In Mississippi, a couple can sign for divorce if their partner is a habitual drunk, is mentally unstable or impotent. But what if a spouse is a victim of domestic violence? Presently, according to U.S laws, domestic violence is not among the 12 legal grounds for divorce. A bill that made domestic violence a valid reason for divorce was declined in the state senate in April.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women, and one in four men have been abused by their partners in the state. The evidence are of physical assault majorly and do not include any case of mental and emotional abuse.
Wendy Mahoney, the executive director of Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, was unhappy with the senate’s decisions and quoted the current divorce law as outdated. She said, “The bill would have made domestic violence the 13th legal jurisdiction for divorce, as long as it was established by clear and convincing evidence, where the perpetrator commits upon a spouse one of the following: attempting to cause, or purposely or knowingly causing, bodily injury to the spouse; or attempting by physical menace to put the spouse in fear of imminent serious bodily harm.”
Women in violent marriages need to leave
As of now, there are 12 grounds for divorce in Mississippi, including impotence and drunkenness. Domestic violence is not one of them. “I think domestic abuse should be at the very top of the list of reasons for divorce” said Lorine Cady, founder of the House of Grace, a center for victims in Southaven. Victims have to prove in court that they are being treated inhumanely by their spouses and that this is a frequent occurrence in their marriage.
Senator Sally Doty had proposed this bill in February. She says: “I think certainly all of my colleagues in the senate understand the seriousness of domestic violence.”
Since it has been turned down, Doty now has plans to reintroduce the bill again in the legislature’s next session.
In the interim, women will continue to live in the fear of abusive marriages, waiting that the law to help them out. Women in such marriages are advised to reach out to their local domestic violence coalition to get help and protection. If the relationship gets dangerous, she should not hesitate to contact the police and create an action plan for herself and her safely.