Domestic Violence Facts
The legal definition of domestic violence has grown over the past decade to include non-physical forms of abuse such as emotional or psychological in addition to physical forms of abuse. Emotional abuse is often used to control, humiliate or punish a spouse and while there are no bruises to display, the end result is the same—one spouse becomes fearful of the other. While a physical abuser uses fists or other weapons to threaten and control, an emotional abusers is more subtle. The emotional abuser begins isolating their spouse from friends and family, discourages any independent activities, accuses their spouse of unfaithfulness with no basis in fact, engages in constant criticism of their spouse’s looks or intelligence, controls all financial decisions and will often use the children as a threat against their spouse.
Over 85% of all domestic violence occurs against women and, in fact, one in four women will experience some form of domestic abuse in her lifetime. Females between the ages of 20 and 25 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal domestic violence however most cases of domestic abuse are not reported to the police. A full one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. As you can see, domestic violence is a very serious problem however there is an alternate side of the problem which is rarely discussed.
The Other Side
There is another side to the issue of domestic abuse which lies in false allegations or a simple spousal argument which escalated yet both parties were equally culpable. Unfortunately, in many instances allegations of abuse are made—and believed by the courts—as a method of gaining an advantage in a divorce or custody proceeding and because of the broad definitions which now exist for domestic abuse, these methods are often successful. In particular, the phrase “fear of harm” which exists in the domestic violence definition is extremely subjective and can be very difficult for the person accused to combat.
A raised voice or any gesture which could conceivably be interpreted as threatening has been used to claim domestic abuse. Since allegations of domestic violence can have not only civil but criminal consequences, false allegations can literally destroy a person’s reputation and impact their future in a very negative manner. The person falsely accused of domestic violence may suffer incarceration, fines and may have a “no contact” order entered against them which mandates they leave the family home and have no contact with their children or spouse.
In the civil arena false allegations of domestic abuse which are believed by the courts carry a statutory presumption for custody in most states. It is often presumed that when domestic abuse has occurred there will be no mediation allowed. Restraining orders may be issued and the person falsely accused of domestic abuse may be unable to even contact the children via e-mail, phone calls or third-party messages. The accused person may be required to attend anger management and treatment and can even find their civil liberties significantly curtailed in that they may be prevented from owning or possessing a firearm for any purpose. Clearly, when false allegations of domestic abuse are made, the stakes are very high.
Where to Turn
Whether you have been falsely accused of domestic violence or have simply had a relatively benign argument which escalated into raised voices misconstrued with subsequent charges filed you are likely aware that once the government enters into your life you may end up with significant damage to your future. It’s important that you contact an attorney who has experience defending victims of false allegations of domestic abuse. Many times once the spouse making the allegations realizes an arrest is imminent they may seek to withdraw the complaint or retract statements. Unfortunately in this instance once the legal wheels have been set into motion, they can rarely be slowed. A criminal defense attorney will have a solid understanding of the process and can fully explain your options while fighting hard to have the charges dismissed.