What Constitutes Domestic Violence

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Posted on Friday, June 30th, 2023 at 2:12 pm    

Domestic violence can take many forms, some more subtle than others. Survivors of such abuse might wonder how domestic violence is defined and whether they have any legal recourse against their abuser. You should know you have legal options if you or a loved one are domestic violence survivors. This post will explain the different forms of domestic violence, how it is defined under the law, how to identify signs of it, and how an attorney could help during this challenging time.

Defining domestic violence and its different forms

Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, is not confined to physical harm. It is a pattern of behaviors one partner uses to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can encompass different forms, such as:

  • Physical abuse involves any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person through bodily contact.
  • Emotional abuse includes constant criticism, humiliation, and dismissal of one’s feelings to erode self-worth and independence.
  • Sexual abuse – This refers to any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don’t want to do.
  • Economic abuse involves controlling a person’s access to financial resources, thus diminishing their capacity to support themselves and forcing them to depend on the perpetrator economically.

Legal definition of domestic violence

Legally, domestic violence definitions vary by jurisdiction. Still, they generally involve acts or threats of physical harm, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation against an intimate partner, child, or other family members. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the United States, for example, defines domestic violence as felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner, among others. In most jurisdictions, both acts and threats of violence can be considered domestic violence under the law.

Examples of domestic violence situations

Domestic violence can manifest in many ways. For instance, it can be an abusive partner physically injuring their significant other, isolating their partner from friends and family to exert control, or using financial manipulation to restrict their independence. It could also involve sexual coercion or forcing someone to engage in uncomfortable activities. While these are just a few examples, remember that any behavior aiming to establish power and control over a partner could be a form of domestic violence.

Identifying signs of domestic violence and seeking help

Recognizing signs of domestic violence is the first step toward seeking help. Signs can include frequent injuries accompanied by unlikely explanations, sudden changes in behavior, isolation from family and friends, and signs of anxiety or fear around a partner. Economic control, such as not being allowed access to bank accounts or employment, and extreme jealousy or possessiveness are other signs to look out for.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these signs, seeking help is critical. Many resources, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233), provide immediate assistance. Legal assistance, like that provided by our law firm, can help victims obtain protective orders, pursue charges, and navigate the complexities of the legal system.

How a domestic violence lawyer could help

Hiring a domestic violence lawyer can make a significant difference in your pursuit of safety and justice if you’re a survivor of domestic violence. An attorney could help by:

  • Advocating for your rights – A domestic violence lawyer understands the laws surrounding domestic violence and can advocate for your rights effectively in court.
  • Filing for protection orders – A lawyer can assist you in filing protection or restraining orders against your abuser, which is crucial for your immediate safety.
  • Handling the legal details – Navigating the legal system can be daunting. A domestic violence lawyer can guide you through the process, from filing charges to appearing in court.
  • Supporting you during criminal proceedings – If criminal charges are filed against your abuser, your lawyer can represent your interests.
  • Protecting your interests in child custody and divorce proceedings – If your situation also involves child custody or divorce, a domestic violence lawyer can ensure that your children’s rights and best interests are upheld.
  • Maintaining confidentiality – Anything you discuss with your lawyer is confidential, ensuring you have a safe space to discuss your experiences.

Contact our domestic violence attorneys in Chicago today

Remember, domestic violence is not confined to physical abuse – it involves any act that exerts control and power over an intimate partner. Understanding what constitutes domestic violence, legally and personally, is the first step toward seeking help. At Wallace Miller, we have experience representing survivors of domestic violence, providing legal guidance and support to navigate these challenging circumstances. Call us today at (312) 261-6193 or fill out our online questionnaire for a free, confidential consultation.

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