Most victims of domestic violence submit to an abusive spouse because of social pressures, or their own idealistic expectations. Others feel they cannot afford to leave their marriages for economic reasons. However, a failure to act may only prolong the misery and produce increasingly violent attacks. Seek help from friends, religious organizations, victims' services agencies, crisis intervention centers. If a situation is serious, it may be necessary to leave home and temporarily stay in a battered women's emergency shelter.
2. Save Evidence.
Take color photographs of injuries as soon as possible to prove the extent of the abuse. Have the pictures signed and dated by a witness or the person who took them.
3. Seek immediate medical attention immediately after a beating.
Ask the doctor or nurse to document the injuries in a written report. Be sure the name of the person causing the injury is mentioned in the report. A doctor's visit can help prove that injuries were caused by the beating, and the medical records can be used in court to prove a case. Other evidence, including torn or bloody clothing, pictures documenting damage to a house or a car, and the testimony of witnesses, should also be saved for future use.
4. Seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
First, do NOT take the law into your own hands. In Texas to prevail with a self-defense claim, a battered spouse who fights back must prove a reasonable apprehension of imminent danger of bodily harm. Some lawyers use evidence of past beatings and threats to prove reasonable apprehension. Others argue that it is a reasonable response for a woman of slight build to use a lethal weapon (gun or knife) even if a man attacks her with just his fists. In Texas, a spouse who has a reasonable and immediate fear of sexual assault is permitted to use deadly force. In most other cases, women who fight back with deadly force can expect to face criminal charges.
Next, get legal help. You can seek the help of volunteer services, or a private attorney. With domestic relations services you may be able to obtain a protective order that requires your spouse to either leave the house and/or stay away from you and the children. A private attorney may additionally help you:
- obtain a decree of divorce or annulment of the marriage;
- obtain for you a share of the marital assets (e.g. furniture, car, cash in bank accounts), spousal support (alimony), and child support
5. Seek Emotional/Psychological Counseling
Systematic patterns of abuse dis-empower the victim and often make them psychologically and emotionally impaired to the point where they are incapable of making sound decisions for themselves or their children. IT IS VITAL to begin the road to mental health by seeking professional counseling. Your legal struggles will require you to have sound judgement as you make very significant decisions about your legal and financial future as you move beyond a life of abuse.