Appearances can be deceiving when it comes to domestic violence. Our unconscious ideas about what abuse “looks like” – it “always” leaves marks –or the “type” of woman who’s married to an abuser – someone with glaringly low self-esteem and limited options — can lead us to miss some of the less obvious signs that our friend, daughter, or sister is in an abusive relationship, and needs help.
At a distance, Page has the perfect Holiday Card life: a handsome, successful husband, two exceedingly well-mannered children, and a large home in an upscale neighborhood. The last few times you scheduled lunch with Page, she canceled at the last minute. When you ask her if everything’s okay, she tells you that Dan keeps her busy running the household and likes their weekends to be spent “just with family.” You’ve never felt completely comfortable around Page’s larger-than-life husband and worry that he controls her every move. Now that you hardly ever hear from Page, you’re becoming increasingly concerned that life behind her white picket fence isn’t what it seems.
Dan keeps most of his sizable income in a separate checking account, depositing just enough money to cover household expenses in their joint checking. He makes Page get his approval for every purchase and show him receipts for each expenditure. When he gets angry with her, he refuses to give her enough money to pay the bills, at times forcing her to sell jewelry to pay for groceries. Sometimes he’ll surprise her by taking her to a 5-star restaurant or treating her to a shopping spree at her favorite clothing store. But he always expects something in return…usually in the bedroom.
Dan often pressures Page into having sex or taking part in sex acts she finds demeaning. She won’t tell him “no” for fear of retribution. She doesn’t realize that forced sex is rape, even in a marriage.
Suspicious and controlling, Dan covertly cyber-stalks Page to see if she’s having an affair. He installed a spyware program on her computer so he can see what web sites she’s visiting. He insists on having the password to her phone so he can check her e-mails and texts. When they argue, he takes her cell phone away so she can’t contact her family. She has no idea that he installed a GPS monitoring device in her car so he can track her whereabouts.
How To Help
- Provide emotional support. Women are most vulnerable to physical abuse when they attempt to leave their abusers, so don’t pressure your friend to file for divorce. Tell her you will be there to help her in any way you can and provide her with resources and information to make a safe exit and protect herself legally.
- Domestic Abuse Hotlines. Give her the number to a domestic abuse hotline. Trained DV counselors can tell her how to make a safety plan so she can leave with the least risk to herself and her children. They can also provide access to women’s shelters.
- Legal Measures. Your friend may be able to obtain a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) against her abuser. TROs are granted when the abuse falls in one or more of the following categories:
- Terroristic Threats
- Criminal Restraint
- False Imprisonment
- Sexual Assault
- Criminal Mischief
- Criminal Trespass
If your friend has children and believes they’re in danger, she can request a temporary child custody order that restricts contact with the abusive parent. If the abuser is employed, the court can order emergency child support that can be paid through wage garnishment. All temporary orders can be granted without the defendant being present and will become final at a full hearing on a Final Restraining Order within 10 days.
Are you or someone you know the victim of domestic violence? Our powerful team of family law attorneys have the experience and skill to guide you to a safer future. Please contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation.