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Components of an effective escape plan for domestic violence

Domestic violence affects millions of people across the country. Leaving an abuser may be easier with an escape plan.

Almost nobody can say that their divorce was easy, and this is especially true for those who are victims of domestic violence. Sadly, family abuse is an epidemic in the country. Every year in Utah and other states, over 10 million victims are physically harmed by their partners, reports the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Men, as well as women, may be abused by their spouses, although women and children are by far the ones who are most often domestic violence victims.

Recognizing domestic abuse

It is not always easy to spot the signs of abuse, especially if there is no physical violence. An abusive person may seem outwardly charming, especially in the beginning of the relationship, but gradually exerts more and more control over his or her victim. The victim may feel constantly on guard to avoid upsetting the other partner. An abuser may use threats to take away the children, destroy the victim's personal belongings or cause physical harm to maintain control.

Victim advocates say that abusers usually make it difficult to leave such a relationship. Therefore, it is often helpful to plan out several steps to escape before leaving. Also, victims should consider seeking a parenting arrangement that protects children from the abuser as much as possible. A strong escape plan, advises The National Domestic Violence Hotline, includes the following:

• Documenting physical evidence of abuse, such as bruises, hospital records and police reports

• Keeping a journal of the incidents, whether the abuse is emotional, verbal or physical

• Gradually setting aside emergency cash in a safe place the abuser is not aware of, such as with a trusted family member

• Memorizing the addresses and phone numbers of emergency shelters and law enforcement agencies

It may also help to seek a protective order. These documents are issued by the court and provide legal protections for abuse victims. An abuser is not allowed to go near or contact the victims while a protective order is in place, which may provide extra time to seek help and find a safe place to live, if necessary. It is important, however, to understand that protective orders do not guarantee safety against a violent abuser. It is only as effective as the abuser is willing to obey the law, so victims should use their best judgment in regards to seeking a protective order.

An attorney may help

If you are trying to end an abusive relationship, you may be feeling hopeless and frightened. Fortunately, there are many local organizations that can help, starting with domestic violence shelters and counseling services. A Salt Lake City family law attorney with experience handling domestic violence cases may be able to direct you to the right agencies to contact and get you started on filing for a protective order.

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