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Do You Have An Abusive Man In Your Life Like Mel? Here's What Experts Advise!

Sat, July 17, 2010 6:36pm EDT by Add first Comment, Getty Images, Getty Images

Domestic abuse is no joke — you have to get out while you still can. Experts say it’s all about getting the power back from your abusive partner.

It’s been nothing but a physical and emotional battle for Oksana Grigorieva to get her life back after she split from ex Mel Gibson back in April 2010. Since she filed a restraining order against him in June, Mel has gone mad, repeatedly threatening her life. For her own safety, Oksana captured Mel’s disturbing words on tape as evidence of his erratic behavior in order to protect herself and their 8-month-old daughter Lucia. And experts say she made the right decision getting out and taking control of the situation. “The first thing you have to do [in a situation like this] is protect yourself and get help,” Pat Love, co-author of How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, explains to

Here are the steps experts suggest you take to get away from your abusive partner and get your life back in order:

  1. Get out while you still can. But be careful. “Getting out of an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time,” says Susan Forward Ph.D., therapist and author of Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. “She will end up in the hospital or the morgue if she doesn’t leave.”
  2. Leave when he’s not home: “She needs to pack her bags and get out when he’s not around,” Susan says. “If she leaves, she has a chance to get her life back.”
  3. Let the authorities know what’s going on: “Inform all legal resources, get yourself a lawyer, and tell people you could be in jeopardy,” Susan says. “Get the police involved. Don’t assume he won’t seriously injure you.”
  4. Get the power back into your hands: “[Oksana] recorded [the threats] and it gave her an awful lot of leverage. It was a power struggle,” explains Dr. Steven Stosny, author of Love Without Hurt. “Do what she did. Collect all the power you can.”
  5. Build a support system: “Form alliances, don’t isolate yourself, get as many people to help as you can,” Dr. Stosny says.
  6. Get therapy: “She’s got to get herself into therapy to figure out why she’s developed such a high tolerance for this treatment,” says Susan. “Women tend to internalize the blame. She’s not going to be able to put the pieces back together on her own.”
  7. Don’t see a male counselor: “You have got to have a therapist that understands the dynamics,” Susan says. “I don’t recommend a man. A man may be compassionate, but a woman would be a whole lot better.”
  8. Don’t go back. If he’s abusive, he will never change. “The statistics aren’t really encouraging” of a man changing his violent ways, Susan says. “The repeat rate even after therapy and batterers group is very high.”

A situation of domestic abuse like Oksana’s “is not something that goes away and something to take lightly,” Pat says.

And Dr. Stosny agrees: “Whenever someone is threatening their power over you, you have to protect yourself.”

Oksana made the right decision to get away from Mel and get the “power” back in her hands. Now hopefully she’ll become an example for other women to get out in enough time to save their lives.

— Lindsey DiMattina