Gabby Petitto. You have probably seen her name in the news. Maybe you followed her story, maybe you wondered why other stories haven’t got the attention hers did. Maybe, just maybe, you related to what was going on and her sunny Instagram pictures not telling the whole story. Her case brought what we often refer to as “DV“ back into the spotlight again. There have been other high-profile cases, OJ Simpson allegedly killing his wife Nicole Brown Simpson. Scott Peterson was convicted of killing his wife Laci Peterson. Chris Watts killed his wife and young children. These are just a few you may have heard of, but the reality is that there are so many others that never reach the newspapers. There is domestic violence (DV) every day in every neighborhood. That might be hard to hear, but it is true.
Domestic violence just sounds ugly, right? It is hard to say out loud let alone talk about if it is happening to you. It could be happening to a friend or family member, and you may have no idea. It is easy to dismiss signs. It is easy to think someone will tell you if they are being abused; mentally or physically abused. The reality is the cycle of domestic violence continues largely because perpetrators control their victims to the point of stopping that information from getting out. Sometimes it can be too late when a victim is ready to leave. When they do leave is almost always the most dangerous time for them and their family.
Domestic violence also impacts the children in a home. When a couple is getting separated or divorced, domestic violence perpetrated on a partner in front of children, upon children, or simply upon a partner, can be a basis for restrictions in a parenting plan. There is a real disconnect for some individuals in not recognizing how their abusive behavior impacts their children. Any individual, with or without children, who has been subject to domestic violence should reach out and determine what their options are, how to get protection and leave the relationship, and if embarking upon divorce, what steps need to be taken immediately.
There is another side of the coin that is often not talked about when it comes to domestic violence and family law. There are those who are falsely accused of domestic violence. I always ask people who are going to work in my office whether they believe that domestic violence allegations are ever fabricated. That is another hard thing to talk about, right? No one wants to call someone making claims of domestic violence a liar. It is not always the case, but the sad truth is that sometimes people will use DV allegations to gain an upper hand in a custody battle, to get someone out of a family residence, or for any number of other reasons. False DV allegations can ruin a person’s life, reputation, subject them to criminal charges and civil protection orders, and have a significant impact on whether they have limited or unsupervised time with their children let alone decision making. The good news is that court systems are not unaware of domestic violence being used as a sword rather than a shield from actual violence. We often have to advocate for someone who is falsely accused and bring this to the court’s attention. This is not every case or even most, but it happens and needs to be acknowledged.
If you are in an abusive relationship or are a victim thinking of leaving, it can be overwhelming and downright frightening. You may feel shame. Domestic violence or “DV“ happens across all socioeconomic groups. It is ugly, it typically goes on behind closed doors, and it is something that should be addressed as soon as possible before it escalates, but often never is.
Common signs of abuse include you may notice in others who may be dealing with DV at home behind closed doors:
- Always injuries and explanations for them
- Feeling the need to constantly report to or check in with a partner when away from them
- Never having access to money
- Missing events that are social for no reason or off reasons
- Low self-esteem in someone who never exhibited it before
- Making excuses for their partner
- Overly worried about pleading with their partner
Signs you may be in a DV relationship:
- Your partner controls your access to money
- Your partner asks you to account for every dollar you spend
- You feel isolated from friends and family by your partner
- Your partner seeks to restrict your access to work or take a job you want, engage in activities you want, or do things outside of the home unless they are involved
- Your partner constantly accuses you of cheating, having an affair, or keeps tabs on where you go and who are you talking to
- Your partner physically attacks you, throws things at you, threatens to harm you, your children, or your pets
- Your partner forces you to have sex, makes you feel like you owe them sex, or controls the way you dress
What to Do if You Are Being Abused
You deserve better and this is in no way your fault. That is the first thing to know and remind yourself. In an emergency, call 911 or contact law enforcement immediately.
When you are ready to think about leaving, know that others understand this is hard. You can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). Make the call from a friend’s house or somewhere else safe.
Speak to an attorney about divorce and separation from Domestic Violence. We can help and we want to keep you safe. If you are located in Washington state and need support, reach out for a consultation.