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Domestic Violence & Spousal Abuse - I have an abusive spouse. Is there anything I can do?

Posted by attorney Curtis Romanowski

Q. I have an abusive spouse, or at least I feel abused. Is there anything I should do, or is what I'm going through just to be expected?

A. Some people believe that abusive conduct is limited to physical violence. However, this is not the case. Emotional abuse, imprisonment, physical intimidation, threats, financial blackmail, and sexual cruelty are all forms of abuse that you should respond to in order to protect yourself and your children. These types of behavior can escalate to physical violence, and witnessing abusive behavior between parents in any of its various forms can have a long-term detrimental effect upon children. Blackened eyes, bruises and fractures should not be a prerequisite for seeking help. Emotional scars are sometimes equally damaging and difficult to heal.

Physical abuse must be viewed in the broadest possible sense. Any angry touching, shoving or bumping is physically abusive. Emotional abuse can take many forms. A distinction must be made between mere insensitivity and deliberate mental or emotional cruelty.

Abuse should not be tolerated in an effort to preserve the marriage "for the sake of the children." Long-term harm to children who have witnessed to a parent's fear, shame and humiliation outweigh any benefit derived from preserving an abusive relationship. Spouses who prevent their mates from seeking help, or simply from temporarily getting out of harm's way are abusers. Barring the door, confiscating car keys, or hiding wallets, pocket-books or clothing are all acts that prevent a victim from escaping potential domestic abuse or violence. This is "imprisonment." While imprisoning itself is an act of terror, imprisoning one's spouse or "lover" can lead to physical assaults or even torture.

Physical intimidation often precedes other acts of violence. While verbal terroristic threats may never be spoken, the person engaging in the intimidation may communicate the threat of immediate harm to the victim "quite convincingly," yet non-verbally. There is no question left in the victim's mind that the slightest hesitation in yielding to the abuser's demands will trigger an escalation of violence.

Domestic Violence can take many forms. Please carefully review our " Domestic Violence" page for a comprehensive listing of types of abusive conduct New Jersey recognizes as actionable under its Domestic Violence Act.

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