Today we face as many tensions and pressures as ever: marriage and family, challenges at work, debts and bills, heavy traffic, threats of terrorism. Pressures can make a spouse or intimate partner explosive and violent. If you live with a risk of violence from a spouse or intimate partner, it is important to know what to do to reduce the impact of those situations.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence occurs if you are abused by a spouse or former spouse, someone you live with or used to live with, someone you are dating, or someone with whom you have a child. Domestic violence can include several different kinds of behaviors, including:
• Physical abuse: hitting, kicking, slapping, pinching and other forms of unwanted physical contact;
• Sexual abuse: forcing or attempting to force an intimate partner to engage in sexual behavior without consent;
• Emotional abuse: this involves constantly demeaning or humiliating a person to undermine his or her self worth; and
• Psychological abuse: this includes causing fear by intimidation, threatening physical harm to the victim or the victim’s loved ones, or forcing isolation from family, friends or work.
Not all of these actions are a crime, but it is vital to remember that seemingly minor problems can rapidly escalate into more violent behavior. At the first sign of trouble, you should take action to stop it. Many domestic violence victims believe that “things will soon get better,” but they rarely do.
Domestic violence exists among people of all races, nationalities and religions. It also cuts across people of all economic and educational backgrounds.
Prepare A Safety Plan for Emergencies
The best way to avoid violence at home is avoid relationships with violent people. If you see this behavior in someone you’re starting a relationship with, move on.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who is violent, get help immediately. No one should suffer physical mistreatment from anyone and even one incident is too much. See a counselor. Talk to your lawyer about what to do. Speak to the police.
For people who feel they are not yet ready to get all the help that’s needed, and available, here are some additional tips to take to protect yourself.
• If a tense situation or argument starts, move to a room or area with an exit so you can get away if it starts to turn rough. Or just leave the scene completely.
• If it’s happened before and may occur again, keep a cell phone nearby or with you at all times. Pre-set the local police phone number. If a situation occurs, call the police immediately. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
• Prepare an emergency bag with a change of clothes, some money, keys, medicines, copies of important papers you may need and a list of phone numbers, like your lawyer, doctor, a local violence shelter and the police. Keep it with a nearby relative or friend.
• Have a plan where to go if you must leave home suddenly for a night or a few days. This can be the same nearby friend, parent, sibling or other relative. It can be a local domestic violence shelter. Check with them to find out if you can stay there in an emergency.
• You need arrangements for your children too. Help them know what to do in a violent situation. They should have a place to go, like a trusted nearby relative or friend.
• At work, decide who you should tell. This may be the company’s security guard or receptionist who answers the company’s phones, so they can alert you to an urgent call, or screen calls from someone who may threaten you.
Know Your Legal Options
Domestic violence is a crime in all states. If you are the victim of domestic violence, you have important legal options to stop this conduct. They include:
• Criminal proceedings. If you feel threatened or are being abused, call 911 to summon the police. When the police come, they may arrest your abuser. Depending on the strength of the evidence and other factors, this can lead to the person being criminally prosecuted. If the abuser is found guilty, a court may impose punishment in different ways, including requiring the abuser to receive counseling through a domestic violence program, ordering the abuser to undergo substance abuse counseling or treatment, imposing a fine, or imposing a jail sentence.
• Court orders. Another legal option to help stop domestic violence is to obtain a Court Order of Protection (these go by different names in different states, including "domestic violence restraining order"). This is a legal document that requires the person to stop the violence, and it carries severe penalties if it is violated. It is usually the fastest way to get help.
A Court Order of Protection can be tailored to your specific needs and can do several things, including:
• require the abuser to stay away from you and to stop abusing you;
• prohibit the abuser from contacting you by phone, mail, e-mail, fax or any other way; and
• remove the abuser from your home.
If the abuser violates the court order, he or she can be arrested by the police and put in jail.
The requirements for getting a court order vary between states, but generally you must show that you are a victim of domestic violence or that you fear violence. You may be able to get a Court Order of Protection without any physical evidence, although it is helpful. Evidence that would help you get a Court Order of Protection is proof of the abuse, such as photos, witness statements made under oath, medical or police reports, and threatening letters, e-mails or phone messages.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or fear that it can occur, you have important legal rights. There are many sources of help, including the police and your lawyer. Take advantage of this assistance so you can end the violence and live a safer and happier life.
Contact an attorney at Triscaro & Associates today. Please call us for all your legal needs. We offer a full range of legal services to individuals, families and businesses, including personal injury, estate planning, real estate, family law and business matters. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality legal services at a reasonable cost.