Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior that one person uses to obtain or maintain control over the other. Domestic abuse may consist of physical abuse or mental abuse. Domestic abuse is a crime, punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

What is Physical Abuse?

Acts of physical abuse include battering, pushing, punching, cutting, pinching, striking, and any other type of violent behavior directed at the victim’s person. Physical abuse may also consist of forcing the victim to undergo something against their consent. This may include forcing alcohol, drugs, or unwanted food or drink on a victim.

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is a type of abuse in which the abuser threatens to engage in sexual contact with the victim, without their consent. Threats may consist of verbally abusive language or physical acts. Sexual abuse includes rape.

Sexual abuse may also take the form of injuring the victim’s sexual organs (battery). It may also take the form of mental or emotional abuse, such as when the abuser makes sexually degrading comments or jokes.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse is abuse that degrades the victim’s sense of mental security. Emotional abuse consists of verbal abuse, such as name-calling, criticism, screaming, or refusing to listen to the victim.

Emotional abuse is committed to obtain control over some aspect of the victim’s personhood. Which means that the abuser verbally bullies the victim so the victim loses their self-esteem and completely relies on their abuser for emotional support.

This type of abuse also targets a victim’s self esteem and self-worth, the ability to maintain a stable home life, and the ability of the victim to comfortably interact with other family members.

Emotional abuse is designed to instill a sense of fear into the victim. Fear is instilled through threats, taunting, and harassment. A victim may respond to fear by becoming depressed, by being afraid to attend school or employment, or by withdrawing from daily life routines.

What is Economic Abuse?

Economic abuse is a type of abuse where money is used as a means of control. An abuser may deny a victim access to family funds, to a joint bank account, or to joint savings. An abuser may refuse to relate important financial information (such as debts or unpaid bills) to the victim as another way of creating and maintaining fear and dependency.

They may also do things like keep all belongings in their name, like the car or the home. This would be to prevent the victim from fleeing or feeling like they can rely on anything other than the abuser. The abuser may also have all credit cards in their name and have the cell phone under their name, so they can easily cut the victim off.

What is Stalking?

Stalking consists of a pattern of behavior or activities. Stalking may consist of repeated spying on or watching of the victim. Other acts of stalking include harassment, entering and refusing to leave a victim’s place of employment, entering places where the victim hopes to engage in leisure time (such as at a gym or library), and threatening the victim’s family or friends.

Stalking can take place on the Internet as well in the form of sending unwanted emails, attachments, or online harassment. Any one of these acts, committed once, may not result in a charge of stalking. However, committing one of these acts repeatedly, or committing several of these acts, suffices to sustain a stalking charge.

If you believe you are a victim of stalking then it is important to document the behavior. This means keeping track of dates, time, location, and how long the behavior lasted. If they are sending threatening emails or messages, then you need to keep them for evidence. Once you have proof of stalking with an established record, then you can turn to the police for help and have a better chance of obtaining a restraining order.

Who May be a Victim of Domestic Abuse?

Traditionally, domestic abuse was thought of and defined as a crime committed by one spouse against the other. Today, the law recognizes that acts of abuse can be perpetrated by one person against a variety of other people. Under the law, victims of abuse can include spouses, ex-spouses, partners, people who cohabit (live together without being married), family members, and children.

However, the law still maintains that domestic abuse only occurs when individuals are part of the same household. Therefore you cannot be a victim of domestic violence if you were abused or attacked by your neighbors as you do not live in the same home.

What Remedies are Available to Victims of Domestic Violence?

Victims of abuse may obtain emergency protective orders, regular (longer-lasting) protective orders, and/or restraining orders against their abusers. These orders are approved by a court and require that the abuser refrain from contacting the victim, staying with the victim, or being in the victim’s presence.

Victims apply for orders by asking a judge to issue them. When a judge issues the order, the order will state what the abuser is not permitted to do. An order typically contains a termination date. When that date is over, the order no longer applies. Victims may apply for additional orders or extensions of initial orders.

What are the Consequences of Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abusers that violate the terms of a protective or restraining order are subject to contempt of court. Contempt of court may result in a monetary fine and/or jail time. Domestic abuse is also a felony or misdemeanor (depending upon the severity and frequency of the abuse) in all 50 states. A person guilty of domestic violence may also lose their firearms, if ordered by the court.

A sentence for domestic abuse may require jail time, probation, and monetary fines. As part of a sentence, a judge may order an abuser to undergo counseling or rehabilitation. A domestic abuse conviction may also result in loss of child custody or child visitation.

In addition, victims of domestic abuse may recover damages in a civil lawsuit, for injuries sustained as a result of abuse. Damages are monies awarded to pay for expenses such as hospitalization and medication.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Domestic Abuse Situation?

If you believe you have been a victim of domestic abuse, then you should contact a family law attorney. An experienced family lawyer near you can explain your rights, assist you with filing a domestic abuse claim, and can represent you in court.

If you have been accused or charged with domestic violence, then it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney right away to determine what is the next best step for you.