Domestic violence occurs more often than most of us realize. People who are abused range in age from children to the elderly, and come from all backgrounds and income levels. The majority of those subjected to domestic violence are woman abused by men, but women abuse men. If you're being hurt at home, the first thing to do is to get away from the abuser and go to a safe place where you're unlikely to be found. Then, find out about your options for getting help.
What kind of behavior is considered domestic violence?
Domestic violence can take a number of forms including:
-Physical behavior (slapping, punching, pulling hair, or shoving)
-Forced or coerced sexual acts or behavior (unwanted intercourse, or sexual jokes and insults)
-Threats of abuse (threatenign to hit, harm, or use a weapon)
-Phychological abuse (attacks on self-esteem, controlling or limiting one's behavior, repeated insults, or interrogation)
-Stalking (following a person, appearing at a person's hoem or workplace)
-Cyberstalking (repeated online action or email that causes substantial emotional distress)
Typically, many kinds of abuse go on at the same time in a household.
If I leave, how can I make sure the abuser won't come near me again?
The most powerful legal tool for stopping domestic violence is the temporary restraining order (TRO). A TRO is a decree issued by the court that requires the violent partner to leave you alone. The order may require, for example, that the perpetrator stay away from the family home, your work place or school, your children's school, and other places you frequent (such as the gym, friend's house or church) The order will also prohibit futher acts of violence.
Many states make it relatively easy for you to obtain a TRO. In California the court clerk will hand you a package of forms and will assit you in filling them out. When you've completed your forms, you'll go before a judge to show evidence of the abuse, such as hospital or police records or photographs.
You can also bring in a witness, such as a friend or relative, to testify to the abuse. Judges are often available to issue TROs after normal business hours because violence can occur any time - not just during business hours.
What shoulod I do once I have a TRO?
Register it with the police in the communities where the abuser has been ordered to stay away from you - where you live, work, attend school or church. Call the appropriate police stations for information about how to register your order.
What if the abuse continues after I have a TRO?
Although TROs are oftern effective, a piece of paper obviously cannot stop an enrages spouse of lover from trying to harm or intimidate you.
If the violence continues, contact the police. They can take immediate action and are far more willing to intervene when you have a TRO than when you don't.
The police should respond to your call by sending out officers. In the past, police officers were reluctant to arrest abusers, but this has changed in many communities where victims' support groups have worked with police departments to increase the number of arrests.
You can press criminal charges at the police department, and ask for criminal prosecution. Documentation is crucial if you want to go this route. Be sure to insist that the officer responding to your call makes an offical report and takes photographs of your injuries, no matter how slight. Also, get the report's prospective number before the officer leaves the premises.
Getting Legal Help:
Local Bay Area Shelters
Center for Domestic Violence Prevention, The - San Mateo
Offers support groups, counseling, legal assistance, and 24-hour support line, and operates an emergency women's shelter. Also in Tagalog.
La Casa de las Madres - San Francisco
Offering shelter, advocacy and support services to battered women and their children. Provee refugio a la mujer maltratada y a sus ninos.
Shelter Against Violent Environments (SAVE) - Fremont
Nonprofit community-based organization to address the needs of people experiencing domestic violence.
Women's Refuge, The - Berkeley
Shelter which provides services to homeless/battered women and their children.
The Morales Law Firm would like to thank NOLO's Enclyclopedia of Everyday Law for sharing this information with us.