What Counts as Domestic Violence?
Not a day goes by that we don’t hear of a new instance of domestic violence. It is one of the most
heinous acts a person can commit. The victim usually trusts their abuser, and the abuser takes advantage of the relationship. Too often, the victim may feel trapped where they are, blaming themselves for the abuse and telling themselves it will get better. It’s a cycle that can feel impossible to break.
When the topic of domestic violence comes up in conversation, the most common image is a man (or woman) physically abusing their partner. However, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence is defined 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.” This can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual or economic abuse.
Of course, we are all familiar with the signs of physical abuse. Punching, slapping and shoving are the most common forms. It may also include denying medical attention, or forcing alcohol/drug use upon a partner. More than 10 million people a year — about 20 a minute — are physically abused by their partner. This includes 1 in 3 women, as well as 1 in 4 men. In about a fifth of all cases, a gun is involved; the rate of homicide in these instances rises by 500 percent.
Sometimes the most devastating forms of domestic abuse leave no visible marks. Threats of violence and intimidation are often enough to keep someone feeling trapped in their relationship. The threats don’t have to be aimed at their partner, either. They could be aimed at family members, pets or even themselves (i.e., “If you leave me, I’ll kill myself.”). Mental abuse may also include isolation from friends or family members.
Emotional abuse is similar in some ways to mental abuse. Tearing down someone’s self-esteem or self-worth is an abusive behavior. This can include constant criticism, name-calling and even damaging outside relationships, or relationships with children and other family members. Victims of emotional abuse often end up feeling worthless, and that no one would ever want to be with them except their current partner, who loves them despite their “flaws.”
A cornerstone of any healthy relationship is intimacy. “Intimacy” does not always have a sexual connotation in these instances, though it usually does. If sexual activity is not consensual, it is considered sexual abuse, if not rape. Abuse may also include threatening violence if sex is not given. Because sex is so often part of a relationship, victims of abuse may be in shock or denial when their partner takes advantage of them. It is important to note that, though women are the most common victims of sexual abuse, men can also fall victim.
In long-term relationships, partners will often join bank accounts or otherwise draw from the same pool of money. When one partner takes total control of all funds and forces the other to rely on them, it is economic abuse. This is different than one partner or spouse being in charge of the home’s finances. Rather, the victim is forbidden to make any financial decisions on their own, down to buying essentials like food or gas. They may also be forbidden from going to school or work in order to make money.
Abuse comes in many forms, yet it almost always ends the same way: one partner broken, relying on the abuser to make them whole again. This causes a cycle that many victims find themselves unable to break out of. If you have been abused by your partner, there is a way out. Get to a safe place, then call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
The experienced attorneys at MBLK Law Firm can help you through this trying time as well. We can make sure your abuser is forced to stay away from you with a restraining order, and if you are married, we can help you begin the process of divorce. It will be difficult to break out of this cycle, but know that you do not have to face it alone.
If you have been the victim of domestic violence in Redlands or the surrounding area, call us today to learn more about your legal options.
Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.