learn new, effective ways of dealing with their spouse, developing and enforcing clear boundaries and recognizing triggers to violence so they can leave the situation early. How well they do after the divorce is based in part on the strength of their divorce judgment and in part on how well they can protect themselves from their spouse. A large part of their survival also depends on achieving a good level of independence from their spouse.
Talk with your lawyer and your counselor about resources in your community that will augment the court experience and help the DV survivor build a solid base for a better life.