Domestic violence is alarmingly common in the United States, with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reporting that 10 million women and men are physically abused by an intimate partner each year. One out of three women and one out of four men have experienced a form of physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or concerned that someone you care about may be abused, there are many resources available. For many people, taking the first step is often the most difficult, especially when you are living with a controlling partner who is monitoring your activities. However, there are multiple ways you can take action. Here is a look at what constitutes domestic violence and how you can report it.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Some people hesitate to seek help because they are not sure if their situation meets the definition of domestic violence. While it may be very clear in cases with violent acts such as kicking, pushing, punching, hitting, or rape, it’s important to be aware that not all forms of domestic violence cause physical injury.
Also known as intimate partner violence, domestic violence entails a pattern of abusive behaviors aimed at having control over a person’s partner. Under California law, it is defined as abuse directed at a minor or adult who is involved with the abuser, such as a spouse or former spouse, co-parent, someone involved in a romantic relationship with them, or a cohabitant or former cohabitant.
Abuse constitutes intentionally or recklessly attempting or causing bodily harm to a person or causing them to have a reasonable apprehension of imminent serious harm. It includes not only physical aggression but also sexual abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse and stalking. Any behavior that manipulates, humiliates, hurts, terrorizes, intimidates, injures or frightens someone may be considered domestic violence.
What Can You Do If You Or Someone You Know Is Being Abused?
Here are steps you can take if you are being abused or are concerned a loved one may be a victim of domestic violence.
You should call 911 without hesitation if you are in immediate danger.
Call The Police
A paper trail is important for helping you stay safe from your abuser, so it is essential to contact the police and tell them what has happened. Explain that you do not feel safe. Try to provide as much detail as possible, and show the police any physical injuries you have received.
You should also document the incident if it is possible to do so safely. This includes photos of visible harm or injury and damage to property such as destroyed furniture or damaged walls; written records of what was said; and copies of threatening messages sent via social media, email or phone. You should also ask witnesses to the event to provide statements.
Go To The Hospital
If you have any physical injuries, go to the hospital, even if you feel you can treat your injuries on your own, as the visit can serve as official documentation of your abuse that can be used by prosecutors in criminal cases and help you to obtain a protection order. You should always go to the hospital if you experience a head injury, even if there are no outward signs of harm.
Contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-799-SAFE). Help is offered in multiple languages. They also offer an online chat at http://www.thehotline.org. Trained counselors are on hand around the clock to answer the hotline and chat. Their services are confidential, and they can offer referrals to services in your local area.
If your phone and internet use are being monitored by your abuser, consider using a computer in a public library to chat with the hotline or try to call from the phone of a friend or acquaintance.
Go To A Safe Shelter
If you are hesitant to leave an abusive situation because you feel you have nowhere to go, it is important to be aware that there are lots of resources. If you do not have a friend or family member you can stay with safely, look for shelters and safe houses in your area. A domestic violence hotline can often refer you to safe locations. These are secret places that you can access 24 hours a day that are usually run by nonprofit organizations.
Seek An Order Of Protection
A court order known as an order of protection, personal protection order or restraining order can help to protect you from an abuser. Domestic violence agencies can help you apply for these orders if you need assistance.
Contact The San Diego District Attorney Victim Advocate
San Diego County District Attorney Victim Advocates offer informational, material and emotional services that can help victims and witnesses.
They can intercede on behalf of victims with law enforcement officers, prosecutors, family and friends and typically become involved in a case after a victim has filed a police report, even if there is no suspect or prosecution. They can help with crisis intervention; emergency housing, medical care, and food; filing crime compensation claims; and providing information about the criminal justice system.
Contact The California Domestic Violence Attorney’s
At Lehr Law, APC, our attorneys understand how complicated domestic violence situations can be. Contacting a domestic abuse lawyer can help you take action to keep yourself and your family safe with legal solutions that can help you get back on your feet. Reach out today to discuss your legal needs.