Intimate partner violence is domestic violence between spouses, persons in a civil union, and other types of couples. Usually, it occurs in the home and may involve repeated or cyclical patterns of abuse.
The following factors contribute to the underreporting of intimate partner violence:
- Fear of the family splitting up
- Fear of retaliation by the abusive spouse
- Lack of understanding of state and federal laws
Emotional abuse or psychological abuse can also be elements of intimate partner abuse. Intimate partner violence can also cause psychological problems in children.
Most cycles of intimate partner violence follow a predictable pattern of stages:
- Tension: The couple experiences emotional tension, usually accompanied by arguments, poor communication, etc.
- Violence: At this stage, the abuser seeks to gain control over their partner through the use of physical force. Emotional and psychological abuse may also be a factor.
- “Make-up” phase: Here, the couple seeks to reconcile after the outburst of violence. The abuser may feel guilty and take steps to make the victim accept them again.
As a result, intimate partner violence often involves multiple incidents that extend over a long period of time (like months or years). Some states only recognize domestic violence cases between those who are legally married or joined by a civil union. Many states recognize domestic violence protection for gay persons and other arrangements.
Are There Different Types of Intimate Partner Violence?
Intimate partner violence can come in many forms. Some of these include:
- Cyclical abuse: This is where the abuse is repeated over time in somewhat predictable patterns
- Abuse related to alcohol or drugs: Some violence patterns are linked directly to drug or alcohol use
- Mutual violence: In some cases, both partners may engage in violent activity
Most cases involving intimate partner violence involve cyclical abuse. However, cases can be brought for single incidents of violence (in fact, they should be reported).
How Are Intimate Partner Violence Cases Handled?
There are several components to intimate partner violence cases. In order to determine the facts surrounding the abuse, the court must first engage in fact-finding. Facts such as the location, date(s), time period, and parties involved may be included.
A court must also consider other factors, such as the extent of any injuries and the value of the property damaged.
There are three courts in which a domestic violence claim may be deliberated:
- Criminal Court: In a criminal court, the abuser is prosecuted by the state. The abuser would need to be arrested for the case to be tried in criminal court;
- Civil Court: A civil court would handle a lawsuit regarding protective order violations as well as monetary damages. If the abuser was not arrested, or if the victim was safely removed from the situation, the case may go directly to civil court, where a restraining order may be obtained; or
- Divorce or Family Court: If the domestic violence has occurred in connection with child custody and visitation issues, a divorce or family court would likely resolve the claim. Several states allow divorce or family courts to handle domestic violence cases, including restraining orders.
Contacting your local state district attorney or the police is one of the first steps you should take if you face domestic violence. Before a required court hearing, where you will have to prove that you were abused or threatened with abuse, they will provide you with guidance. In order to obtain a protective order, you will generally go to court, and they will issue an order signed by the judge.
Violations of the order will likely lead to serious consequences for the abuser. The act of violating an order is considered a separate crime, so the abuser will likely face charges both for their actions as well as for violating the order.
Domestic violence can have the following legal consequences on its own:
- Criminal penalties such as jail or prison time and a fine;
- Damages paid out to the victim;
- Rehabilitation courses;
- Revocation or suspension of custodial rights; and
- Loss of various other rights, such as the right to own a firearm.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence?
Intimate partner violence can result in various legal consequences. They include:
- Legal damages for losses caused by injuries
- Criminal charges, such as assault charges (depending on the circumstances)
- Loss of certain rights (such as a loss of child visitation or custody rights)
Is Domestic Violence a Felony?
There are times when domestic violence or intimate partner violence can be charged as a felony. This can happen in cases involving:
- Serious bodily injury or death
- Violence involving a deadly weapon
A felony charge can result in a prison sentence (more than one year, sometimes up to ten or fifteen years). In felony cases, monetary fines may also be imposed. Remember, though, that defenses are available to those accused of all types of domestic violence, including intimate partner violence and dating violence.
How Can I Protect Myself from Domestic Violence?
It is not the victim’s responsibility to protect themselves from violent people. The offender is responsible for avoiding abusive behavior. However, if you are facing domestic abuse, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.
Safety measures can include, but are not limited to:
- Identify safe spaces both inside and outside of your home in which you can call for help or escape to;
- If you are able, notify your friends and family that you are in danger and need immediate help;
- Compile and memorize a list of emergency contacts; and
- Consider obtaining a restraining or protective order.
A restraining order is sometimes referred to as a protective order in some states and is a court order restricting one person from harming another. A restraining order typically requires the offender to perform a specific action or refrain from doing so. The abuser might have to stay fifteen feet away from the victim or cease all contact.
It is typically easier to obtain such orders if you have a police report. Domestic violence calls are usually subject to mandatory arrest requirements in most states. The police must arrest at least one person involved in a dispute if they are called to a scene.
It is the police’s responsibility to listen to each person’s account of the incident, document any injuries, and determine who is the actual abuser or attacker. It is important to be prepared and show any evidence you have about your abuser’s history of domestic violence, as they must arrest at least one person involved.
There is a common misconception that domestic violence laws only protect a wife from physical abuse by her husband. This is untrue; domestic violence laws have expanded to protect other groups of people.
Such groups include but may not be limited to:
- Spouses of any gender;
- Significant others of any gender, such as boyfriends and girlfriends;
- Elders being abused by their family members; and
- Roommates abusing each other.
Where Can You Get Help in a Domestic Violence Emergency?
The best thing you can do if you are facing a domestic violence emergency is to contact 911 or your local police department immediately. Due to the frequency of these situations, the local police are trained to respond immediately. In addition, there are local hotlines where you can get assistance and support if you are suffering from domestic violence.
The best way to prepare for a domestic violence emergency, or if you have already experienced one and know it can return, is to find a local domestic violence shelter near you. Because many of these shelters only accept women and children, male victims of domestic violence may be unable to find assistance.
Do I Need a Lawyer for help with Family Law Issues?
Family law issues like intimate partner violence can involve some very serious violations. You may wish to hire a family lawyer if you need representation in a case that involves intimate partner violence.
Domestic violence laws may vary from state to state. If you have any questions about your case, your attorney can provide you with legal advice and guidance.