Spousal abuse generally and legally refers to any form of abusive behavior between two adults who are acting intimately. Thus, it applies to couples who are dating, married, in a same-sex relationship or living in the same residence. While it can pertain to a single case of abuse, it often is used to describe repeated abuse throughout time. Constant spousal abuse can cause intense physical and emotional damage to the abused partner in the long run.
Other terms used to refer to spousal abuse are domestic violence, domestic abuse or intimate partner violence (IPV). Domestic violence, however, is more of an umbrella term and can also be used to refer to abuse inflicted on other members of the family (e.g. parental abuse of children).
Forms of spousal abuse
Although majority of cases involve physical or sexual abuse, spousal abuse can come in a variety of forms, including the following conduct:
- Physical abuse (e.g. beating, slapping)
- Psychological abuse (e.g. humiliation, insulting)
- Threats of physical injury and harm
- Social or economic destitution (e.g. withholding money for daily expenses, failure to provide basic needs)
- Physical or cyber stalking
- Derogatory sexual remarks and taunts
- Forced into having sexual intercourse
The damage brought about by spousal abuse can be demoralizing, with one spouse often applying complete power over the other by means of intimidation, threats and violence. Victims of spousal abuse usually experience desperation, fear and helplessness.
Penalties for spousal abuse
Domestic abuse injunction is the most abrupt solution for spousal abuse. This is essentially a court order that demands the abusive partner to stay within a particular distance away from the abused and can either be permanent or temporary. Apart from a restraining order, spousal abuse can also have these legal consequences:
1. Criminal charges
Under the general definition of spousal abuse, the offender can be charged with a number of offenses such as aggravated assault, battery and criminal sexual conduct. Some charges are considered misdemeanors, with a likelihood of prison time from six months to a year or a probation. In more extreme cases, some jurisdictions consider spousal abuse as a felony, especially if the offender used a weapon, caused grave bodily injury or has a criminal record history. Depending on the frequency and severity of the abuse, the offender can face incarceration and/or huge fines.
2. Civil lawsuit
A civil lawsuit may be filed by a spousal abuse victim against the abusive partner for damages. If charged, the offender may be asked to pay for different costs such as attorney’s fees, hospital bills, pain and suffering damages and counseling fees, among others.
Other legal consequences that may arise from spousal abuse are:
- Loss of custody over child
- Loss of visitation privileges
- Loss of other rights (e.g. the right to drive a vehicle)
These are the typical legal implications of spousal abuse. Each state has certain laws relating to this matter, with the consequences varying from one state to another. Furthermore, in some cases, a judge may demand penalties as they see fit. Overall, spousal abuse are perceived as a serious matter that can lead to grave repercussions. In doing so, the abuse victim is protected and any future form of abuse can be prevented.
How an attorney can help with spousal abuse
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to spousal abuse is the reluctance of victims to report the abuse. The reason why some victims refuse to report their abusive partners to authorities is fear over further maltreatment. Abusive partners have the tendency to threaten their victims, which explains why the abused partners endure in silence. In such cases, legal intervention may be required.
Spousal abuse victims can greatly benefit from the legal advice of an attorney. Lawyers who have experience with such matters can assist their clients and help them determine whether or not legal action should be taken against the abuser. In more serious cases where criminal charges are made, the victims would actually need a lawyer to represent them.