Protecting families from domestic violence

Domestic violence is a widespread problem that affects many families across New York State. The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence reports that about 450,000 incidents involving violence against an intimate partner or family member are reported to the police each year in the U.S. Therefore, it is important for women and men to understand what the signs of domestic violence are, how they can get out of an abusive relationship and legal protection options that are available.

Recognizing The Signs Of Abuse

According to Safe Horizon, one in every four women will experience abuse during her lifetime. But, the signs of emotional and physical abuse are not always easy to recognize and understand. Threats of violence, fear, control and physical force all point to domestic violence. Verbal and emotional abuse can be even more confusing and frightening than physical violence. Abusers often use these methods to intimidate and control their victims. They may even threaten to harm the children or to take them away so the victim can't see them again.

Realizing that abuse is occurring is the first step toward getting out of the relationship. An almost constant feeling of fear, or "walking around on eggshells" to keep from upsetting the other person, is a common sign of an abusive partner. Often being criticized and put down, having accomplishments ignored and being blamed for everything that goes wrong are other signals. Other behaviors that point to an abusive personality include having an unpredictable temper, destroying the other person's belongings, limiting access to family finances and trying to restrict the other partner from seeing family and friends.

The Consequences Of Domestic Violence

The repercussions of abuse are difficult enough for adult victims, but their long-term effects on children are even worse. Many young victims of abuse suffer health and developmental problems, have poor school attendance, and can experience sleep disturbances and anxiety.

Getting Help To Get Out

Escaping from an abusive relationship is difficult, but possible with the right resources and support. The following suggestions can help victims break free from their abuser:

  • Create and rehearse an escape plan.
  • Gather emergency cash, clothing and important documents and store them somewhere safe, such as a friend or family member's house.
  • Build a strong support system of trusted family and friends.
  • Learn and memorize your local emergency and crisis hotline phone numbers and use them when necessary.
  • Document each case of abuse, including photos of bruises, and consider getting a restraining order.

In addition, every county in New York provides services to aid the victims of domestic violence, including shelters for women and children, support groups and legal advice. These services can help battered women and others build a life that is free of abuse.

Getting Legal Help

Abuse victims can go to Family Court to get legal help for themselves and their children, asking a judge for a protective order which prevents the abuser from coming near them.

In Erie County specifically, there are many courts where victims can get protective orders against abusive spouses and partners. Victims of abuse can go to local courts, such as the Buffalo City Court to obtain these orders, or file in the Supreme Court if they are involved in a current divorce proceeding.

If there are matters pending in more than one court, Erie County has an Integrated Domestic Violence Court that can combine all pending matters, allowing victims to get the help they need in one place.

If you need help getting out of an abusive relationship, contact a family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases.