Family violence commonly refers to a pattern of sustained abuse by a perpetrator against a victim with whom the perpetrator shares a familiar dating or marital relationship. The purpose of the violence is usually to control the victim and is repeated because once a perpetrator experiences their desired results, the behavior is repeated. A judge will need to consider both the effects of the visible violence and those that are more easily camouflaged by other aspects of your case.
Now that we know what family violence is- what does family violence not mean?
Family violence does not describe the physical force you have utilized to provide for your or your children’s defense. Likewise, if you have disciplined a child using reasonable force or returned the prior aggression of a spouse or partner with force, then you still have not engaged in family violence.
Often, an alleged perpetrator of family violence will state that they were merely “returning the favor” against a prior incident of family violence that you started. When a court must combat mutual allegations of abuse, your court has to figure out whether you or your spouse were acting in self-defense or if one of you has a history of unprovoked violent behavior towards the other person. I have often seen people try and justify their past acts of family violence as a normal response to aggression based on cultural or family norms. A court will not accept this explanation.
When acts of family violence occur, the community at large suffers.
It is bad enough if you have been the victim of family violence, but when your spouse or partner abuses you physically, then your community suffers as well. This is because family violence is a societal problem and does not just affect you and your immediate family. Law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, members of the legal community, and social workers are just a few of the groups that become involved when you are involved in an incident involving family violence.
Consider the strain your partner or spouse puts you through due to lost work hours if you are injured sufficiently to require time off from work. Medical treatment, subsequent doctor visits, and time away from your work are all consequences that also affect other people you live and share a community with.
Family violence is premeditated- it is not an unintentional reaction
Many men and women who commit acts of family violence attempt to rationalize their evil acts by arguing that they are not the wrong people. Their argument says that their reaction was a split-second one that, while regrettable, does not reflect upon their true character.
I would argue that family violence is a behavior that is learned and repeated because, as we stated at the outset of this blog post, the perpetrator learns that the behavior creates positive results for them. The result is your compliance or any other victim in doing what the perpetrator wants.
Do not take this to heart if a perpetrator tells you of family violence that the violence is only occurring because of how you treat them. Family violence is not usually a reaction but a purposeful behavior instigated by the perpetrator. Your reaction to that bad behavior does not justify additional acts of violence- whatever your reaction may be.
Family violence involves elements of both criminal and civil law.
As we saw at the outset of this blog post, the definition of family violence can be stretched to encompass any behavior that is exerted over a family member to control their behavior. Typically, physical abuse or control is categorized as criminal, and emotional abuse or control is categorized as noncriminal but damaging.
I have seen time and time again a person is physically violent with a victim, only to come back at them with noncriminal abuse that will weaken their self-esteem and lessen their ability to provide a defense to their acts of violence. It is essential that if you apply for a protective order in conjunction with a divorce or child custody case, your attorney make the judge aware of the effect that each type of abuse has had on you- both mentally and physically. Just because you have not been the victim of physical abuse in recent months does not mean that you will not be in the future. Usually, this means that the perpetrator has gotten their desired results with only words rather than physical action.
The bond between you and the defendant may play a significant role in your case.
Depending on the strength of the bond between you and the defendant, your case can be affected differently. For example, rely on your abuser for financial assistance. You may not be as likely or as willing to cut all ties with them for free of losing the economic resources that allow you to sustain yourself and your children.
Compare this to a situation where your abuser is not related or known to you. If a stranger were to have done the same things to you as your family member, consider how different your reaction would be to it. Would you be more aggressive in your pursuit of justice? How much quicker would you have reacted to the incident by contacting law enforcement? Before you can understand how to protect yourself, it is worth considering the nature of your relationship with the abuser. If you know that you will have trouble confronting them, even indirectly, you ought to rely on your support system to help you.
Settling on assistance that does not involve the legal system
Some people in your position will compromise with themselves and seek nonlegal remedies to their problems involving family violence. You may have attempted to resolve the issue temporarily by personally negotiating with your spouse or partner or physically leaving the residence you share with them. Counseling through your church or other organization can yield sustainable results in some circumstances but are temporary fixes in others. Contacting the police or other law enforcement may prevent individual instances of violence but would not be advisable if you are attempting to stop the abuse altogether.
The problem that people run into when attempting to glue together this hodge-podge of remedies is that none of them can work one hundred percent of the time. Game plans are abandoned in favor of others that appear to be more likely to yield positive results. A judge should consider that because your only goal is your safety and survival that whatever choices you have made to protect yourself to this point likely haven’t been made with any specific strategy in mind other than day-to-day survival.
Summarizing family violence from the perspective of the victim
Family violence is a pattern of intentionally abusive behavior that the perpetrator/defendant uses to control your behavior as a victim. Physical force is often utilized in tandem with psychological abuse to create the desired effect for an abuser. Ultimately there are many factors at play when assisting the victims of family violence.
Questions about family violence? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you have any questions about the subject matter that we have discussed today, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We can set you up with a free-of-charge consultation in our office with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations are comfortable and pressure-free, where we can address your concerns and help you gain more insight and information into your particular circumstances.