Carolyn Hax: Abused husband needs to act despite wife's threats
Adapted from a recent online discussion:
I'm in a terrible marriage and I don't know how to get out of it. I have two small children, which greatly complicates things. My wife has become extremely abusive, both physically and verbally. She has thrown plates and glasses at me, hitting me in the face once, which required a trip to the ER for stitches. Every day when I get home, she berates me for any number of things (not making enough money is a favorite).
I desperately want out of this marriage, but she told me that if I try to divorce her, she'll take every penny I have, and, worse, she'll tell the police that I'm abusing the children. Her parents back her up 100 percent and they said they're willing to lie on her behalf to make sure I never see the kids again if I leave her. What do I do?
Find a very good attorney, right away, and quietly get detailed instructions on how to protect yourself from (and credibly document) what your wife is threatening, and to protect your kids from this damaging home. You can also call 800-799-SAFE to get similar instructions and referrals to local counseling and legal resources. Nurture those kids, and -- again -- take very careful and considered steps toward extracting yourself and your children.
Thirty years ago, as a young woman, I worked on behalf of battered women. Your advice to all, female and male, who raise these questions is right on target. I cannot say enough that whatever they fear about the future, it will be so much better (and, one hopes, safer) than the present. If the victim can't do it for him/herself, do it for the children -- one way or another, the violence always seeps toward them.
And by the way, many high-end law firms have partners that will take this kind of work on pro bono -- it's worth contacting your local bar association.