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North Carolina Survivors of Domestic Abuse: The Healthy Marriage Act

Survivor’s voices must be heard in Senator Allran’s Dialogue

North Carolina legislators want to pass the Healthy Marriage Act to require two years of counseling for couples who wish to divorce before granting the divorce. The amount of counseling time increases if there are children involved.

Senator Allran, the primary sponsor of the bill, says he’s unsure how the law would change for people in abusive relationships and that he just wants to get a dialogue started. I don’t know about North Carolina lawmakers, but everything I’ve read warns against couples counseling for currently abusive relationships.

Why would they want to force domestic abuse victims to sit through therapy with a liar and manipulator when the best solution is complete and utter separation? Unbelievable.

Sample Note Against The Healthy Marriage Act

This is what I wrote. 

Senator Allran,

The Healthy Marriage Act will not benefit victims of domestic abuse or their children. It is impossible to successfully counsel the victim and the abuser as a couple. By the time victims of domestic abuse decide to leave and initiate the current one-year separation, too much damage is done to the relationship for it to ever be “normal” or “healthy” in any way.

Even if there were a clause allowing the counseling waived for abuse victims, how would you decide who was a victim and who wasn’t? Verbal and emotional abuse do not count as crimes. Physical assault does count as a crime, but physical violence does not happen without verbal/emotional abuse happening first. Don’t we want our victims to leave the relationship before someone is physically assaulted, if possible?

There are no laws in place that protect victims or their children from the damaging effects of verbal/emotional abuse either. When I left my abusive husband, the judge granted him primary custody of our children after requiring him to have no alcohol in his home and to read The Great Santini (a book describing a boy’s abuse at the hand of his military father). The judge obviously believed my ex-husband abused our family, but handed him custody anyway.

There is no lawful way to guarantee victims of domestic abuse that they will not have to attend counseling with an abusive and possibly mentally disordered spouse. Well, unless the state also wants to pass laws governing free speech within our homes in order to make verbal abuse a crime. Frankly, I don’t see any good coming from a law violating the First Amendment.

Please, find another way to reduce the rate of divorce in North Carolina.

Kellie Jo Holly

Verbal Abuse Journals
Verbal Abuse in Relationships Healthy Place Blog