Domestic violence victims in Colorado face difficult challenges

Filing for divorce is difficult decision, even in the best of circumstances. It's especially hard for people experiencing domestic abuse to end a marriage. For a variety of reasons, it can take victims of abuse years to be able to escape their situations. In many cases, victims don't recognize the signs of abuse or feel like they should leave. When the time comes that a victim is ready to leave, the abuser may make it emotionally or even physically difficult to get away.

Spousal and child abuse is an epidemic problem in Colorado and throughout the United States. According to the most recent numbers by National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there were more than 14,000 criminal domestic violence cases filed in Colorado courts in 2006. Nearly half of all murders in the state are committed against an intimate partner. Most abuse victims are women, although men can be hurt by domestic abuse as well.

Protecting victims and escaping an abusive situation

Whatever the circumstances, it's vital that abuse victims protect themselves by leaving their abusers as soon as it's safe to do so, especially when children are involved. Even in relationships where the abuse is only emotional or verbal, the damage can be profound and long-lasting. Safe Horizon says that children who grow up exposed to abuse are likely to become either victims or abusers in their own adult relationships. In order to break this cycle of violence, it's important for the parents of children in abusive relationships to seek custody arrangements that protect them from their abusers.

Unfortunately, it's not always easy for someone to determine if he or she is in an abusive relationship. Many types of abuse are more subtle than being physically struck; according to HelpGuide, emotional or verbal abuse can be difficult to recognize but is just as damaging as being physically harmed. Abusers can seem charming at the beginning of a relationship, but gradually increase their use of manipulation, guilt, isolation and fear until their victims are entirely under their control. They often restrict a victim's access to money, transportation and communication to family and friends.

Escaping an abusive relationship isn't often easy, but it is possible with the right support. Victims should take the following steps:

  • Create an escape plan and rehearse it with someone trustworthy who is able to help.
  • Store emergency cash, clothing and documents in a safe place outside the home.
  • Memorize emergency phone numbers and addresses of abuse shelters, police stations and crisis centers.
  • Document and report instances of abuse.
  • Consider filing a protective order for legal protection.

In many rural areas of Colorado, isolation from services and centers can make it hard for some victims to escape. Creating a well-thought-out plan and involving law enforcement and other resources can help make escape a reality.

Contacting an attorney

If you are an abuse victim considering a divorce, a family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases can be an invaluable resource toward helping you start a new life.