While the physical effects of domestic violence may be the same as other types of violent crimes, the emotional effects may be far worse. Domestic violence occurs when a crime is committed against a victim by someone with whom the victim is, or previously has been, involved in an intimate relationship or someone who lives in the same household as the victim. Domestic violence can include any type of physical harm caused by someone who fits the above definition and in some states it may also include a pattern of intimidation or fear that leads a victim to believe that harm is imminent. Generally, if a person’s actions would constitute illegal physical violence against a stranger, the existence of a marriage, an intimate relationship, or other familial relationship (such as siblings, parent- child etc.) does not excuse nor does it justify the illegal behavior and victim is entitled to relief.
What You Should do If You are a Victim of Domestic Violence
The first thing that a domestic violence victim must do is also the hardest thing that the domestic violence victim must do – that is to get away from the person committing the violence. The victim should report the violence – which is a crime – to the police. Additionally, the victim should seek the assistance of a friend or relative for a temporary place to stay and emotional support. In the absence of a friend or relative who can provide help, the police can provide resources about safe houses and emergency shelters so that the victim, and the victim’s children, can have a safe place to stay.
Once the police are notified, the domestic violence perpetrator will be arrested if the evidence warrants. A restraining order may be issued to prevent the perpetrator from coming near the victim pending the outcome of litigation. If the restraining order is violated then the perpetrator may be placed in jail.
Penalties and Remedies for Domestic Violence
If an accused domestic violence perpetrator is convicted in a criminal trial then the perpetrator may face jail time and fines. Since domestic violence is a crime, the county or state prosecutors may bring an action against a perpetrator without the assistance or consent of a victim. Most prosecutors are more likely to bring cases without the assistance of the victim if the victim has been subject to a pattern of abuse over a period of time or if the violence was particularly egregious.
A domestic violence victim may also have a valid civil case against the perpetrator for assault and battery or other torts. If successful in a civil case, the domestic violence victim may be able to recover monetary damages for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
While the law cannot undo the emotional and physical harm caused by domestic violence, it does seek to protect the victim and compensate the victim for the injuries caused by the illegal activity. If you have been the victim of domestic violence, report the violence to the police and take the necessary steps to protect yourself.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.