This post is written by my colleague, Sodoma Law attorney Amanda M. Cubit:
We've all heard the statistics, like this one from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence - "On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States." You may think you know from what sections of society these 20 people come from, but the reality is, it could be anyone.
Look at "The Legal Diva," Loredana Nesci, for example. Loredana graduated from college. She became a Los Angeles Police Officer, then went on to graduate from law school and create a name for herself, quickly gaining national recognition, hosting her own radio and then reality television shows. She had a long-time boyfriend with whom she had a five-year-old son. By all accounts, she was a strong, successful woman. Nonetheless, Loredana was not immune to domestic violence. In July 2015, she was found dead in her home and, shortly thereafter, her boyfriend was charged with her murder. Thankfully, Loredana's son was not home at the time of his mother's death, but he will undoubtedly feel the effects of this act for the rest of his life.
For a long time, there has been a stigma surrounding domestic violence. Until recently, even the media did not devote much attention to this subject. That has started to change due, in large part, to highly publicized incidents such as the infamous video in which football player Ray Rice knocked his then-fiancé, now wife, unconscious. Cases such as this have led major organizations, like the NFL, to respond with campaigns aimed at increasing awareness of this issue.
No one plans to be a victim of domestic violence. No one plans to be harmed by a partner and, when a person is in that position, it can be difficult to know what to do. It can be even more difficult for a victim who has children. No one chooses to expose their children to domestic violence and it's a situation that presents its own unique challenges. It can be overwhelming, and difficult to know what to do to remove yourself and your children from an unsafe environment. Based on my experience in representing people in this situation, here are some recommendations:
Do not be embarrassed. No one chooses to be a victim and no one deserves to be a victim of their own relationship. You are not to blame. If you have children, it's especially important to remember this situation is not a reflection of your parenting. You cannot control your abuser's behavior, but you can control the choices you make to protect yourself and your children.
Take steps to protect yourself. Call the police if you are in fear of immediate harm. File for a Domestic Violence Protective Order. Relocate to a safe place.Many victims hesitate to take these precautions because they do not want to see a loved one in trouble. While this is an understandable emotion, you need to protect yourself and your family.
If you have children with your abuser, they may not understand why you are doing these things. With any luck, they never witnessed the violence firsthand and may be completely unaware of it. Unfortunately, this also means your children may question your decisions. Regardless of their reaction, you need to do whatever it takes to protect your children, even if they don't understand or don't like the immediate effect of those decisions.
To the extent you can, do not involve your children. Minimize the impact of this situation as must as possible by keeping your children's day-to-day lives as normal as possible. Do not discuss the details of the abuse with them and do not talk negatively about the other parent in the presence of your children. No matter how you feel in the moment, this won't help. If there is not a genuine safety concern, allow the children to continue attending school, participating in extra-curricular activities, and communicating with the other parent. Although your relationship with the other parent may not be a healthy one, as long as their safety is not at risk, the children may still have a relationship with that parent. In most situations, a relationship with both parents is beneficial to children. For their sake, it is important to support and encourage this while protecting and separating yourself from your abuser.
Consult an attorney. Whether you've been with your partner for a short time or you've been married for decades, the end of any relationship is difficult. Ending a relationship with an abusive partner can be even more difficult for many victims. An advocate who can empathize, assess the circumstances of your individual situation, and competently advise you will prove invaluable as you attempt to navigate the uncertainty and start anew. An attorney can ensure your interests are protected throughout the process. Should your situation develop further and you find yourself in the midst of a child custody proceeding, an attorney can ensure the best interests of your children are protected throughout that process and are promoted by any resolution reached.