Legal Guide

Understanding Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is best described as the infliction of physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual harm by a person with whom you have a close relationship. Verbal forms of abuse, like threats, also count as domestic violence. Another form of domestic violence is financial abuse. Financial abuse restricts individuals from accessing their finances or leading financially independent lives. Statistics show that 24 people are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking every minute in the United States.

Further, approximately 12 million people are victims of domestic violence annually. Roughly 50 percent of all people in America have experienced psychological aggression from a trusted friend or partner in their lifetimes. These statistics show that the domestic violence rates in the United States are high.

The commonness of domestic violence implies that people should be cautious and sensitive when discussing it. Anyone can be a victim. However, there are legal tools victims can use to handle domestic violence. Each state in America has laws informing law enforcement on addressing domestic violence cases. The difference in jurisdictions means each state has its own definition of domestic violence. States also reserve the right to determine the appropriate punishment for domestic violence cases. Some conditions may charge physical forms of abuse more harshly than verbal abuse. However, different states have some similarities regarding the legal guide to handling domestic violence.

Most states have laws stating that officers should determine how to handle domestic violence cases when called. States like Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Virginia allow officers to determine how to address domestic violence claims. Other states, like New York, Maine, Nevada, and Oregon, require officers to arrest individuals who are abusive against their partners or family members. A third standard is encouraging but not mandating arrest. California, Montana, Arkansas, and Massachusetts are pro-arrest states regarding domestic violence calls. Victims who feel threatened or unable to control their abusers are encouraged to contact law enforcement. However, not all victims are bold enough to contact law enforcement.

Other resources victims of domestic violence can utilize are sexual and domestic violence agencies. Agencies like the American Bar Association Commission (ABAC), on Domestic Violence, the Hotline, DomesticShelters, RAINN, and Asian & Pacific Islanders Institute on Domestic Violence offer legal advice, medical and mental health services, and social services. These resources help victims of domestic violence get assistance through community-based networks and organizations. They also strengthen advocacy, influence systemic changes, and participate in community organizing. Victims of domestic violence can use these services by contacting their agents.

Most law firms have dedicated lawyers who offer sexual assault legal services. Some law firms provide sexual assault legal services pro bono, increasing their access to victims of domestic violence. Lawyers can help survivors of domestic violence file lawsuits, apply for restraining orders, and even prepare a criminal case against their abusers. Victims of domestic violence can also ask for separate waiting areas and staggered court times from their abusers. These rights ensure the victims feel safe to testify against their abusers. Victims also have a right to be notified of all court proceedings involving the abuser. The law also provides for financial compensation if the victim incurred financial harm, like hospital costs related to their abuse. “Talking to an attorney ensures these rights are protected. Lawyers will also ensure that your abuser is punished to the full extent of the law.” says Attorney Mark Sherman of The Law Offices Of Mark Sherman.

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