When a former abuser files lawsuit after lawsuit, the domestic abuse survivor becomes trapped in yet another abusive relationship despite being physically separated from the abuser. These lawsuits are particularly difficult to fight when the domestic abuse survivors have limited finances. Sadly, most domestic abuse survivors, primarily women, oftentimes do not have either the necessary financial or informational resources to obtain legal assistance when battling abusive ex-partners who are hell bent on trapping them under an endless mountain of legal paperwork and court appearances. These women often end up being victimized a second time, suffering extensive consequences from this abuse, such as losing a job because they are repeatedly required to appear in court. The economic and emotional repercussions provide yet another avenue for the victim to be victimized again. You remain financially trapped by their games and their knowing that they have the means to keep it going and you don’t.
If you choose to sue your abuser in a civil suit, you need to know that there can be a downside to it. Remember, if you are a victim of narcissistic abuse, they will do anything to win. I’m not saying not to do it. I personally think if more abusers were held responsible and the Courts made them responsible, those who rule with their fist or fist of words would think twice.
- There are time limitations. You might be making life-changing legal decisions while you are still struggling with the consequences of abuse. You might already be stretched to the limit with other things – a move, a new job, single parenting, lack of financial resources, lack of family support, or religious or cultural pressures.
- The complication of children – unless the abuser abandons his children, the two of you are connected for life. Civil lawsuits can drag on for years. Research shows that parental conflict is the number one predictor of poor outcomes for children after divorce. Are you confident that you can run the lawsuit and protect your children from the inevitable conflict with the other parent?
- The complication of financial dependence – you might need child support, partner support, or health benefits from your abuser’s employer. Vindictive abusers can destroy property, quit jobs, hide income and assets, ruin your credit rating and jeopardise your employment.
- It might spark retaliatory litigation – “You sue me for assault, I’ll sue you for defamation.”
- Civil court isn’t civil. You will need to publicly confront your abuser in court, reveal deeply personal secrets, undergo stressful cross-examination and risk ridicule or indifference from family members or other people important to you.
- Civil lawsuits are long, expensive, and complicated.
- Starting the lawsuit might wipe out the possibility of settling the family law action.
- You might end up fighting battles in two levels of court at the same time – provincial court for the family law action and superior court for the tort claim.
- If you have settled your family law action, you may have inadvertently given up your right to sue. The general release clauses in Separation Agreements and Minutes of Settlement might extinguish any tort claims that occurred before the date you signed the contract.
- If you received a family court judgment, you might be up against the legal doctrine of res judicata. This is the principle that a matter can be litigated only once. If a judge gives you an Exclusive Home Possession Order because your spouse assaulted you, that EHPO may prevent you from later bringing a claim for damages based on the same assault.
- You go all the way and get a judgment for damages, but your abuser has no money or assets. It is uncollectable. There is no insurance that covers domestic violence.
- What if you lose? *Credit to Rosemarie Boll, Law Now
But, what if you win? We’ll discuss that next time. Sometimes, it’s about empowering yourself and for each and every abuse victim, empowering yourself looks different. For me, it is moving on. Living pure of heart and advocating and educating and validating those in abusive relationships or those who have left. For others, it may be braving the Court system and being validated legally and financially for the pain and suffering they endured. Everyone’s journey is different and no one way is the right or wrong way.
Until next time….