Domestic violence still happens far too often. Despite national attention, it happens in homes every day in every state in our country. One out of every four women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. I am one of those women.
My story of abuse began at age 19. It ended when I was 23. Between those years I was kicked, slammed, punched, and spit on. I was told I was worthless and called names no one should be called. What my abuser didn’t know was that he was giving me the seeds of strength to excel in my life after the violence. He didn’t know he was providing me the courage to help many other abused women throughout my life. He didn’t know that his abuse would encourage me to become a divorce attorney and help others married to abusers escape their bad marriages, or that I would speak publicly of his shameful acts to inspire others to break free of their own abuse. Yes, he actually gave me many gifts and gifts to share with others, one punch at a time.
If you are divorcing an abuser, you need to get the right attorney. Some attorneys still don’t recognize all the different forms of abuse or understand the cycle of abuse. The right attorney can shield you from further abuse during the divorce litigation, because an abuser often tries to continue the abuse through the divorce process. Abusers are often masters at finding attorneys who will partner with them, even if unconsciously, in that attempt. The abuser will still try to control you, to intimidate you, even to harass you.
The right attorney will also make sure you connect to other needed resources as you’re getting out of an abusive relationship. You’ll need someone who can help you make sure the terms of the settlement will be enforced. You’ll want custody experts who understand that, just because an abuser hasn’t hit or threatened children, his or her controlling behaviors and words can deeply affect a child’s well-being. And the effects of witnessing domestic violence can have negative effects on a child for many years.
You also have to make it an urgent priority to get healthy after the abuse. People who have been abused feel broken and beaten down. They may not have the emotional reserves for a major battle during a divorce. Conversely, now that they are free, some people can become vengeful or unreasonable in an effort to right the suffering they have endured.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence, use that experience to gain strength, help others and define what you will never tolerate in your life again. What comes next can indeed be your next, best life.
My abuser is now dead. Even in his death, and in the oddest way, my abuser left other positive impacts in this world. My abuser took his own life when our daughter was 25. That act propelled her to give back, in her own way. She is now an advocate to help end suicide and speaks publicly about her experience to help others. From this sad and troubled man emerged two women who helped change the world. Experiencing domestic violence does not define your destiny—you do.
ANGIE HALLIER is the founder and managing partner of Hallier & Lawrence PLC, ranked the #1 family law firm in Arizona by Ranking Arizona. Her practice includes complex divorce and legal separation, business issues incident to divorce, spousal maintenance, appellate work, and paternity issues. She has been named a “Super Lawyer” by superlawyers.com every year since 2007. She has received the “Top 10 Attorney Award” from the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, and is on the “Top Lawyers List” of AZ Business Magazine and Phoenix Magazine’s “Best Family Law Attorney” list.