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Ask Ellie: Seek help from women's shelter to leave abusive spouse

Violence, physical and emotional abuse are crimes, punishable by law, no matter if the perpetrator is a spouse or family member.

Dear Ellie: I’m 38 and have a teenage son. I was 21 when my parents married me to a divorced man who was ten years my senior. Arranged marriage is the norm in my culture.

My husband has only stayed with me and my son for about three years throughout our marriage. He visits us for a few days then goes away.

He’s a very violent, aggressive person. I’ve been beaten up and both verbally and emotionally abused by him many times.

I have no independent means of income. I want to get out of this hell but don’t know how to achieve this.

Abusive Husband

Be careful, whatever you decide to do.

If you live in a legal jurisdiction such as in Canada, physical/emotional/verbal abuse by anyone, including a spouse, is a crime.

You must learn where to find safety from your violent husband.

Visit a public library (free) and use one of the computers there (rather than one at home or your personal phone) to search for an abused women’s shelter.

Talk privately to trained counsellors there who provide practical help … finding a place to live, how to get a job, etc. This help is also free to people in desperate need.

Depending on your relationship with your son, do not inform him of your plans until you’ve asked a shelter advisor how to keep him safe, too.

Also, do not inform your parents/other family members of your plans, until you feel protected and secure.

Reader’s Commentary regarding college sweethearts going separate ways for post-graduate education, worried whether their relationship will last (May 24):

“This young man’s scenario reminds me of the years before my wife and I married. She’d just graduated from university, had offers for a graduate degree at Cornell, but elected to take a teaching professional year instead (her choice, not mine).

“The following winter, I was still completing my BA for personal satisfaction, while she taught Home Economics in a Junior High School. As we discussed our options/plans with our minister, he remarked on the amount of work that goes into maintaining a relationship.

“If this couple are committed to each other, and put in the needed work (thanks to Skype, Zoom, and e-mail!), the separation can only enhance the relationship.

“We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this summer, and more “in love,” and even more committed to each other than we were then.”

Dear Ellie: My long-time relationship must end. We used to be very social, but my partner has dementia and is still a heavy drinker. I gave up on his adult kids due to their negative behaviour toward me. They only see their dad about three times a year.

He and I don’t get along. The small house hasn’t any personal space. I can afford to buy a place but worry how he’ll manage alone.

We’ve lived together off and on for years. His will looks after his kids. I’ll have to leave then. I feel I should look after my problems now.

Facing Changes

Start by checking with professionals, e.g., a doctor about the expectations related to your partner’s dementia, a lawyer regarding his ability to afford home care, and/or a retirement home, if needed.

Buy your own place, don’t wait for a crisis. While living peacefully apart, see that he’s getting care, and be a visiting “friend.”

Reader’s Commentary regarding the man “Facing a Crisis” after he sent his partner’s adult daughter an inappropriate text that’s alarmed her and her family (May 23):

“Since the man has never shown this behaviour before, it’s possible that the text message he sent wasn’t only the result of alcohol consumption.

“Some forms of dementia — frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in particular — manifest in dramatic behavioural and/or personality changes.

“Sexually inappropriate actions are part of this and can be among the earliest symptoms. If this is the case here, this man won’t understand what caused him to send that text.

“The age of FTD onset is between 40 and 65. Before assuming he sent the text of his own volition, perhaps dementia onset should be considered and a trip to his family doctor arranged.

“If his issue is early stages of a neurological disorder, some treatments can help with symptoms. This would help the family deal with the sense of betrayal they’re now feeling.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Violence, physical and emotional abuse are crimes, punishable by law, no matter if the perpetrator is a spouse or family member. Seek help, support and safety through and abused women’s shelter.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.