Domestic Violence | Get Safe Now

Domestic Violence & Tennessee Divorce Law. Get Safe Now. Resources and information for spouses with domestic violence issues in Tennessee divorce including seeking legal protection of a Protective Order.

Family lawyers see domestic violence problems regularly, especially in Shelby County, Tennessee. Too regularly. This national problem knows no economic or racial boundaries. In the 1990’s, Tennessee dramatically changed its laws, both civil and criminal, to provide more legal protection for the abused spouse. If you have either been a victim of domestic violence, fear reprisal for filing for divorce, or even are the aggressor, be sure to discuss this with your lawyer. In any event, there are important legal steps that can be taken to help.

For legal updates and commentary, see our Domestic Violence category on our Tennessee Family Law Blog, and these posts, references, resources and more:

Tennessee Divorce and Domestic Violence Related Video

Memphis Divorce Attorney Miles Mason, Sr. Interviewed about Tennessee Domestic Violence

Protective Order

One legal step is a Protective Order, by which the court orders the parties not to abuse, harass, or threaten each other. In more serious situations, in Shelby County, Tennessee, the restrictions can also prevent one or both parties from contacting or telephoning the other. A Protective Order (also called an “Order of Protection) is relatively inexpensive and is effective in most cases. In most situations when law enforcement officers are present and view a party violating the Protective Order, the violator will be arrested. If law enforcement is not present, a Petition for Contempt may be filed later seeking jail time, fines, and/or legal fees. Criminal and civil penalties for violating a protective order can be very serious.

The person subject to a state-court issued protective order must also understand and comply with federal law prohibiting carrying firearms. There are no exceptions, even for law enforcement personnel. Definitely check with a lawyer for more details.

Domestic Violence Altercations

Domestic Violence & Spousal Abuse in Memphis & Tennessee

Domestic Violence & Spousal Abuse in Memphis & Tennessee

If you are in the middle of a domestic violence altercation, even if you have been in similar situations before, call the police. If you are also represented by a lawyer, call him. The law dictates that law enforcement’s preferred response is arrest. If you fear for your life and have nowhere to go, the police may direct you to an absolutely secret shelter. Even your lawyer is not allowed to know where you are. If you have children, they may go as well.

If you are the victim of abuse, never underestimate the true danger that rage poses. Fight any feelings you might have of responsibility for the abuser. In the middle of a difficult situation, worry about one thing only – saving your own life. Sort out the details later.

If you are the abuser, seek treatment. Situations such as this are common, and help is available. Once domestic violence is brought to the attention of a court, there is no doubt in any judge’s mind that the domestic violence cycle of rage and terror will continue without some form of professional intervention. Without treatment, abusers risk jail time and losing parental rights.

Domestic Violence Statistics


  • 5.3 million women are abused each year. 1,232 women are killed each year by an intimate partner.
  • Acts of domestic violence occur every 15 seconds in the U.S.
  • About half of all couples experience at least one violent incident: in a fourth of these couples, violence is a common occurrence.
  • 20% of all murders in this country are committed within the family and 13% are committed by spouses.
  • The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year.
  • Of this total, nearly $4.1 billion is for victims requiring direct medical and mental health care services.
  • 85-95% of all domestic violence victims are female.

Sources: American Institute on Domestic Violence and Charter Lakeside Behavioral Health System.


  • 85-95% of all domestic violence victims are female.
  • 5.3 million women are abused each year.
  • 1,232 women are killed each year by an intimate partner.
  • Women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know rather than by a stranger.
  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
  • Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.
  • Three in four women (76 percent) who reported they had been raped and/or physically assaulted since age 18 said that a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, or date committed the assault.
  • In 2002, 76% of IPV homicide victims were female; 24% were male (Fox and Zawitz 2004).
  • Previous literature suggests that women who have separated from their abusive partners often remain at risk of violence (Campbell et al. 2003; Fleury, Sullivan and Bybee 2000).
  • Between 4% and 8% of pregnant women are abused at least once during the pregnancy (Gazmararian et al. 2000).


  • More than half of the children whose mothers are abused are also likely to be victims of physical abuse. Older children are often injured while trying to protect their mothers.
  • Whether or not the children are abused physically, they suffer emotional trauma and psychological scars from watching their fathers beat their mothers.
  • In homes where domestic violence occurs, fear, instability, and confusion replace the love, comfort, and nurturing that children need. These children live in constant fear of physical harm from the person who is supposed to care for and protect them. They may feel guilt at loving the abuser or blame themselves for causing the violence.
  • Children form these homes may experience stress-related physical ailments, as well as hearing and speech problems.
  • Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse and juvenile delinquency.

