Domestic Violence Fighting and the Scorched Earth Strategy at Home and in Divorce Court

Domestic Violence Fighting and
the Scorched Earth Strategy

at Home and in Divorce Court

Dr. King


by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

“Scorched earth” refers to a military strategy, which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. (Wikipedia)

The first time I heard this term was 17 years ago in divorce court while entangled in legal stalking with a court-documented child and spouse abuser. At the time I didn’t really understand the concept, but counsel kept referring to it as the opposition’s strategy.

Scorched Earth in Domestic Violence Divorce

One by one, my world was under attack. Four years of relentless pleadings threatening custody removal from me to a person who was not even a legal candidate for custody. But that, of course, doesn’t mean one cannot pursue child custody and taunt their opposition with the threat of custody litigation.

Then, the back-up Beta-tape of my entire professional business (securely locked in storage) mysteriously walks away from my locked office on the 37th floor of a high security professional building in Chicago. No mystery in that!

From my three children to my professional business, scorched earth was the name of the strategy…and then to my own personal safety. Reaching for the umbrella in my car, I pull out a sack of soaked gasoline-kerosene socks. There is only one person who would have had the motivation to put that in my car. Guess who?

And that is just a small fraction of the nightmare I lived going through the Cook County legal charred of domestic violence divorce. If you are in divorce court with a batterer, I trust you know this strategy.

Why Scorched Earth for Domestic Abuse Survivors

Fast forward a decade plus... In my work with domestic violence treatment for couples in abusive relationships, I have come to understand the term scorched earth with a different kind of clarity.

Batterers reveal their desire for scorched earth tactics when they believe that they have lost the ability to engage their partners either in love or in war. It is as though they are saying to themselves, “I’ll prevent you from enjoying that which brings you pleasure because you have denied me of that which I want...”

In some cases, I see the term scorched earth referenced when the abuser seeks vicious revenge. They want to do whatever they can do to insure that they have marred or, in some cases, destroyed that which their partner loves.

It’s as though they convince themselves that in doing this they are destroying the love in their partner’s life. My sense is they are seeking to get even because, from where they stand, their partner has destroyed the love in their life.

If you are entangled in a destructive relationship with someone who uses scorched earth strategy to deal with their hurt, pain and losses relative to to build a counter survival strategy. Your world is not crumbling down; rather your opposition is simply employing scorched earth in their battle with you.

For more information about legal domestic abuse, visit http:/// and claim Free Instant Access to Survivor Success eInsights. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people nationwide recognize, end and heal from legal domestic abuse.

© Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.