What if my spouse/partner abuses me?

Domestic violence is the most common form of violence in the United States and the single largest cause of injury to women. However, victims of abuse do have options to leave these dangerous situations. The law offers victims protection from abusers and financial assistance to begin new lives.

Mississippi's "Protection From Domestic Abuse" laws apply to spouses currently married, divorced couples, and couples who reside or previously resided together. Abuse can take many forms: physical violence, psychological and emotional abuse, and acts of isolation. One is just as dangerous and damaging as the others.

Physical violence includes hitting, shaking, holding against one's will, or any act that causes bodily harm or injury. Psychological and emotional abuse includes acts of intimidation, such as threats against you or your children, public or private humiliation, and implied control or dominance.

Acts of isolation may involve restricting your activities outside the home, denying access to friends and family, or limiting the money available. These actions attempt to demand your complete dependence upon your spouse or partner. Any attempt to cause bodily injury or the fear of such harm is against the law. Mississippi law also allows charges of rape or sexual battery against a spouse or partner.

Abuse victims can escape this scene. Call the police during or immediately after a battering episode and file a report. Police do not need a warrant if the arrest occurs within 24 hours of an abusive act. Have a physician treat any injuries resulting from a battering and enter it into your medical records.

Ask for help. Intervention programs provide support and guidance through the legal process, including your rights as a victim. Shelters for battered women provide legal guidance, counseling, and a safe place for you and your children. Family and friends are other sources of support.

Through the Protection from Domestic Abuse laws, an attorney can petition the Chancery Court for a temporary restraining order against your spouse or partner. If the court finds just cause, it will issue the order, safeguarding you and your children. However, a temporary restraining order lasts no more than 10 days, unless extended to 20 by the court. Your attorney should also petition the court for a protective order, which shields you from your spouse or partner for up to one year. Any violation of the order by the abuser may lead to jail or fines.

Financial assistance is also available through the courts, granting you exclusive use of the family home and temporary custody of your children. The court can also order your spouse or partner to pay temporary support as well as compensation for losses suffered because of the abuse.

By filing for divorce, you can request sole custody of the children, child support and alimony, and exclusive rights to the family home.

Domestic violence is the most unreported crime other than child abuse and sexual abuse. Thousands of women are killed yearly by abusive spouses and partners. Don't become a statistic. Take the steps to free yourself and your children from this dangerous environment.