A Primer on Domestic Violence Law

Domestic Violence  is described as abuse between family members or related persons. Domestic violence may come in different forms such as actual physical abuse, threats of physical abuse, emotional abuse, threatening telephone calls, disturbances at a place of employment, stalking, and other forms of dominance and control. Domestic violence is distinguished from other kinds of abuse because of the special relationship between the persons involved. Domestic violence cases must be handled differently than cases of civil harassment because of the interpersonal relationships involved.

At least one of the following relationship tests must be met in order for an incident to qualify as a domestic violence case:

1.) the parties are married now or were formerly married to one another

2.) the parties are related by blood, through marriage or adoption

3.) the parties are currently or were formerly living together

4.) the parties have now or used to have a dating or engagement relationship

5.) the parties have a minor child in common

In some areas, there does not have to be actual physical violence between the parties. Emotional abuse or fear of physical harm is already enough to qualify as domestic violence. Whether the domestic violence is a crime depends upon the particular circumstances, as well as the laws of the state in which the act or acts occur. Often domestic violence is both a crime subject to criminal punishment and a civil wrong subject to restraint upon personal conduct. Victims involved in both scenarios can receive award for money damages when the other parties involved are proven guilty.

It is a frequent pattern in domestic violence cases for the victim to be abused, call the police, press charges, then reconcile with her abuser, and seek to have the charges dropped, only to have the entire pattern repeated all over again. Because of this, in some local communities and states, domestic violence is now prosecuted as a crime by city and district attorneys, even without charges being brought about by the abused person, and even without his or her assistance. In these localities, a criminal case may be brought against the person causing the harm without a complaint being made by the victim.

Domestic violence is considered a crime against the community and the “state” should prosecute all harms against the community. Such localities try to “get the word out” that local authorities will not tolerate domestic violence and that offenses will be prosecuted with or without the assistance of the victim.

However, in the event of domestic violence, what can a person do? First and foremost, it is important for the person to get away from the aggressor. He/she should seek the assistance of a friend or a neighbor. In the event of domestic violence, immediate police assistance should be requested. Often, local police officers and sheriffs have received special training with respect to domestic violence and can be extremely helpful to a victim. In addition to local law enforcement personnel, city and state lawyers may be very helpful not only in prosecuting the crime, but also in providing referrals to other local assistance – emergency shelters such as refuge homes, counseling, and legal assistance.

A victim of domestic violence should never try to go through the trauma alone. The usual profile of an abusive person is an aggressive, dominant personality that is both manipulative and controlling. The victim of domestic violence is often very vulnerable and can be persuaded from not obtaining assistance. Outside assistance is often essential in protecting a victim of domestic violence. A victim of domestic violence should never shy away from requesting assistance because of a perceived stigma attached to being a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence pervades all socio-economic classes. A “rich” person is just as likely to be a victim of domestic violence as a “poor” one. Wherever you came from, or whatever your background is, if you have been abused, get assistance from a domestic violence organization immediately for your own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of those close to you.

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