Source: Charter Lakeside Behavioral Health System

In 2001, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported that 63,802 domestic violence incidents- including murder, assaults, and sexual offenses- occurred throughout the state of Tennessee (Crime in Tennessee 2001). According to the Office of Criminal Justice Program’s collection of statistics from domestic violence programs, during 2003-2004, domestic violence organizations:

  • Served 39,131 new clients
  • Received 44,738 crisis calls and 53,712 calls requesting information and referrals
  • Were supported by 100,214 volunteer hours

Source: TBI

Memphis and Shelby County
Domestic violence is a high incidence crime in Memphis and Shelby County. The Memphis Police Department (MPD) and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) recorded 12,531 domestic violence offenses 2001. For the year 2002, the MPD and the SCSO recorded 6,902 domestic violence offenses. In 2001, the MPD and the SCSO reported 12 domestic violence related homicides; those agencies reported 9 such homicides in 2002. Twenty-three people were killed in domestic violence related crimes in Memphis in 2003. The MPD and the SCSO reported 176 domestic violence sex offenses in 2001, and 179 such offenses in 2002.

Researchers coordinated through the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) conducted a random-digit dialed phone survey of 2500 women in Memphis and Shelby County in 2003. They found that:

  • Over 14% of the women in current romantic relationships reported some physical abuse by their current partner
  • Almost 16% of the women reported that a past romantic partner had threatened to kill them
  • Over 9% of the women reported sexual abuse by a past romantic partner
  • Over 70% of the women surveyed did not report the domestic violence to law enforcement
  • 87% of the women did not seek an order of protection
  • 93% of the women did not use legal aid or legal services, and for those women who did tell someone about the domestic violence, almost 50% of the women waited more than one month to disclose.
  • Over 70% of domestic violence cases in Memphis and Shelby County involve a female victim and a male perpetrator. Eighty-six percent of domestic violence victims in Memphis and Shelby County report prior violence perpetrated by the defendant, and 77% of these victims have never received counseling or supportive services. One reason that initial incidents of domestic violence are not reported, and that victims do not seek supportive services, could be that reported cases of domestic violence in Memphis and Shelby County appear to be more prevalent in high poverty areas.

Source: Memphis Shelby Crime Commission

Tennessee Domestic Violence: Related Support Organizations

Memphis Area Domestic Violence: Related Suport Organizations

Family Safety Center of Memphis & Shelby County, TN
1750 Madison Ave.
Suite 600
Memphis, TN 38104

YWCA of Greater Memphis
YWCA of Memphis
(901) 323-2211
(901) 725-4277 Crisis Hotline

A local arm of the national YWCA whose goals include: Empowering women and eliminating racism through Christian values and Providing services to thousands of local domestic violence victims (women, children) including counseling, food, court advocacy, and shelter.


Kindred Place
(901) 276-2200
Contact: P. Maynard
2180 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104
A local organization whose goals include educating the public to end family violence and monitoring protective family visitations for families in recovery or crisis.

Nashville Area Domestic Violence: Support Related Organizations

YWCA – Nashville and Middle Tennessee
1608 Woodmont Blvd, Nashville, TN 37215
(615) 269-9922
(615) 385-9754

Nashville Tennessee Baptist Healing Trust
2928 Sidco Dr, Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 284-8271

The Trust focuses on healthcare services to the vulnerable in Middle Tennessee, and provides grants to charities in Middle Tennessee who assist underserved populations.

Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
2 International Plaza # 425, Nashville, TN 37217

A great site for new legislation, resources, statistics, programs and efforts across Tennessee.

Chattanooga Area Domestic Violence: Support Related Organizations

Partnership for Families, Children and Adults
1800 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37404

The Coalition Against Domestic and Community Violence of Greater Chattanooga, Inc.
1 Cherokee Blvd. # 2, Chattanooga, TN 37405

Knoxville Area Domestic Violence: Support Related Organizations

Victim Advocacy Program YWCA
420 Clinch Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37902

Knoxville Police Department
Domestic Violence Unit @
Family Justice Center
400 Harriet Tubman St, Knoxville, TN 37915

Family Crisis Center
Hotline: 865-637-8000 (24⁄7)

Serenity Shelter
(931) 320-9485

Jackson Area Domestic Violence and Related Charities

512 Roland Avenue, Jackson, TN 38301


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