Domestic violence is much more common than you think. One in four women in the United States will experience domestic violence at some point in her life. Each and every day, three women in the United States are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
Almost two-thirds of all women killed by men are killed by an intimate partner.
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate relationship where one partner attempts to gain or maintain power and control over the other partner. The abuser attempts to intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt or injure.
Who Are the Victims of Domestic Violence?
Although the above statistics report on domestic violence against women, victims and abusers can come from both genders and from all age and economic groups. They can be spouses or live-in partners, gay or straight, but also parents and step-parents, children, siblings and other relatives.
Types of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence can take many forms:
can be hitting, slapping, punching, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting or hair pulling. At the extreme, it can be assault or murder.
occurs when one partner forces or attempts to force sexual contact or behavior without consent. It includes marital rape, which has been a crime in every state since 1993.
involves undermining an individual’s self-worth or self-esteem. It can include constant criticism and name-calling, especially in front of children.
occurs when one partner makes or attempts to make the other partner financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding access to money, or forbidding attendance at school or work.
includes causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to one’s self, partner, children, or family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forced isolation from family, friends, school or work.
Domestic Violence Is a Crime
Domestic violence charges are serious and usually prosecuted. They are separate from (but can be filed in addition to) assault and battery charges. The laws vary from state to state. The specific crime charged depends on the severity of the victim’s injuries, whether a minor was present, and whether a protective or restraining order was violated.
Misdemeanor charges and conviction often include jail time, fines, probation and court-ordered treatment programs (for alcohol abuse and behavior management). Felony charges include certain types of assault, murder, manslaughter, rape and kidnapping. Penalties include fines and prison time, depending on the seriousness of the crime. Multiple misdemeanor charges trigger felony charges.
What Is a Protective Order?
A temporary protection order issued by the court requires the abuser to refrain from any further acts of abuse and stay a certain distance away from the victim as well as the victim’s residence, business, place of employment or school. It may also include other conditions. A TPO takes effect after charges are filed and expires once the case is discharged.
For longer-term protection, victims can seek a civil protection order, which may be valid and enforceable for up to five years. It may also award temporary child or spousal support, temporary child custody and visitation (including supervised visitation), require the abuser to obtain counseling, and award use or possession of personal property (like a house or car).
Call a Family Lawyer
The issues surrounding domestic abuse are complicated and fraught with emotion. For immediate assistance, a victim of domestic abuse should call his or her local domestic abuse hotline. Plus, the facts of each case and the laws in each state are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the subject. It is not legal advice. For more detailed, specific information about your situation, please contact a family lawyer.