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How to document verbal & emotional abuse from a spouse

Updated April 17, 2017

Not every type of spousal abuse is physical -- the negative effects of verbal and emotional abuse by a husband or wife are painful and long-lasting. But how do you prove that this type of domestic violence occurred? Often you need careful and meticulous documentation over long periods of time in order to convince others that the abuse is happening. You may need this information in counselling, in domestic-violence programs and in divorce court.

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  1. Carry around a pen and small notebook. Each time your spouse says something emotionally or verbally abusive, write it down in the notebook. Divide the types of abuse or comments into categories if your spouse exhibits certain patterns -- this may make the abuse easier to record. Do not write down these instances in front of your spouse. Try to remember what they were until you can get into a private place to document. Ask to be excused to the rest room, for instance, in order to jot down your notes.

  2. Carry around a tape recorder located in a discrete place on your person, such as in a concealed pocket. Eliminate the necessity of having to remember all the instances of abuse for documentation later. Turn up the recorder to full volume when with your spouse, so it will catch any emotional or verbal violence as it occurs.

  3. Type examples of your spouse's emotional and verbal abuse on the computer. Make a spreadsheet with the dates, times, and circumstances of each incident. Be forewarned, however, that if your spouse has access to the computer, it increases the likelihood of his finding the secret data.

  4. Enlist the help of friends. Sometimes, it is very difficult to catch each instance of verbal or emotional abuse from a spouse by yourself. You are in a very stressful situation and may not be able to remember or record each instance as it occurs. In addition, familiarity blindness may make you unaware that certain behaviours or actions are actually abusive. Ask your friends to write down these examples when they see them occurring and hand them back to you.

  5. Keep the recordings secret from your spouse. Put them in a place where she is unlikely to look or to which she does not have access. Decrease the opportunity your spouse may have to confront you about the recordings (possibly in a violent manner) or erase them so that you will have no proof that the violence occurred.

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Things You'll Need

  • Pen
  • Notebook
  • Computer (optional)
  • Recording device (optional)

About the Author

Ilana Waters

A professional writer for LexisNexis since 2008, Ilana Waters has created pages for websites such as ComLawOne.com and AndersonHome.com. A writing scholarship helped her graduate summa cum laude from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Social Work. She then obtained her Master of Social Work from Monmouth University.

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