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Why You Should Document Abuse

Your records may be allowed as evidence in court

  • June 08, 2015
  • By domesticshelters.org
Why You Should Document Abuse

Keeping a diary of domestic violence incidents—both physical and non-physical—may seem like the last type of record a survivor would like to collect. The truth is, this type of documentation can be an integral part of your case when it comes time to file charges, file for divorce or file for custody of your children.

According to WomensLaw.org, each state has its own laws about what evidence is permissible in court. It’s best to talk to an attorney or legal advocate prior to your court hearing to learn more about your state’s laws. In the meantime, recording and gathering the following types of documentation can benefit you:

  • Verbal accounts of the abuse from you and any witnesses. This can include not only physical abuse, but also verbal abuse, stalking, or financial, reproductive or spiritual abuse. Ask these witnesses if they would testify on your behalf in court. You can subpoena a witness, which will force them to appear in court. Visit Womenslaw.org for more information on this process.
  • Medical reports of injuries from the abuse. Ask your doctor about safe ways they can make notes about this abuse, advises The National Domestic Violence Hotline. For example, some can write “cause of injury” on your medical records, without the report having to go to the police.
  • Pictures of any injuries from the abuse, documented with the date the photo was taken.
  • Police reports from when you or any witness called the police.
  • Objects in your home broken by the abuser.
  • Photos showing your home in disarray after a violent episode.
  • Pictures of weapons used by the abuser to harm or threaten you.
  • A personal diary or calendar in which you documented the abuse as it happened. This could also include a stalking log. The National Center for Victims of Crime shows an example stalking log here.
  • Digital evidence. Let your abuser’s or stalker’s threatening calls go to voicemail, and then save those voicemails. Save emails, threatening texts, screenshots of 30 missed calls in a row, etc.

Finally, make sure the place in which you to choose to save these items is a safe one. Don’t keep this evidence in the same home you share with your abuser. Keep it at a friend’s or family member’s house, in a safe deposit box or at your place of employment.

And, advises The Hotline, listen to your gut—if it’s not the right time to compile this evidence because your safety will be at risk, hold off. Know that what’s safe for one person, may not be safe for you.