Awareness of domestic violence has increased significantly over the last 20 years thanks to education campaigns and tougher penalties for abusers. However, there is a common misperception among the public that domestic violence only involves serious physical abuse. In fact, domestic violence can involve a wide range of conduct that may be misperceived as not falling under the definition of domestic violence.
The legal definition of domestic violence
There is not one uniform definition of domestic violence that applies nationwide. Rather our legal system relies on each state to define domestic violence along with a federal law definition of domestic violence as well.
The Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women defines domestic violence as:
A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.
Whom does domestic violence effect?
Domestic violence is not limited to one gender, race, ethnicity, age, socio economic background or sexuality. In fact, domestic violence can occur among any population involving a diverse range of victims and abusers.
When does domestic violence happen?
Domestic violence can occur among individuals of any age and at any stage in a relationship. Often an incident of domestic violence is not a “one-off” situation, rather it becomes more frequent and more severe as time progresses without some form of intervention.
What causes domestic violence?
Domestic violence stems from the abuser’s need to control his or her victim through actual violence, threats, or other forms of coercion. In some settings, domestic violence may be viewed as something the victim must endure, in other settings domestic violence is viewed as a “normal” part of a relationship due to cultural norms or misperceptions by the victim. Domestic violence can also arise from situational circumstances such as alcohol, abuse, stress or other factors which can create a heightened risk of abuse.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, it is important to hire a lawyer experienced in representing victims of domestic violence. A skilled domestic violence attorney can help, explain the rights you may have and how to best protect yourself from an abusive partner or family member.