Assisting Domestic Violence Victims
Domestic violence occurs all too frequently in our society, impacting people of all ages, religions, races and economic backgrounds. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that 12 million people (men, women and children) are assaulted each year in the United States by someone they know.
What is domestic violence?
While each state has its own definition, domestic violence, in general, covers violent threats and/or actions between people who have a close relationship (married, living together, dating, former spouse, etc.) and/or with someone living in the same home (children, parents, in-laws, etc.). While anyone can be the abuser or the victim of domestic violence, the most frequent occurrences and serious injuries take place when men attack women.
Domestic violence typically occurs when one person asserts control over another person and persists with words and actions threatening the well-being of the victim. It may involve physical abuse, such as slapping, pushing, hitting or more violent actions, or it may be emotional and verbal abuse, including threats, stalking and other actions aimed at intimidating the victim.
What actions can victims take following domestic violence incidents?
Victims can file protective or restraining orders to keep their abusers away. These are documents filed with local courts requiring a separation for a specific period of time. This provides a cooling off period and does not necessarily require the victim to file criminal charges against the abuser.
In most states, there are no monetary charges for filing a protective order, but it is important for the victim to secure a legal representative who can walk them through the process and advise them on next best steps.
How effective are efforts to prosecute the offenders?
Police and county prosecutors cite two primary problems when trying to arrest, charge and convict domestic violence suspects.
- Failure to Report. Victims are often hesitant to report the abuse, hoping that it was an isolated incident. They may also fear that reporting the crime could spur further violence against them.
- Victims Reluctant to Testify. Even when charges are filed, victims often don’t want to testify against the attacker in court.
What should victims do?
Most states have domestic violence hotlines to help victims immediately after a violent occurrence. Staff can direct them to a safe location and can connect them to experienced attorneys who can advise them on a broad range of issues.
Reporting domestic violence is a courageous act. If you or a loved one are a victim, please consider contacting an attorney, like a domestic violence lawyer in Fairfax, VA, at a firm such as May Law, LLP, who can explain your options.