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The challenges of proving nonphysical domestic abuse

There is no doubt that survivors of domestic abuse who are scarred, bruised or otherwise marked from physical battery present a stark reality that is difficult to refute in court. But other types of domestic abuse leave victims damaged as well, even if not visibly.

Nonphysical abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial or verbal. All can cause lasting trauma but may be much harder to prove to get an order of protection against the abuser. Below are some tips to strengthen your case in court.

Get a professional advocate

You may already have one if you sought counseling from a licensed professional, e.g., a therapist. But don't discount the assistance you may receive from domestic abuse advocates at shelters and in other community settings. While they may lack the professional credentials of some counselors, their testimonies can still bolster the case that you present to the court.

Line up your own witnesses

If your friend, coworker or relative has first-hand knowledge of the abuse that you suffered, i.e., they were present and witnessed the event or interaction, their testimony in court can be very valuable.

However, if they can only offer hearsay knowledge, their testimony will not be allowed.

Keep a journal detailing the abuse

You can write it out in longhand or transcribe it digitally, but put as much detail into each entry as possible. There are also apps you can use to store texts and messages from your abuser.

Both Mississippi and Tennessee are one-party recording states, meaning that you can legally record conversations in which your abuser berates and denigrates you verbally.

What if the abuser denies it?

The more evidence you provide to the court, the harder it becomes to deny the truth of the abuse. That's why any supportive documentation — therapists' case notes, witness testimony, journals, texts and recordings — can be the crux of the case before the court.

If the custody of children is part of your case, any examples of verbal, psychological or emotional abuse to the kids should also be provided to the court. The court's guiding principle remains to rule on what is best for the children in all cases.

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