Choosing to leave a marriage played by domestic violence is not an easy decision. The victims of spousal abuse often face increased risk when they choose to leave their partner. However, there are things you can do while you are still married to help protect you when you choose to leave in the future.

Even if you are too frightened to call law enforcement when your spouse becomes violent, you can’t still document things before you leave that can help you when you need to convince the courts that your allegations are credible. Keeping a journal or diary is one way to establish a record of what you indoor in a marriage with domestic violence issues.

Keep detailed records, including dates, times and what your spouse says

While writing down what happens may upset you, doing it can protect you. Reliving the trauma of the abuse in order to record it accurately is not easy, but it may be the best way for you to document what you experience without the risk of going to the hospital or calling the police.

You may need a secure location to keep your journal, but it is still important that you keep a written record, even if you have to store it at a friend’s house. Each entry should include the details of the altercation, up to and including the time and date, what injuries you suffered, and how your spouse reacted after the incident ended.

If you can substantiate those entries with photographs of bruises and other injuries, that can also help your case. Ideally, seeking medical care would provide a third-party corroboration to your claims. However, if you do not feel safe seeking medical care, simply documenting what you experience can still help.

The courts may find detailed, written records more credible than verbal testimony

Sadly, it is far too common for domestic violence situations to become he-said-she-said scenarios in court. Victims of domestic violence often fear for their safety if anyone outside of the home knows what occurs.

That may prevent them from seeking the help of law enforcement or even medical care after physical injuries. That fear also unfortunately protects their abuser, who can then claim that their victim is lying in court as a means to punish them. Instead of just hoping that the courts will find you more credible, creating a written journal provides a long-term record of these allegations. That makes it much more difficult for your spouse to claim that the whole idea is a strategy you created to punish them.

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. However, there are protections in place to help you, especially if you fear for your safety or the safety of your children. It may be possible to seek a protection order, or to have the courts supervised visitation for the sake of your children. Proving that abuse occurred in your marriage is an important first step toward connecting with the protections you will need when you choose to end it.