by Kim Johnson
Going through a separation or divorce is emotionally difficult for everyone. And, it can sometimes trigger unusual behavior in some who then act out in strange and sometimes frightening ways. So, it is often easy to lose perspective on what is, and what is not, appropriate behavior in this situation.
Types of Abuse
There are three areas of conduct that can occur: harassment, stalking or being threatened. While the legal definitions for these can vary from state to state, any repeated, unwanted contact that scares you or makes you “feel” threatened most like constitutes stalking or harassment. In the beginning, staling may seem harmless or involve actions that are actually legal under ordinary circumstances. These could be things like phone calls, emails, text messages or even gifts. However, innocent actions cross a line when they escalate and make you extremely uncomfortable. It usually happens because you ex is either attempting to remain in an unwanted relationship with you, regain control of your life, or is seeking revenge by making you feel in danger.
Here are some examples of harassment or stalking behavior:
- Calling when you’ve asked him or her to stop
- Sending you unwanted emails or texts
- Giving you gifts you don’t want
- Following you or showing up at inopportune times without a reason
- Gathering information about you
- Spreading rumors or posting personal information or social media
- Refusing to leave you alone.
What to Do if You Feel Threatened
Sometimes, when you don’t respond the way you ex wants, the behaviors may worsen to the point physical violence is involved. For this reason, it’s very important not to downplay your fears. Take appropriate actions to protect yourself and your children if they are involved. Here are some suggestions:
- Keep a written record of all correspondence with your ex, either by hand or dictating notes in your phone. The time stamp is important.
- Make it clear to your ex that you don’t want any contact. If you share children, make it clear the communication should only be about them.
- Don’t continue to respond to repeated unwanted communication. Be prepared to open new social media and or email accounts and delete old one.
- Tell family and friends not to share personal information with your ex no matter how innocent it appears.
- Also tell your family, friends and your attorney if erratic behavior accelerates and you begin to feel threatened.
- Be prepared to involve the police should the threat become real. If police are called, work to remain calm and share the details of any incident completely, including words said or actions taken. Preserve any evidence as possible.
Divorce is an intense and emotionally draining process that can turn even the calmest temperament into an explosive temper. No one goes into a divorce expecting it to be easy, peaceful, or pleasant – but that doesn’t mean you should expect verbal abuse or harassment from your soon-to-be-ex spouse. When a spouse crosses the line from normal anger at the situation to abuse or harassment, you have the right and should protect yourself. Be prepared.