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FAQ: Where Can I Get Help If I’m a Victim of Domestic Violence?

 

Michael Donnelly – Many states, including Arizona, differ in their domestic violence laws, but the prevalence of domestic violence throughout the United States presents major social and legal issues for all involved.

Despite the fact that domestic violence is generally something that regrettably occurs in intimate relationships, it is also prevalent in a wider context involving household relationships such as parent-child violence, or between siblings in the same household.

Although the majority of violent crimes occur in a home, most often between a husband and wife. Surprisingly, the most commonly reported domestic violence incidents take place between non-partners. This suggests that there may be more domestic violence than we realize despite efforts by government and state agencies to deal more aggressively with the serious issue.

The scale of the problem has been such that it has lead to significant legislative change and the involvement of both government and non-government agencies.

Among the laws that have been passed by the US Congress to reduce the growth in domestic violence has been legislation like the Violence Against Women Acts which provided almost $2 billion towards investigating the prosecuting such transgressions and imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted of domestic violence offences as well as permitting civil action should casers be un-prosecuted by appropriate authorities.

Victims of domestic violence also breach boundaries of both gender and sexual orientation, with men also subject to physical partner violence.

Approximately 38 states place domestic violence laws and definitions within their criminal code and the remaining states provide a more generic definition throughout the domestic relations or family services codes.

 

Not Seeking Protection

Many times, victims do not seek protection from their abuser because they are ashamed or embarrassed. Domestic violence tragedy has prompted legislative action to change the laws regarding domestic abuse and provide those who are abused more safety and security. As previously stated, each state has different laws regarding domestic violence.

However, in order to prevent future victimization, it is important for victims to report their circumstances to law enforcement officials.

In many cases, the laws regarding domestic abuse are so restrictive that they are not helpful to the victim. Laws regarding abuse are almost always based on stereotypes. For example, many states consider domestic abuse to be physical abuse and not psychological or verbal abuse. 

Physical vs. Verbal Abuse

Sometimes the result is a conviction for misdemeanor assault even when the accused has not been charged with a serious crime.

Some states use vague or overbroad definitions of domestic abuse, which allows the prosecutor to file additional charges or to charge the victim with an offense even if the incident occurred years ago. In these circumstances, victims are unnecessarily placed at risk and their lives are placed in jeopardy.

Implementation of Domestic Violence Laws

Effective implementation of laws regarding domestic abuse is important to ensure that victims receive the assistance and protections they need.

Even a seemingly innocent remark can lead to criminal consequences. When violence occurs at home, it is critical to have a law enforcement agency that is proactive in responding to calls about domestic violence. The first response should always be to protect the safety of the victim and the public.

Effective Communication

Effective communication between police and domestic abuse professionals is another important component of the law. Police officers should be able to provide a safe and supportive environment for victims if the suspect is arrested. The services of domestic violence attorneys should be readily available to victims during the course of an investigation.

Effective information and education about domestic abuse and its prevention are also essential. Many states are working to create multimedia informational campaigns that will inform the public about the dangers of domestic violence.

Unfortunately, in many rural communities, this is often not possible. Effective information and education can help target high-risk areas and provide options for victims. Many victims do not know enough about the laws and do not feel comfortable talking to law enforcement officials about their situation.

Domestic violence education can be provided in many different forms including school seminars and other presentations.  Those who are victims of domestic violence should also seek the counsel of a domestic violence lawyer who can assist in the protection and any legal action that may be required in any such case.  For instance in our jurisdiction prosecutors in Pima County prosecute domestic violence charges intensely with the creation (in 2012) of the Domestic Violence Court. The  Court adjudicates misdemeanor domestic violence cases in the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court and also handles serious and repeat offenders with an emphasis on victim safety and rehabilitation.

As in other jurisdictions where such courts exist, the ‘violence court’  is staffed with a team of specially-trained judges, attorneys, and victim advocates who ensure that defendants are closely monitored, 

Domestic Violence Resources

There are numerous resources designed to assist victims of domestic abuse. Domestic violence organizations around the country have been set up to provide support and advocacy for those in abusive situations. 

Source:

Hernandez & Hamilton is an Arizona criminal defense law firm who have a specialist domestic violence division handling such cases.

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