Facts About Domestic Violence

Legal definitions of domestic violence differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Broadly speaking, however, the social definition of domestic violence is that one intimate partner maintains power and control over another intimate partner through physical violence; threats; intimidation; isolation; coercion; or emotional, sexual, or economic abuse. 

The victim of domestic violence often believes that it is her or his fault (and, yes, men too can be the victims).  This is not true.  It is the one perpetrating the abuse who chooses to do so, and often after a long-standing history of being the object of the abuse, the abused party comes to feel responsible.  This is one of the ways that the abuser maintains control.

Anyone who is the victim of domestic violence must consider whether to stay with the abuser.  The first consideration must always be the safety of the victim and his/her children.  The partner will typically pressure the victim to stay, often acting remorseful, which is a common tactic to control the victim and persuade him/her to stay.  Apologies and promises (to stop the abuse, to attend counseling, to stop using alcohol or drugs) are part of a common pattern.  Living with an abuser is dangerous; so is leaving, because an abuser may become more dangerous when he/she feels that control over the other person is being lost.  It is therefore extremely important to have a safety plan, which includes meeting with your lawyer to work out a plan to include housing arrangements, access to funds, safeguarding important documents, and protective orders.  There are local support programs available to help.

Protective orders can be tailored to the specific circumstances and needs of the person needing them.  They are orders signed by a judge that typically require the abuser to stay a certain distance away from the victim (and the children), and the victim’s residence and work place, and the children’s school.  They can also include other places that the victim frequents (such as, for example, homes of relatives or friends), as well as prohibitions against contact by telephone or e-mail or other means. 

If the victim does not have access to a private attorney, the court in each county in California has an office that assists unrepresented parties by giving them the proper court forms and explaining how to fill them out and request the orders.  In San Mateo County this is called the office of the Court Facilitator.  (These offices assist unrepresented parties not just in domestic violence matters, but in other family-law matters as well.  They do not give legal advice, but they show how to navigate the system.)

Be aware of the warning signs that forecast a risk of violence in a relationship:

Is your partner easily angered?

Is your partner possessive and jealous?

Does your partner control whom you see?

Does your partner control what you do?

Does your partner threaten physical force?

Does your partner abuse your pets?

Does your partner pressure you to use drugs or alcohol?

Does your partner shift to you responsibility for his/her abusive behavior?

Are your friends and family worried about you?

Are you afraid to end the relationship?

Domestic violence is serious, and something that is far more widespread than people realize.  Be alert, be aware, and don’t be a victim.