Family Law 101: Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of abusive behavior displayed by one intimate partner against another in order to exercise power and control. These individuals may be related, married, registered domestic partners, divorced, separated; they may have a child. Crucially, abuse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical violence. It may include verbal attacks as well.
CA Family Code §6203 defines abuse as any of the following:
(1) To intentionally or recklessly cause or attempt to cause bodily injury.
(2) Sexual assault.
(3) To place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another.
(4) To engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320.
(b) Abuse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault.
Without intervention, violence usually escalates in frequency and severity. According to one theory, domestic violence follows roughly three repeating stages:
1. Tension Building
- Increased arguments, blame, and discord. The victim usually feels as though walking on eggshells and may try to placate the abuser to prevent violence.
2. Acute Battering Incident
- The abuser physically or verbally attacks the victim.
3. Honeymoon Period
- The abuser may try to convince the victim to stay by showing remorse (e.g. apologizing and/or promising change) or excusing the behavior (e.g. gaslighting, blame on alcohol).
An individual can ask for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order if he/she has been abused. A restraining order is a court order that protects against physical abuse, threats, stalking, or harassment. Under California law, a restraining order is a court order issued by a judge that commands a person to restrain from contact with, or to inflict no harm upon, another person. Restraining orders can command a person to leave the home he/she resides in if he/she is cohabiting with the petitioner (person filing). They can also enforce no contact with joint children or animals, unless specific guidelines for visitation are respected. Violation of any restraining order is illegal in California and can lead to serious criminal charges. (See California Family Code §6320).
Myths about Domestic Violence
1. Domestic violence is rare.
- On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. 1
- 1 in 3 women have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.1
- 1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1
- 1 in 7 women have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. 1
- On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.9
2. Domestic violence only occurs in "certain" families.
- Although factors such as low education, exposure to violence between parents, abuse during childhood, attitudes accepting violence, and gender inequality are associated with higher rates of domestic violence, domestic violence can happen anywhere to anyone, regardless of class, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation.
3. Domestic violence is a crime only perpetrated by men.
- 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.1
- 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1
- 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. 1
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If you believe yourself to be a victim of domestic violence, please trust your instincts and construct a safety plan. If you need immediate assistance, please consider contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.